Over thirty-two years ago at a men’s group I attended, a good friend posed a challenge to me. “For seven consecutive nights, when you put your kids to bed, lay your hand on each one’s head and ‘bless’ them.” I agreed to the challenge, though somewhat reluctantly, thinking it might be a bit awkward, both for me and for the kids. Oh, they had heard me pray plenty of times – at meals and on other occasions – but this seemed a little contrived. Nevertheless, I committed to seven days, and was determined to follow through by “blessing” my 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old.
On the first night, I started with the youngest, probably so I could “practice” on someone who was less intimidating. I bent over the crib, placed my hand on her little bald head, and uttered something like, “Lord, please bless little Hannah with peaceful sleep and sweet dreams” and perhaps another simple request or two. I ended with a kiss on her forehead as she just lay there and smiled. That wasn’t so hard, I thought. One down, two to go.
Next was 3-year-old Dena, curious and inquisitive. A simple blessing couldn’t suffice; she would require an explanation. I explained that I just wanted to ask Jesus to bless her. I stroked her silky hair as I asked God to watch over my little girl and give her a happy, healthy day tomorrow.
Our 4-year-old Nathan, always a quiet observer, asked no questions. As he got his blessing, I knew the wheels were turning silently in his head as he pondered this odd new ritual. Like the others, he also got a hug and kiss.
Nights two, three, and four went pretty much the same, except that I found myself lingering a little longer over each one and changing up the blessings a little. Each night, new things came to my mind to pray for each child. I found myself not only asking God to bless each one, but thanking God for each one. The kids were hearing me tell the Lord how much I loved them…how special they were…how unique they were. By the end of the week, the older two were scampering into bed without their usual stall tactics. As I approached Dena, she was grinning, eyes squeezed tightly shut in eager anticipation of a fresh blessing.
Seven consecutive nights of blessings made an unexpected impact on me. I couldn’t help but notice that bedtime was becoming calmer. It felt great to know that I closed each busy day with a tender point of connection with each of my kids. Every night the blessings grew gentler, more intimate, and more specific. I tried to imagine how it must feel for a small child to hear their Daddy say nice things about them to Almighty God.
I didn’t stop at seven nights. Although I never actually made a conscious decision to continue the blessing my kids each night, I continued the routine. Not because I'm so disciplined, but simply because I enjoyed it so much. Weeks turned into months, and months into years. It’s been somewhere around 12,000 nights, and now my oldest seven are parents themselves. Now, blessings from their lips go to God’s ears on behalf of their children. My five youngest are still at home, and they still get blessed at night. I don’t bless them in their beds as often (although sometimes I do), but I do bless them – individually, specifically, intimately. Four of them are young ladies whom I hug, and with my bristly cheek against theirs, I whisper loving words of blessings into their ears. They hear me tell God how pleased I am with their character, their kind deeds to others, and their wise choices. They hear me ask for God’s favor on their efforts and dreams. I speak health into their bodies, courage into their hearts, and life into their endeavors. I ask God to guide their steps, and bless their future spouses. My son’s blessings often come with a strong bear-hug. I let him hear me marvel at the things God planted inside him. I tell the Lord how proud I am of a young man who loves Him and his family and isn’t ashamed to say so. I ask God to anoint his talents, guard his heart, fill him with understanding beyond his years, and fill his life with purposeful adventures. Sometimes I tickle him or wrestle with him at the end of the blessing.
After 12,000 nights of blessings I’ve learned that there is no end to the countless ways God would love to bless them, so I just keep asking. I try to find out their needs throughout the day so I can pray specifically and personally for them.
What has this got to do with praying as a family? Prayers of blessing have been woven into the fabric of our family culture. Going to bed without a blessing (which does happen on occasion) feels odd, kind of like going to bed without eating supper. These nightly blessings have brought God a little closer, helping us sense the reality of His presence in our home. I suggest that you try it for yourself for a week. Imagine the natural impact these blessings could have on the way your kids see prayer, which leads to the subject of my next post.
Next: Tip #3: Siblings Praying for Siblings.