As a parent, it is easy to be hard on ourselves, wondering if there is more we could do for our kids. This is a common feeling! Yet, one of the profound lessons in life thus far is how it is not always the difficulty of the task that equates to impact.
Sometimes the greatest things we can do for our kids are simple, daily practices–like praying a blessing over them.
We encourage you to see prayer as everyday conversations with God. And while some of these aspects of the conversation come naturally to us, there is something in our culture that has forgotten–or maybe never been introduced to–the ancient practice of praying a blessing over your children. (By the way, even if you are not a parent, praying blessings over any kid in your life is powerful, whether you be an uncle, teacher, mentor, or friend of a child in your life that you care about.)
For starters, what does it mean to pray a blessing over a child?
To put it simply:
To pray a blessing over a child is to attach high value to them. It is to confirm their identity in Jesus and to cast vision regarding their future.
And this is not a modern concept of “blessing,” it comes from a rich heritage in Scripture. All throughout the Old Testament parents embodied this as part of their cultural and theological understanding of what it meant to help their kids transition to who they were to become. In essence, receiving “the blessing” was a crucial part of a child’s life. And to go without it was to be set up for unresolved trauma. John Trent and Gary Smalley helpfully discuss the biblical background of the blessing in their book: The Blessing.
The truth is, if we don’t shape our kids’ perception of who they are, someone else will.
Peers, pop-cultural idols, or other parental figures will try to shape your child’s identity. And that is why your child is never too young to receive your spoken and written blessings over their life. Even if it does not seem acknowledged, do not downplay how impactful it is for a child to receive a blessing from a parent or respected adult. They need this. And they want it, too, even if it may not be something they are literally asking for.
We all need to know that we are part of a story; that we matter; that we have meaning; that we have a destiny. Praying blessings over your kids every day is a simple but profound way to instill this in them. And most importantly, praying blessings root all of these things in God, so that He becomes the central relationship that everything else in their life finds its orbit around.
So, how do we do this?
1) Use Scripture as your framework for how to speak general and specific blessings over your kids.
The Bible is not just some collection of ancient writings, its contents are “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12) with the power to transform us if we heed them. We have written about the benefits of memorizing Scripture HERE and also of meditating on Scripture HERE, so read those if you are interested. But for today’s conversation, we are assuming you trust in the power of Scripture and now are encouraging you to use the Bible as the framework of how to pray blessings over your kids.
Scripture provides great examples of…
- How blessings were spoken over others. One place where we see this is in Genesis 49:1-28, where Jacob blesses each of his twelve kids with a specific, heartfelt prayer of blessing which confirmed something about who they are and their destiny.
- Specific blessings or benedictions that have been given to us. Again, the Bible is full of these. One great example is Romans 15:13, which explicitly is a prayer of blessing Paul says over his readers. It’s one that is dense, each clause worthy of unpacking. It needs no revising, and can quickly become a staple in your prayers of blessing over a child or anyone else!
- Inspiring passages that can be converted into blessings. Often when I read something encouraging in the Bible I want to share it with others. The same can apply to turning it into a blessing! For example, Matthew 14:27 records when Jesus is walking on the water and comforts the scared disciples by telling them to “have courage, don’t be afraid, I am here.” You can turn this into a blessing by saying to your child: “May you always know that Jesus is with you and that he is even stronger than your fears.” You can certainly say the verse verbatim, of course, but there is also nothing wrong with paraphrasing the verse into a blessing for them, especially by putting it into language that will resonate with the child.
This also gives you a fun and creative lens to read Scripture through, seeing if you can find ways to make the verses into blessings to say over loved ones!
2) Use an appropriate level of touch.
We discussed this in a previous blog post, but I’ll reiterate the gist of it here. An appropriate touch releases positive chemicals in the brains of both the human agent and the human object of the touch. Specifically, oxytocin–a chemical that produces positive emotions–is released and bonds the two people together during an appropriate and endearing touch, such as a hug, an arm around someone, holding of the hand, or even a high five. Your kids want your affection, and including appropriate affection is part of blessing them.
3) Make it a daily routine.
It’s a tragic truth that most of the best “blessings” said to our loved ones are at big moments or transitions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to commemorate a child’s graduation with affirmation, or close out the family reunion with a few words on how much the time spent has meant. All of these things are great. But there is also an opportunity every week, even every day, to speak blessings over your kids. Making it a routine will mean that it is something that will become ingrained in them. And just because it becomes predictable to your kids does not mean it is any less powerful. Some of the best results come from good and healthy habits that are consistently performed.
Here one example of how this looks in action.
Every night that I have the chance to tuck my toddler in for bed I am eager to spend a moment recapping some moments from the day. I hold his head next to mine. If he is in a playful mood a few high-fives go a long way. But then, just after all is said and done and even after a candid prayer, I pronounce a blessing over him. I have memorized and pray Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT) over him every night.
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’
I try to remind myself that these are not just memorized words with some sort of self-inflicted obligation. These are God’s words. And these words, when said over him with a sincere heart of prayer, will actually do something! Why? Because to pray this blessing is to put God’s name on them, an ancient way of saying to the effect that you are marking them as belonging to God. (That’s the point of the epilogue of the prayer, in Numbers 6:27.)
And if you really want to involve your kids in a unique way, ask that they say a prayer of blessing over you, as well. Having a younger person act with spiritual authority to “bless” an older person is simply remarkable. As for having young kids involved, take into account their personality. Maybe they will want to come up with their own blessing to say over you. Or maybe they will take a passage of Scripture (like Numbers 6:24-26) and say that over you.