Reading Time: 9 Minutes
Careful readers of my articles will know that I have skipped the first twelve verses of this chapter. I have written two articles on the subject of divorce in the study of Matthew 5.31-32. They can be found at http://www.real-voices.com and were written on June 23 and 25.
Putting Children in Their Place
My father was a fairly prominent local politician when I was a child. My brother and I were allowed to meet some of the dignitaries who visited our house, while they were in Cape Girardeau for an event. After shaking hands with them, we children were expected to go to our rooms and stay out of the way of the adults for the remainder of the evening.
That practice may have been the sentiment in Jesus’ day, too. Matthew wrote, “Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them” (Matthew 19.13).
Think about this event. Jesus, the One who healed the sick and raised the dead, was nearby. Who wouldn’t want their child to receive a touch and a prayer from Jesus? No doubt, this was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Who knows what a touch and a prayer from Jesus would do in a child’s life? Our son, John, prayed this week for a co-worker who was suffering from a migraine headache. He placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and prayed a very quick prayer. John said that he felt nothing, but his friend said that he felt a jolt pass through him and his headache was gone on the spot. John just told him, “Jesus loves you,” and the two of them went back to work.
John’s story is a good one and I was grateful to hear it. However, think what it would be like to literally be touched by Jesus and to have him pray for you.
** More than a History Lesson
Has it ever entered your mind that you have the opportunity to ask Jesus to touch and pray for the children in your life? The Book of Hebrews tells us that, “Jesus always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7.25).
In the mystery of God ways and his love for people, Jesus continues to pray for people today. I don’t know how it works, but I accept the word of God as true and rejoice in this aspect of God’s grace.
It’s my conviction that every parent ought to make a habit of bringing their children to Jesus every night. What if your nighttime routine involved gently placing your hand on your child’s shoulder or head and saying, “Dear Jesus, you know and love my child (place your child’s name here). As I am touching my child, please touch my child and pray for him/her.”
Obviously, you can add any other prayer for your child to what I have suggested, but I really encourage you to start a practice of praying like this for the children in your life.
The same think can hold true for adult children. Just because we no longer have a bedtime routine of praying with them, doesn’t mean that we have to stop praying for them. Once again, as you pray for your adult children please consider praying like this “Dear Jesus, please place your hand on my child (place the name of your child here). Please pray for my adult child and give them what is needed in their lives.”
I doubt if it surprises you to know that the Spirit intercedes for us, too. Paul wrote in Romans, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8.26).
While we pray for our children of all ages, we can say, “Holy Spirit, I don’t know how or what to pray for my child (put the name of your child here). Please pray through me for him/her.”
I read a quote from Charles Spurgeon this week where he said, “Words are only a garment for the prayer that resides in our heart.” What I understand Spurgeon to be saying is that we don’t have to get everything correct and have all of our words polished when praying. God looks at our heart and responds to our heart. Without a doubt, our children will be the beneficiaries of our heart-felt prayers.
The Kingdom and Children
Jesus invited the children to come to him with these words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19.14).
It is a bit disconcerting to know that the disciples needed further teaching about the value of children to God. Jesus had recently taken special pains to give them an object lesson and specific instruction about children and God’s kingdom (see Matthew 18.1-10).
If the disciples needed a refresher course in how God views children, we do well to review his feelings on the matter, too.
— “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10.17-18).
God is not partial, but he cares for three categories of vulnerable people. He provides justice to widows and orphans. He loves people who are fleeing dangerous situations and looking for refuge.
— “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1.27).
James, the younger brother of Jesus and one of the key early church leaders, knew the heart of God for orphans and widows – two categories of frequently overlooked people.
— “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18.10).
According to Jesus the “little ones,” the vulnerable, have angels that look on the face of the heavenly Father.
God, who is not partial, knows the name of every one of the nearly 3 million children under the age of five, who died last year in Sub-Saharan Africa. I wonder what their angels, who continually see the face of the Father, have to say to him about the plight of these children who are largely invisible to the western world?
— Jesus began his famous Sermon on the Mount with these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.3).
Of all the ways that Jesus could have begun his message, this is how he began his sermon. The children, the widows, the strangers who flee to us for safety, the oppressed, and the poor fit the category of “poor in spirit.”
Every message has a “So what?” moment. Jesus could easily have said to his followers, “I have taught you twice about children and the ‘little ones.’ So what are you going to do about what I have taught you?”
Here are a few suggestions about what we can do to respond to Jesus’ emphasis on children and the “little ones.”
(1) We can pray daily for the children that God has entrusted to us. We can ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to pray for them and to show us how to pray for them.
(2) We can get informed about the inequality of wealth in our world. I have recently watched YouTube videos about human slavery that impacts approximately 20 million people in our world today. Listen to a video for yourself on YouTube or go to http://www.theworldcounts.com for more information.
I have started including countries where slavery is most prevalent in my nightly prayers. I am also working at getting better informed about what people are doing to God’s children and “little ones” for profit.
(3) We can be conscious and open to the vulnerable people in our society. If nothing else, we can give them a smile when we encounter them.
Many Maywood Baptist Church people inspire me with their loving care of the vulnerable. They are great examples of caring for children and the “little ones” of our area.
(4) We can recognize that we, too, are poor in spirit. We can approach God in humility and be willing to receive the gifts of his grace in our lives.
Dear Jesus, it is great news to know that you intercede for us. Please show us how to pray with you for the children and “little ones” in our lives. Please help us advocate for the widows, orphans, people who need refuge, and others like them in our world. We, too, know that we are poor in spirit and we come to you, dependent on your grace.