Prayer Resources – From the Archives

Over the past year or so, I have written a lot to encourage believers to pray. Here’s a helpful summary of Prayer Resources from the Archives. Simply click on the links below for more information about your chosen topic.

How to Pray for Your Pastors

How to Pray for Your Wife

How to Pray for Your Children

Why Should You Fast and Pray?

How Can I Pray for People to Experience Christ?

Does God Change His Mind When I Pray?

Should You Pray for Physical Healing?

The Need to Pray for Spiritual Awakening

Programming Note: I future plans to write on how to prayer for husbands.

When Should My Child Be Baptized?

As parents who are followers of Jesus Christ, we love our children and want them to follow Christ for all of their days. For our children to follow Christ means everything to believing parents as it is the difference between heaven and hell itself (yes, there’s still many people who believe in this “old-fashioned” idea). And baptism is a big step for anyone’s journey with Christ, including children.

The Significance of Baptism

Baptism is the time when grandparents, extended family, and friends come together to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy. Baptism is a celebration of your personal spiritual journey because it pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-4). Baptism is special because it advertises your faith in Christ to everyone around you (Matthew 28:19-20). And baptism is serious because is the entrance into the Lord’s Supper and many of the meaningful practices of the church, including church membership for many churches.

Many children raised in a believing home profess faith in Christ at an early age. Yet, just because your son or daughter professes faith in Christ doesn’t mean that you should automatically baptize him or her immediately. Baptism is a big deal and it is important for children to know why they are being baptized.

Baptized Too Early?

To baptize someone when they do not profess faith in Christ seriously undermines the entire sweep of the New Testament. For many young adults today, their memories of being baptized are fuzzy because they happened when they were so young. While some children are truly converted to Christ and baptized as early as five or six years of age, for most children this has more to do with the parent’s faith than the child’s faith. We must remember that the brain and psyche develop with age where some of our youngest memories fade over time. While many of the stats of young adults leaving the Christian faith are overhyped, many young adults do drop out of church. No doubt they drop out for a variety of reasons and no parent can do anything to absolutely guarantee that their children will continue with Christ into adult years. Nevertheless, parents should shepherd their children carefully, intentionally, and thoughtfully. And one of the primary places a believing parent should pay attention to is their child’s baptism. I’m afraid some people have experienced baptism when they didn’t fully express faith in Christ.

green lightWhile the Bible doesn’t present a one size fits all position on baptizing children who are raised in believing households, the Bible does present red lights and green lights when it comes to baptizing your children. Let’s start with the red lights first as I’ll be advocating a middle-ground approach to two extremes of practice in working with children.

Why a Parent Should Wait Before Baptizing their Child

1. Wait if You or Your Child Thinks Baptism Saves. Only faith in Christ and turning from your sins saves a person (John 3:14-15; Acts 2:37-38). Saving faith is this: trust in Jesus Christ to save you from the penalty your sins deserve (Romans 10:17).

If your child thinks baptism saves, you should definitely wait and teach your son or daughter about the importance of faith. If you think baptism saves, I encourage you to read Scripture passages such as John 3:1-21, Acts 2, and the book of Galatians.

2. Wait if Your Child is Simply Wanting to Please You. Younger Children often want to please their parents (if only this was constant during the teenage years!). During these younger years (often when a child’s age is nine years old or younger), they are more susceptible to fear and pressure from authority figures. Genuine conversion can happen when a child is young but so can manipulation. God forbid something as important and precious as faith in Christ be manipulated.

3. Wait if You Are Going to Stop Discipling Your Child After Baptism. There is a natural joy when your children express faith in Christ. Yet, for many parents, they do very little to encourage their child’s practice of Christianity and the spiritual disciplines (e.g. Bible reading, praying, stewardship, etc.) after their baptism. It’s as if “the finish line” is baptism and there’s nothing important to do with your faith after you “cross the tape.” Keep pursuing Christ alongside your child after she is baptized. Too many parents take their foot off the pedal when it comes to their children’s discipleship after baptism. 

4. Wait if Your Child Thinks Santa Brings Christmas Presents. If your child thinks Santa is responsible for bringing the gifts under the Christmas tree, then your child is probably too young too be baptized. There is an age when children are too young to make an authentic and credible profession of faith. And one of the best markers I’ve discovered is to wait until after your son and daughter no longer think Santa is real.

I don’t pretend to know for sure when children reach maturity, but I know they’re too young to comprehend the cost of following Christ at this stage. Give yourself and other believers at your church sometime to see independent thinking in your child’s life. 

Why a Parent Should Baptize their Child

1.Baptism is Commanded by Jesus Himself. One of the last things Jesus said before leaving the earth was to command His followers to evangelize, baptize, and then continue discipling people of all colors, ages, and tribes (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism pictures a person’s union with Christ (Colossians 2:11-12). So parents are commanded to follow through with baptism as they would any other command in the Bible.

2. When You’ve Consulted Your Pastors. Many churches have a special class to help your child in expressing his faith in Christ. Take time to consult your church’s children’s pastor, your child’s Bible study leader, and other mature believers who interact with child regularly.

Be careful though that you do not overly depend on the class to tell you when a child is ready. Conversion happens at the Holy Spirit’s timing and not at a certain age (John 3:8). Do not trust in a class but trust in the Holy Spirit to save your son or daughter.

