Motherhood’s rescue mission outside the gates of hell was supposed to look tidier.
But here we are.
One child has just yanked another’s hair. Sticky hands and messy bottoms (of two different children) have been wiped, but someone just somersaulted through another’s drawing space. Picture ruined, sadness abounds. Another child is hungry but — phew — distracted, scouring five bottomless laundry hampers for underwear. We hurriedly search for shoes to rush to lessons of all kinds. But we will be even later because a shoeless child rages after a half-dressed one to hijack back a pen identical to ten others in plain sight.
How can mothers possibly intercede for their children during little moments of chaos?
God in Small, Chaotic Spaces
Like her life “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:2), the glory of a mother’s rescue mission hides in small moments. Even if no one else sees and delights in a mother’s labor of love, God does. In fact, no one sees more or delights more than him. The mundane, however, will not last forever — God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” Though mothers now yearn for eternal assurances for their children, it is not for us to know “what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11–12).
Anxieties pile on because the weight of eternity presses in. How will today’s messes translate into eternal joy with our children in the presence of the King? Little moments offer opportunities for big prayers — not as an oppressive obligation but as a way of casting anxieties on the God who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
God has promised our labor in Christ is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), so we cast our anxieties at the throne during moments when it seems his kingdom has not yet entered our homes. Prayer surrenders our desire for certainty about their salvation and frees us to share gospel hope with our children without measuring results.
Massive prayers are more than an invitation for God to hear our pleas; they also invite him to speak back to us. When we pray, the indwelling Spirit counsels moms toward Scripture’s glorious promises to us and our children (John 14:26). He exchanges our proneness to unravel for eternal eyes, power, and joy to labor and trust him as we continue to intercede for the little hearts in our care.
Big Prayers for Small Moments
One day mothers will see what now remains hidden in heaven — golden bowls of incense filled with the massive, intercessory prayers of mothers crying out to God on behalf of their children (Revelation 5:8). Consider these three massive prayers for your mundane and messy little moments.
1. ‘Lord, save my children!’
Prayers for a child’s salvation are so massive and redundant that perhaps we tend over time not to want to bother God with them anymore.
The weight and value of our children’s eternities peek through in little moments. He is “not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,” but is patient toward them, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8–9). So we pray, “Lord, remove my child’s heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)!” Messes do not need to hinder mothers. They are brief windows in which we can plead for salvation and fuel patient, tender gospel-preaching to the eternal beings we shepherd. “Lord, I see the sin in them (and in me!), and I know I cannot save them. Break in and capture their hearts. Help them to see!”
“When mothers pray, we invite our children into our desperation before the God of salvation.”
When mothers pray, we invite our children into our desperation before the God of salvation. Charles Spurgeon never forgot his mother’s unwavering plea: “Oh, that my son might live before thee!” (Devoted, 91). With consistency and fervor, we can invite our children in as we pour out our hearts to God.
2. ‘Jesus, fill us with your Holy Spirit.’
If there is one thing I have learned in motherhood about prayer, it’s that I often don’t know how to pray.
Jesus is unhindered by moms who yearn for communion with him but falter or abandon these hopes in little moments. Here’s good news for yearning moms: the resurrected King reigns in our inability. He promises that when we ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he will fill us (Luke 11:13). A mother’s plea invites the power of Christ to replace our anxiety with peace to know him more, and authority to display his glory in little moments. So we pray, drawing on Ephesians 3:14–21:
You have named and formed my family (verse 15).
You have endless riches to supply all my needs (verse 16).
Strengthen me and my children with power through your Spirit (verse 16).
Do for me what I cannot do on my own; do what your Spirit is meant to do — show us Christ, and fix our eyes on him (verse 17).
Be our firm foundation whether we see any fruit from our faithfulness (verse 17).
Through your powerful Spirit, show us “what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of your endless love (verse 18).
Empty us of anything less than your fullness (verse 19).
Do far more than we or our children even think to ask, through the power of your Spirit at work within us (verse 20).
May we, our children, our children’s children, and all generations glorify Christ (verse 21).
Mothers can pray child-specific verses. We can pray that our service, gifts, and teaching in the name of Christ will bear fruit. We can pray that our children would grow into men and women of the word, mighty warriors for Christ’s kingdom. We can pray that they would live for Christ, die for Christ, be all in for Christ. But let’s also pray for ourselves, that we would be filled with the Spirit, who enables us to pray and love well.
3. ‘Holy Spirit, give us more of Jesus.’
Jesus delights to fill us with his Spirit. And the Spirit delights to satisfy us — with more of Christ.
“Jesus delights to fill us with his Spirit. And the Spirit delights to satisfy us — with more of Christ.”
Jesus is our eternal portion (Psalm 73:26–28; John 6:35), but also our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). He is “good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:24–25). Little moments with our children now will turn into bigger moments after they have left our homes. Mothers want the gospel to one day pour out from their children’s hearts and lives. So we pray and ask the Spirit to satisfy us and our children (and our children’s children!) toward the day when we will fully know him (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Spirit, use this hair-yanking. Grow our children to beg you for more of Jesus until they get him.
Spirit, move in sticky hands and messy bottoms. Grow our children to be satisfied in the kind, gentle hands of our shepherd when they’re confronted with their own messes (Romans 2:4).
Spirit, shine behind sinful somersaults. Grow our children to be satisfied in the quieting presence of Christ, who sees their pain (Psalm 56:8), as they long for the day when sin and sadness will be no more (Revelation 21:4).
Spirit, fill hungers and reveal yourself in underwear searches. Grow our children to not distract their appetites but invite the bread of life to fully satisfy them (John 6:35).
Spirit, tardiness does not steal your power. Grow our children to be content in Christ when their plans don’t match your purposes (Proverbs 19:21).
Spirit, don’t waste our unnecessary pen collection. Surprise our children in their yearnings by teaching them the secret behind hunger and plenty (Philippians 4:12) — more of Jesus.
And as you do these things in them, Holy Spirit, do them first in me.
He Prays for Us
We live in a dark world. Massive prayers now for more of Jesus may prepare our children and generations to come for persecution, or for a time when they are stripped of all things but the one who never leaves. Whatever comes their way, may our children grow into godliness and contentment because a praying mom pleaded that Jesus would be enough.
Mothers, we don’t need to collapse under the weight of our mission, or pretend that only majestic prayers can intercede for our children. The Spirit helps mothers in their weakness when words fail us — the Spirit himself prays for mothers “with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). And one day, what were once massive prayers in little moments will, in the light of glory, usher in massive praise forever.