AN INTERVIEW WITH JODIE BERNDT
Jonathan PetersenContent manager for Bible Gateway
How can using the Bible to shape your desires and requests open the door to God’s provision to free us from worry and fear in our parenting? How can you pray the Bible for developing your children’s faith, character, safety, relationships, and their future?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jodie Berndt (@jodieberndt), author of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children 20th Anniversary Edition: Discover How to Pray God’s Purpose for Their Lives (Zondervan, 2020).
Why is praying for children important?
Jodie Berndt: Every parent wants to give good gifts to their kids. Robbie and I certainly tried to equip our four children with everything we thought they might need.
The trouble is, our children don’t always want the gifts that we give (like that one Christmas, when I got everyone their own posture brace), and sometimes even the best gifts are not in our power to give. We cannot, for example, give “salvation” to our children, nor can we bless them with things like wisdom, kindness, and joy.
But God can. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” God wants us to come to him with our needs; our prayers, he says, are “powerful and effective” (James 5:16). He likes it when we ask him for stuff!
After 30 years of parenting—30 years of trying to give good gifts to our kids—I’m convinced that prayer is what opens the door to God’s abundant provision. It’s our best, most powerful, parenting tool. And as our children see us depending on God for our family’s needs, they learn to look past our weaknesses or our failures and trust his promises as they grow.
What is the purpose of prayer?
Jodie Berndt: R.A. Torrey wrote that the true purpose of prayer “is that God may be glorified in the answer.” I believe that—but I also know how easy it can be for contemporary parents (well, this parent at least) to glorify or idolize our children. Not overtly, of course, but when we center our thoughts on our kids—either because they’ve made us so proud or because they’ve made us so anxious—we inadvertently elbow God out of the picture.
The answer, I think, is to release our children to the Lord and pray with thanksgiving—no matter what the present circumstances are or what the future looks like—knowing that God has everything under control, that he has good plans for our kids, and that prayer is his invitation to us to partner with him in accomplishing his purposes in their lives.
How does a person pray the Scriptures?
Jodie Berndt: I like what author Mark Batterson says: “The Bible isn’t meant to be read through. It’s meant to be prayed through.” And when we approach Scripture that way—as though it’s God’s end of a conversation with us—we discover that there’s no need we’ll face in parenting (or any of life) that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his Word.
Jesus invites us to pray the Scriptures in John 15:7. “If you remain in me,” he says, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” And when we pray the Scriptures—using the Bible to shape our thoughts and desires—our prayers bear fruit and we bring glory to God (John 15:8).
Here are a few of my favorite Scripture-based prayers:
I like to pray Ephesians 3:17-19 for a child’s faith, personalizing the prayer by inserting their name in the verses: “May _____ be rooted and established in love and have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, to know this love that surpasses understanding, and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Colossians 3:12 is a beautiful prayer for a child’s character: “Clothe ______ with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
And when it comes to praying about everyday concerns like a child’s use of technology or what movies and music they like, I rely on Philippians 4:8 and ask God to let them be drawn to “that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.”
What are “prayer bank verses”?
Jodie Berndt: You won’t find the term “prayer bank verses” in the Bible, but I see Scripture memory as every bit as valuable as financial savings. The more verses we can stash in our memory banks, the more prepared we’ll be to respond—to know how to think and pray—as needs arise. We might not always have ready access to a Bible, but if we have God’s Word in our hearts, we’ll be able to “spend” it freely, in any situation, on behalf of the people we love.
How can a parent introduce their children to people in the Bible through prayer?
Jodie Berndt: Scripture is full of stories about real-life people who dealt with real-life problems, made some real-life mistakes, and knew how to have a real-life relationship with the Lord. As we read the Bible (on our own or with our children), we can be alert to the things that marked these people’s faith and use these examples to help shape our prayers.
For instance, I love Noah’s story in Genesis 6-8. People might not have understood what he was doing (and maybe they even laughed at him for building an ark on dry land!) but—and this is how The Jesus Storybook Bible puts it—“Noah didn’t mind so much what other people thought, he minded what God thought. So he just did what God told him to do.”
What a great prayer prompt for our children: “May they not mind what other people think, but pay attention to you and do what you tell them to do, Lord!”
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What do you say to parents who have fervently prayed for their son or daughter through childhood, but who agonize that their prayers have gone unanswered as evidenced by their children’s chosen behavior as adults?
Jodie Berndt: This is such a hard question—and one I hear all the time. Why doesn’t God bring our wayward children home? Why doesn’t he answer our prayers for their salvation, their protection, or the choices they make?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know at least three things that are true:
First, Jesus himself knows the pain of unanswered prayer. In John 17:20-23, for example, he asked God to make us one, to bring all believers into “complete unity.” Like us, he is still waiting for that particular prayer to be answered.
Second, God is a parent. He gets it. He knows what it’s like to have children who walk away, who reject him, who do hurtful and even dangerous things. Hosea 11:1-7 gives us an intimate glimpse into his Father-heart—and how he must have felt when the children he loved—the ones he’d taught to walk and bent down to feed—turned away. God understands.
And finally, God will never stop loving our children. He’ll never stop pursuing them. And as we partner with him through our prayers, we can be confident that, no matter how far they may wander, they’re never out of God’s reach. I love how that Hosea passage concludes—and it’s an image I hold onto as I pray: God’s children return, they follow him, and he settles them in their homes.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Jodie Berndt: As a parent, I love Philippians 2:13, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” That lets me know that how my kids think and behave is not, at the end of the day, up to me. It’s up to God. My job (as Watchman Nee so vividly put it) is to “lay the track down” with our prayers so that the locomotive of God’s power can come!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Jodie Berndt: My husband will tell you that I’m not the best “listener,” so the Bible Audio App is not something I often use. But the phone app and the website? I’ve read where BibleGateway.com gets more than a quarter of a million views every day—and I’m pretty sure that about 100-thousand of those are me. Like, if I had to be a contestant on a reality show where they let you bring only one website to get you through an entire season, Bible Gateway would be the one that I’d want. (Seriously. As a writer and a Bible teacher, I don’t know how I could survive without it!)
Praying the Scriptures for Your Children is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Jodie Berndt has written nine books, including the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series for children, teens, and adult children. A nationally known speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie has been featured on programs like Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and a host of popular podcasts, and she has written for media outlets such as Fox News, Club31Women, and the Proverbs 31 Daily Devotional. Find Jodie’s blogs, videos, and printable prayer resources at jodieberndt.com or follow her on Instagram at @jodie_berndt. She and her husband, Robbie, have four adult children. They live in Virginia Beach, Virginia.