Parents today have an incredible amount of responsibility. From the time our children first come into this world, we worry about choosing the right type of diapers, formula and toys. Our anxieties only grow along with them. 

Toddlers become teenagers, bringing issues far more challenging than dirty diapers. We can start to feel anxious about everything from the people they hang out with to the clothes they wear to the college they’ll choose.

Given all of this responsibility, how can we as parents know we’re on the right path? How can we be sure we’re raising our children the right way?

Certainly, there are any number of books and seminars designed to help us face the rigors of parenting. Today’s technology has put limitless resources at our fingertips. Yet, one of the greatest tools in our parenting arsenal is as timeless as they come.

That tool is prayer.

I’ll be the first to admit that prayer isn’t normally my first priority as a father of four. Most days I feel lucky just to get the kids fed and out the door.

In the midst of meeting our children’s physical needs, however, we should remember their greatest needs are spiritual. Still, with so many worries swirling in our heads, how can we possibly narrow it down? What should we pray for our children?

Throughout his letters to young Timothy, Paul offers many prayers for his “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). His prayers offer a glimpse of how we might pray for our own children.

Consider the blessing Paul prays over Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-6: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word …. For the time will come when people … will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.”

What should we pray for our children?

First of all, we can pray for their hearts.

Paul begins his blessing by reminding Timothy of the Gospel and what it means for us. One day, Jesus will return, and His Kingdom will come. We need to live in light of that day. Our children need to live in light of that day.

We should pray, then, for our children to know our King.

As parents, our No. 1 priority should be for our children to have a relationship with Jesus. Our prayers ought to reflect that priority. For some of us, that means praying for our children to know Him for the first time. For others, it means praying for them to follow Him more each day. We need to pray for their hearts to align with His.

We also need to pray for their minds.

Paul reminds Timothy that a day is coming when people will not listen to the truth. With so much falsehood in the world today, it’s easy to see this happening. Our prayers, therefore, should reflect our desire for our children to know the truth.

No one wants to devote their lives to something that isn’t true. No parent wants their child living a lie. When we pray for our kids, we should pray that they would have an appetite for truth. We want their minds filled with what is true and good so that their lives might be defined by ultimate reality. In an age of lies and deceit, we can pray for our children to be known by grace and truth.

Finally, we can pray for their future.

Paul’s blessing ends with a reminder that his life is being “poured out.” The nearness of his departure looms large. In the same way, parents have a finite amount of time with their children. The day is coming when our children will leave home. Moreover, a day is coming when we may leave them for our eternal home.

Though the future may be unknown to us, it doesn’t surprise God. Knowing that, we can trust Him to guide our children into the future He has in mind for them.

We can pray for their future careers. We can pray for their future spouse. We can even pray for their future children, trusting that God will help our kids be better parents than we ever were. Praying in such a way reminds us their future is ultimately in His hands, not ours.

As parents, we need to do a better job of trusting our Father. He wants what is best for His children. That means He wants what is best for our children. If we keep that truth in mind, it can help us better pray for and parent our kids—no matter how old they get!

Brandon Braun is a pastor at Southeast Christian Church.