People often pray for children.
Young couples often talk about how many children they want to have when they get married.
That a married couple would include such a petition in their prayers is good. Their act of asking God for a child indicates that they see themselves as dependent on God. They ought not simply to assume that they can have children or that they will have children. Sometimes, God, according to His infinite wisdom, closes wombs, preventing conception and/or birth. The fact that a married couple would pray for children indicates that they are very conscious that nothing is to be assumed and that it is the Lord Who opens and shuts the womb.
Does God allow us to pray for a child or for children? On the one hand, we do not find in the Scriptures a specific command to do so, as we do for daily bread or for the forgiveness of our sins. But on the other hand, nor do the Scriptures forbid us to pray this petition.
That we are not commanded nor forbidden indicates that we may pray for children, but that we must be careful. We may not demand that God give us a child or a certain kind of child. Also we must be careful concerning why we want to pray for children. Why do we want a child or children in our marriage?
We must be careful why we want to have children. There are right reasons and motives, and there are wrong reasons and motives. It is so easy to want children for ourselves. Sometimes it is wrongly thought that children make a home. Sometimes it is wrongly thought that children make a marriage. Some want a child to carry on their family’s name or reputation. If we consider the depravity of our human nature it is very easy to pray this petition in a wrong way. It is so easy to pray for children selfishly.
So we may pray for children. However, we must pray this petition with care, striving to have the right motives and the right purposes. In fact, the concern that we pray this petition correctly will often itself be a petition: “Help me to pray correctly.” And we must realize that we must always submit our will to God’s will. Always, concerning petitions which are not commanded of us, we must add “if it be Thy will.” We must recognize God’s sovereignty and His wisdom. He alone is able to give a child or children, and He alone knows when and how to give a child or children, or not to give any.
A beautiful example of praying correctly for a child is Hannah. The history of her prayer is found in I Samuel 1 and 2. Although I wrote above that we may not demand of God a certain kind of child and that we must always submit our desires to His will, Hannah did neither. She did not add, “if it be Thy will” and she was very specific in her request.
Although God had “shut her womb” (I Samuel 1:5), Hannah was bold to ask for a child. In fact, she did not just ask for a child, but a specific kind of child – a son. She wanted a boy. Further, she did not just ask for a son, but for a special kind of son—a Nazarite. A Nazaritic vow was a vow of separation from sin and of devotion to God. Hannah wanted a son who would take a Nazaritic vow for life, and thus serve “Jehovah all the days of his life.”
Notice, first, that Hannah knew that if she was going to have a child, it would have to be because God gave one to her. She considers the prayer for a child to be a legitimate request. And so may we. It is not wrong to pray for a child.
Notice, secondly and more importantly, that we must have the right motives for such a request. It is natural (according to our sinful human nature) to ask just for ourselves. This is a matter of pride on our part. Some couples wrongly feel that they are incomplete in their marriage without a child. Some women wrongly believe that they are not real women if they have no children, concluding they are a failure. (In both cases, this is an imposition put on God’s institution of marriage and on womanhood.) Others simply want to satisfy an instinctive craving for a child, to have one, to hold one, to nurture one. Such couples and such women cannot find an example in Hannah.
While Hannah was very bold, she was not selfish. That Hannah was not selfish is evidenced in her willingness to give up her child to the care of Eli as soon as possible. She was willing to let go of her child as soon as he was weaned. This shows that Hannah was not selfish.
And Hannah was not jealous that her husband’s other wife had many children. Hannah did not ask for many children, but only for one. She was not interested in beating a rival, or in increasing the population. Hannah only wanted a spiritual seed.
And Hannah was not making a contract with God: if I am given a son, then I will give him back. Such a contract is contrary to the relationship of human with the Divine. And Hannah knew that. She calls God “the Lord of hosts,” which name indicates God’s infinite greatness, majesty, and rulership over every creature in the universe. And, on the other hand, she knew herself to be God’s “handmaid.” With this name she said that she was insignificant and unworthy. She knew herself to be unworthy of a child, let alone one which would fear God and deliver Israel from its enemies. Such is not the attitude of selfishness, of wanting something for herself. Instead of making a contract, Hannah was making a promise. She made a request of God, and she told her Lord that if He gave, she would return.
Why did Hannah make such a promise? Hannah’s prayer for a child was occasioned by her consciousness of the needs in Israel. Consider the situation in Israel at this time. First, “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” because there was no king in Israel. Such is the case today, especially in America. Wickedness in the days of Hannah was everywhere. Also, there was no prophet in the land, so there was no vision or revelation from God to guide and encourage His people. To make matters even worse, horrible evils were being committed by those who were in the position of priests of God. We read that the sons of the High Priest, Eli, were committing terrible sins and were doing so in the place of worship. In the position which represented devotion to God there were men who were horribly evil. The wicked in Israel seemed to be destroying everything that was truly spiritual. It seemed that God had forgotten His people and His promises to His people.
Hannah was truly conscious of this spiritually distressing situation in the church of her day. She saw the great need for the pure Word of God to be brought in all the power of God, to convict and to bring to repentance. She wanted a son whose life would be devoted to God and whose life would cause others in Israel to repent and to believe. She wanted God’s people to be delivered from the oppression of the enemy, both in Israel (Eli’s sons) and outside of Israel (the Philistines). She wanted a God-fearing son whose devotion to God would occasion a spiritual revival in Israel.
When we consider praying for children, we have to be careful. We do well to look to Hannah as an example of such a prayer. Hannah’s example does not allow us to pray simply to overcome barrenness. And Hannah’s example does not allow us to ask for a child so we can be satisfied or fulfilled.
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Why do you pray for a child?
Does your petition have anything to do with the good of the church of Jesus Christ on earth? Is such a motive too lofty? Absolutely not!
Do you see the need of the Church of Jesus Christ of the next generation for godly members—sons and daughters who will become faithful and godly members, upholding the glory of God in the way they do their job, in the way they conduct themselves toward their fellow- saints, in the way they act towards their neighbor, in the kind of homes they establish? Yes, some sons will be teachers, elders, deacons, ministers, and missionaries. And we have to see the need for men who are willing to bring the Word of God to the ends of the world, boldly proclaiming the holy God and the Gospel of salvation? But as much as the Church of tomorrow needs faithful proclaimers of the Word, it needs faithful hearers and doers of the Word.
Is the future of God’s cause on earth your concern? Is this why you might pray for children? It ought to be! Then we are not selfish in our request. Then we are mortifying our selfish desires. Tremendously important in helping us to pray for children correctly is the fact that we must be praying for the Church of today more than we are praying for children. We must be conscious of our serving willingly and cheerfully the cause of God in all of our life. After all, any children the Lord may be pleased to give us are going to learn from our example more than from our words. They must see that the Church of God is of primary importance to us. They must see that we are striving to serve the Lord with our all. And then, if the Lord is pleased not to give us children, we will find it easier to accept and go on, ourselves deliberately and cheerfully serving the Lord without children in our home or with adoption. But our goal and purpose will be the same.
Then the faith and spirit of Hannah lives on. It lives on in spite of all the materialism of our age. It lives on in spite of the power of sin within every believer.
As sinful believers let us consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). The knowledge of this truth enables us to strive mightily to develop and maintain right motives for everything we do, including the desire for children.
Pray for children! ♦