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A Father's Prayer

Col. 3:12-21 


"And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; [13] bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. [14] And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

[18] Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. [20] Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. [21] Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart." (NASB) 

These are confusing times to be a man-it seems that popular culture can't make up its mind. Are men supposed to be strong providers, or are they supposed to be soft and sensitive? While culture is saying it wants its men to be sensitive, it appears to want it in moderation. In his book, What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently, John Townsend writes, "In many romances, there is a man hanging around who is sensitive, devoted and willing to commit, but the heroine can not truly love this man…because he is simply not the man in her eyes that the hero is. She may be very fond of the hanger-on, but basically she sees him as a wimp." So the message is clear-men are supposed to be sensitive, but not too sensitive, at least not so sensitive that they are "wimps." Laurence Stains agrees. In his book, What Women Want : What Every Man Needs to Know About Sex, Romance, Passion, and Pleasure, he writes that women want, "a man who's sensitive, but not sensitive and weak-that's a loser." And that's where the rub is. How can a man be sensitive without being perceived as weak? On one hand men are criticized for being macho, so in reaction to that criticism they soften up then culture criticizes them for being wimps and losers. 

Regardless of how far the pendulum swings on the strength vs. sensitivity issue, and it appears to be in constant motion, one universal theme emerges, there is a connection between the strength of a man to his ability to control his emotions, especially when it comes to showing grief. Think about it. What emotions can men show? For years, anger was the only acceptable emotion for men

So how is a man supposed to act? Is it somewhere between the traditional, strong and rational male and the new caring and sensitive man? Men are living with mixed signals. Some applaud the stereotypical strongman, who fulfills the traditional role of independent infallibility, while others criticize him for his inability to engage in meaningful relationships. Without consistent reinforcement, men are left shaking their heads, wondering who they are supposed to be.

In his song, "Grown Men Don't Cry," Tim McGraw writes about the parent-child relationship and the strong bonds it creates for a lifetime. He describes seeing a homeless woman with her child clinging to her. He didn't just immediately dismiss the scene as commonplace, but was able to get past what the woman didn't have to see how blessed the two were to have each other. This scene causes him to flashback to his own childhood where he laments the missed opportunity to have really known his father, because his father was "a slave to his work." In one way, his father provided for him, but in another he didn't. In the final verse, McGraw reflects on how blessed he is to have his wife and his kids and to be able to enjoy the simple things of life like hearing them say they love him and being able to do things with them. Between the verses, is the succinct statement: "I don't know why they say grown men don't cry." The refrain gently rebukes conventional wisdom-there are times when grown men do cry. Like when they stop to consider powerful family ties, and when they do, their eyes begin to moisten.

Some of the strongest men in the scripture were men who were incredibly soft toward their children as is illustrated in the way they pray for them. We often applaud Job for his patience, but have you ever thought about how tough a man he was? He was able to withstand everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end he was victorious. Job, this man of amazing strength and endurance, was very tender when it came to his children. He constantly prayed for them and was concerned about their spiritual health. Let's eavesdrop on his prayer in Job 1:5: "And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said,'"Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually." (NASB) 

Job wasn't the only strongman who was tender with his children. David was undoubtedly the greatest King of Israel, and arguable her greatest warrior. His heroic feats went unchallenged by other strongmen in the Bible. Yet, this strong man had a tender heart towards his children. There are three occasions where David prayed for his children that I want to underscore today. 

Remember when he prayed for his sick child in 2 Samuel 12? Let me read that passage to you. "David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. [17] And the elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. [18] Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, ‘Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!' [19] But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, ‘Is the child dead?' And they said, ‘He is dead.' [20] So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. [21] Then his servants said to him, ‘What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.' [22] And he said, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' [23] ‘But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.'" 2 Samuel 12:16-23 (NASB) 

David blesses Solomon in 1 Chron. 22:11-13 after explaining a promise that God made to him about Solomon. In this blessing, David prays a prayer over his son, listen to his tender heart as displayed in this prayer: "‘Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. [12] ‘Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. [13] Then you shall prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.'" (NASB) 

This public prayer closely corresponds with the way he prayed for Solomon in private. In 1 Chron. 29:19, David prays for his son by saying, "and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Thy commandments, Thy testimonies, and Thy statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision." (NASB) 

While I don't have all the answers as to how a strong man can be sensitive without being weak, I do know one way is to pray for your children. Pray for their health, both physically and spiritually. Pray for them that they will walk with the Lord and will serve him. Pray that they will have discretion , understanding and a heart to keep God's commandments.

And then live out your prayers before them. Model the kind of Christian you want them to be with the way you live.

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