3. The Bible Doesn’t Present Unbaptized Christians. When you read the New Testament, you see that believers are immediately baptized upon professing faith in Christ. To say that another way, when people receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord they were baptized right away (see Acts 2 as an example). And this should be our model today.

Take care at this point for the New Testament doesn’t show us specific examples of an elementary school aged children who come to receive Christ. While, we need to be careful not to set up “probationary times” for believers where they feel they must prove their faith to others, we must also take specific care not to green light every child’s whimsical notion to be baptized simply because their cousin was recently baptized. Parents and pastors must take steps to not squelch a child’s genuine expression of faith by not demanding from children more than can be reasonably expected at their age.

4. When There’s Evidence of Conversion. Parents should look for evidence of their child’s conversion. And when it’s possible, wait to see if other believing and trusted adults confirm the presence of God’s Spirit as well. All parents have blind spots when it comes to their kids. Parents should recognize baptism is for believers only and only the passage of time shows that anyone (young or old) is a true believer (Luke 8:4-15).

Here are some helpful signs to look before baptizing your child:
1. Do they read their Bible without being told?

2. Do they have a burden and conviction because of their sins.

3. Do they trust God even when life is bad?

4. Do they pray for people on their own?

5. Do you see humility in their lives?

6. Do they display a love for Christ.

Why Christmas? Jesus Came to Save Sinners

To celebrate Christmas, you need to know what Christmas was designed for. You must know that Christmas was designed to display God’s grace. To understand grace, you must know something about a man named Paul as well as your sin. A long time ago, a man named Paul wrote an importance sentence into the pages of the Bible. He wrote it because Christmas was deeply personal. Here’s the sentence:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul draws a tight connection between Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem and his own sin. When he reflects on the story of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and the manger, he cannot help but make it personal.

Christmas is Personal

Unlike Paul, most of us don’t think of sin when we consider Christmas. We think of happy things such gift-giving or spending time with family. I can imagine if Paul were invited into one of our homes only to begin confessing his sin while sitting in our living room, we’d quickly change the topic. Still others would simply make a face behind his back, mouthing the word, “Awkward!” Truth be told, Christmas in modern day America is a time where most of us desperately desire to be happy. Nobody wants to hear others confess their dishonesty, lust, or vicious anger at Christmas. We simply want be happy and carefree.

Not Paul. Paul celebrates Christmas differently. Paul remembers the kind of life he formerly lived. And everyone else knew the kind of man he used to be (Galatians 1:22-24).

Had you named one person who, more than any other, had worked to exterminate Christianity in the first three years of its existence, Paul’s name would have been on the top of the list. The Bible actually gives us a considerable amount of space to Paul’s activities prior to his conversion. He watched over the coats of the men who stoned Stephen, a good man, while they went about their dastardly deed. The men needed to remove their outer garments in order get the full range of motion necessary to really hurl the stones to kill Stephen. And Paul gladly watched over the outer garments of these men as they pelt Stephen to his death. Worse still, Paul liked this murder (Acts 8:1). He approved of this murder as Stephen was murdered for no other reason than for being a follower of Christ. This murder inspired Paul to try to eradicate every Christian in the early church. This is the kind of man Paul was. And it is his former life that he thinks about when he thinks about Christ’s birth.

Christmas Guilt

The Christian population wasn’t that big in Paul’s day. At his death, it is estimated that there were some 40,000 believers throughout the Roman Empire. So it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to get the sense that these early Christians were a tight knit community.

Imagine if there was such a thing as a Christmas Eve service in those days. Paul enters the synagogue for a time of worship as he prepares his heart to give thanks for Christ’s birth. His life has been profoundly changed because of the grace of Christ. But when he walks into worship, he sees Stephen’s widow and her children. He recognizes her immediately. In the midst of his Christmas Eve celebration, he remembers his awful crime. It’s as if a knife is plunged into his conscience. Though he knows Christ has forgiven him, he still considers how he used to be. No wonder he says he is the world’s worst sinner.

Some know what it is like to see everyone around happy only to sit in misery. To feel the pangs of conscience when you think of how you have spoken to your spouse. To count the gifts under your tree but to know you haven’t been generous with your employees. To have made promises and failed to keep them. Sometimes the happiest times of all, bring tremendous amounts of pain.

Nobody is Beyond Grace’s Reach

Christmas was designed for you to think of Paul’s life. Where most of us think of Santa and reindeer and fewer still consider Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, God designed Christmas for you to also consider the example of Paul. How do I know this? Because right after Paul tells us that Christ came into the world to save sinners, he tells us that God made an example out of his own life for people everywhere:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

So watch the logic of God’s design behind Christmas in these two verses. Think of this as a chain of thoughts that are tightly connected to one another. Picture these words as a stone skipping across a lake where each time the stone bounces off the water you see interconnectedness of the Bible’s concentric circles across the surface.

  • Christmas is the time when Christ came into the world to save sinners (verse 15).
  • Paul is a big sinner (verse 15).
  • Paul received mercy because of Christmas and his life was changed (verse 16).
  • Paul’s transformation is an example to all of us. For if Paul’s life can be changed, any of our lives can be changed (verse 16).

Let’s put these the chain of 1 Timothy 1:15-16 back together. Christmas was intentionally constructed and arranged to change Paul and Paul serves as an example for the rest of us. And what kind of example does Paul offer? Just this: if Christ can change Paul, he can change anyone of us.

Experience the grace of Jesus this Christmas. We are not changed by our own efforts but we are radically changed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazereth.