“Marlo, what would you like to pray for tonight?” is the question that I end every night with, as I snuggle my son into his bed. He is always quick to recite a list of family and friends that he knows and loves (and yes, sometimes Dora the explorer sneaks on the list too).

After taking time to think through his list, we always open and close our prayers with the same phrases. The first phrase I borrowed from BOZ (a Christian children’s show on Right Now Media), “Thank you, God, as this day ends. For my family and my friends. Taking time to sit and pray, thank you, God, for this great day.” The second phrase thanks God for sending Jesus, “and I thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin and rise again so that I can have a relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

It is already a precious gift from God to pray with my son before he goes to sleep, but the other night I was provided a moment that I will cherish so long as I have my memory. As I was beginning to pray the second phrase – closing out our prayer for the evening – and before I could take my next breath, Marlo started ahead of me. With his little voice, he began, “and thank you, God, for sending Jesus…” As my heart welled up with overflowing joy, I composed myself enough to join my two-year-old as he closed out our prayer time for the evening with Gospel.

Now, I don’t know how much his little two-year-old mind can grasp, and if he genuinely prayed “the sinner’s prayer” at that moment, but that’s not the point. The point is that the message of God’s passionate pursuit of His world (and Marlo) through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, is something that he is beginning to hear and resonate with at this young age. My prayer as a father now is that it would move from recital to regeneration. I’m praying that the steady dose of unconditional love, unmerited grace and the culture of repentance and forgiveness that he hopefully sees at home becomes the other ingredients in the recipe that God uses to soften his little heart towards the saving message of Jesus at the youngest age possible.

Parents, don’t trivialize or rush precious moments like bedtime. They are never too young, and your phones and televisions can wait. It is never to early to introduce your kids to the message that changed your eternity. There is nothing quite as powerful as the consistent message of God’s grace.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

Romans 1:16 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul is instructing us that the precise message of Jesus coming to this earth and living as a sinless man but dying a sinner’s death on our behalf to satisfy the debt we owed God’s wrath – then rising again to unite us to Him – is the very power of God to save people, even your children. Don’t be ashamed of it.

May we be the parents who are willingly held accountable by the prayers that we pray with our children. May we have the kind of relationship that we thank God for making attainable. May the truth of the Gospel not only resonate with their little hearts but may God use it in our lives too; and may we become parents who understand the Father Heart of God as we learn the joy of pointing our children to Him through prayer.

“and I thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin and rise again so that I can have a relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”