I don’t pray for your success.
I don’t pray for your success, even though I live in a community that constantly reminds me I should pray for such things. My generation insists that children should someday reach the pinnacle of success by living an upper-middle-class life in luxury and comfort. My generation tells me that the best possible life for you is an easy one, with trophies and first place ribbons handed to you, and they tell me that suffering should be avoided at all costs. And I don’t want you to suffer. Last night, as I held you in my arms with your tiny chubby hands wrapped around my neck, I prayed for your fever, cough, and sickness to come to an end. As I felt your tiny heartbeat against mine, I ached knowing that you were in pain, and all I could think about was how much I didn’t want you to be in pain. My motherly heart, in that moment, wanted nothing more than a pain-free, easy life for you. I thought about how much I wanted to control your every moment so that life would be easy and full of success.
And then I heard the Spirit whisper, “you gave Him to me; remember?” It’s true, both of you. On the day you were born, the moment they placed your precious, warm, naked body on my chest, your Father and I laid our hands on you and prayed a prayer of surrender, “Sovereign Father, He is Yours.”
So on this day, I don’t pray for your success; no, I pray for your discipleship, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, discipleship has a cost.
I am also reminded of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark to His disciples. In the confession of Peter and the first passion narrative, found in Mark 8:27-9:1, the disciples are drawing all the wrong conclusions by assuming they will achieve extraordinary success in this world and be given considerable honor. But Jesus quickly flips their understanding of success upside down by a series of predictions. Jesus repeatedly notes that just as he must suffer, die, and face rejection, so must they. Sometimes, following Jesus means suffering which can mean we lose that which is of irreplaceable value – our very life. Further along, in the Gospel of Mark 10:41-45, we see a clear picture of a disciple when Jesus says “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve.” A disciple, dear one, is a life of radical service to God and to others. I pray, Caleb and Noah, that you would “pick up your crosses,” and follow Jesus in radical obedience. Although difficult, I pray that you would never miss out on the deepness of trust and the strength of endurance.
I don’t pray for your worldly success; no, I pray that the Kingdom of God would be a present reality in your life, that your allegiance would be to King Jesus alone, that you would participate in the work of the Spirit and use your gifts to edify the people of God. I long for you to see that the Kingdom of God is like the Pearl of Great Worth. That you would know that it is of such great worth that you willingly and even joyfully surrender everything.
I pray that you would live a life that is so questionable to the world around you that people could not help but wonder Who your first Love is. I pray that the world would know who your King is because of your subversive acts of love, compassion, service, and grace to all of humankind.
I pray that you wouldn’t be captivated by an idea that your life isn’t complete unless____(fill in the blank, whatever the latest and greatest thing is)____; because I have learned the hard way, that even when I get what I thought I needed so badly, satisfaction is short lived. I pray that all of your deepest longings, deepest wants, and most intimate desires would be met with the all-consuming presence of the Spirit.
I pray that you would know the power of racial reconciliation and that you would fight for justice, equality, diversity, and restorative justice; that you would build deep, lasting friendships with black, brown, rich, poor, old and young; and that you would live the reality of the Kingdom of God which is inclusion, not exclusion.
I pray that this prayer that we say together multiple times a day wouldn’t be only a prayer, but a life lived out through the empowering presence of the Spirit.
But I also pray for your Dad and I. As these are your very formative years, I know you are watching us. You watch our sometimes meaningless spending habits; you see the way we treat the downtrodden, broken, and poor; you see me when I turn a blind eye to the homeless man on the street; you watch the way we speak to one another; you see me when my selfish-me-first mentality kicks in on the roads; you notice when my actions aren’t matching up with my Sunday morning teaching and preaching. But I pray that you would also notice our discipleship, sometimes failing, but other times God-honoring. I pray that you would see the very Spirit of the Living God in and through us, that you would see it infiltrate into our spending decisions, that you would notice when are making countercultural counter-cultural and not the status-quo.
Dear child, I don’t pray for your success; I pray for your discipleship.