The Discipline

"Discipline your son while there is hope." Proverbs 19:18

One of the joys of living closer to my parents is the opportunity that often can come my way to take them to the doctor when they need help with transportation. Mom is 91 and Dad is 90, and they have just renewed their driving permits. They are usually good to go, but there are times when they need help with the logistics of negotiating hospital parking lots or the maze of medical corridors that were apparently designed by mad architects intent on turning people into lab rats.

Recently, Dad and I were seated next to one another in one of those ice cold, meat locker waiting rooms while Mom was having a tune up by her doctor. Dad always takes his Bible with him and reads it while he waits. He has learned that the ancient magazines provided are no substitute for a fresh word from God. He doesn't often say very much in those settings. Apparently, he is more interested in hearing God speak than hearing the sound of his own voice. I wish everyone else in the room felt the same way, but I digress.

When Dad spoke, I was a bit surprised by the tone of his voice, but even more so by the far away look in his eyes. He seemed to be receiving a particularly clear blast from the past, and he was slowly processing the memories, savoring them in his mind's eye before they came out of his mouth. He said, "I remember the night my father came home from a Methodist revival meeting a changed man. He gathered us around the kitchen table, and I heard my Dad pray for me for the very first time. I had never heard anything like it my life. Even as a little boy, I knew that something had happened to him, and I have never forgotten the thrill of hope that it gave me that things were going to be different in our house from now on."

I responded, "I am over sixty years old and I have never heard you tell that story." He seemed a bit taken aback by that, but offered no explanation. He just continued down memory lane, and assured me that it was a night he would never forget. He said his father soon placed a plaque on the wall of their home that said, "The family that prays together, stays together." It remained a fixture, and a gentle reminder in the family home until Dad graduated from high school and left to serve his country in the Army Air Corps during World Ward II.

My father's memory of that first time he heard his father pray for him has had a profound impact on me. Dad has reached a point in his life when insignificant details do not clutter his mind. He may not remember what he had for breakfast, or connect the right name with a familiar face, but he has held on to those things that are most precious to him. We should all do the same. Let me comfort and challenge every parent reading these remarks,

"What your child hears you pray for them is more important than what they hear you say to them"

Chances are most children are quite clear about what a parent has had to say to them. The fog comes in when they are forced to remember the time when that same parent has ever had anything to pray for them. From the "Greatest Generation" to the latest generation there is a commonly held belief concerning the value of free advice, "Talk is cheap." It is rarely appreciated, and those who invest in it the most are valued the least.

The current dismal popularity numbers of members of Congress give credence to the lack of toleration people have for those who invest more in their talk than they do in their walk. Hot air is often more death defying than it is life-giving. When those around you need some fresh air, offer them your prayers.

Parents invest their best when they let their children hear them pray for them. What they pray for them will be remembered more than what they say to them. Our daughters were in their teens, they heard us pray for them every time they left our house to spend time with their friends. We would pray for them to have a safe, and enjoyable time, but always use the tag line, "Father, we place them in Your hands and if they do anything wrong, let them get caught." They would groan at it, but they never forgot it. To this day they can tell you, "God answers prayer!" Nuff said.

Recently I received a phone call from a personal friend and ministry colleague that I have known for over 30 years. His father died a few weeks ago and I had left him messages and texts to let him know that he had been in my prayers. He was calling to let me know that one of the things that had carried him through the loss of his dad was the memory of a prayer he had heard me pray in 1992. The occasion was a prayer meeting I was leading at our church on the night bombs began falling on Baghdad. He reminded me that I had said, "Father, we are concerned, but we take comfort tonight from knowing that You are more concerned about what is happening than we are." I had not remembered the saying of it, but I did remember the praying of it. God used that blast from a past crisis to shed His light into a dark shadow in the present tense. Who knew?

I am becoming more and more convinced that God has implanted a memory chip into the hearts of His children to value what they hear people pray for them, more than what they hear people say to them. The preparation for wise parenting begins with wise living, and it starts at any time in a person's life when they learn that "Talk is cheap."

Knowing this, wise people become wise parents because they develop the discipline to invest wisely in those that mean the most to them. They know that when they talk to or about someone more than they pray for them, they devalue their relationship. When they choose to talk more than they pray, they choose to lose. They entrust their prayers for someone as a way to invest in those they love. When they determine to use their life's breath to pray it before they say it, they will find what they have to say increases in value to those who hear it.

"Talk is cheap." Stop investing in words that lose their value the more you use them. Children often know what their parents have to say to them, but their character is built by what they hear their parents pray for them. Prayer is the greatest barrier breaking conversation and bridge building tool God has given to us for healthy relationships with Him and with others.

Begin spending your words wisely, and invest them in prayer for one another. Husbands praying for their wives, wives for their husbands, parents for their children, children for their parents increases the value of those we love because it is the currency of Heaven.

"Pray it before you say it."

"Always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God even the Father, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Ephesians 5:20-21