Author and blogger Brooke McGlothlin discusses the need for parents to pray Scripture over their sons, and offers advice on raising boys to be men of integrity, character and respect.
John Fuller: Well, here at Focus on the Family one of our missions is to help you lead your family well. And one of the most important things that you can do is to teach your children to treasure God’s Word. As we begin today’s broadcast, we have some really practical ideas for bringing Scripture reading into your everyday life. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, the pandemic, along with other cultural tensions right now, have really revealed the spiritual hunger. We’re seeing it here at Focus. People are open to Who is God? Who am I? What is my role? What does God want me to do? And there’s no better way than to simply read God’s Word. And that is why we wanted to talk to a couple of dear friends who I visited in New York City. And they’re doing some amazing things to help people there in New York City, not only with their own families, but extending that to their business friendships and inviting people to come and do a public reading of Scripture. It’s not as intimidating as people would think. It’s all prerecorded. You basically just set it up and let it go. And I really would encourage you, if you’re interested, go to the website. Contact us. We’ll connect you to their website. And you can get rolling quickly, like today. But if you look at the nation and what we need, it’s this. It’s an understanding of God’s Word.
John: Yeah, and so we’re glad to have Bill Hwang and Andy Mills with us. They’re both successful businessman and CEOs and the co-founders of a ministry called the Public Reading of Scripture. And they’re joining us by phone today for the first segment of this program.
Jim: Bill and Andy, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Bill Hwang: Thank you.
Andy Mills: Thank you, Jim. Great to be here.
Jim: Yeah, it’s great. I had the great blessing of being with you in New York City when you did the Public Reading of Scripture. Let’s start there. What is the Public Reading of Scripture and why is it important for us living in the 21st century?
Andy: Well, you know, one of the things that we’re noticing is there’s a general level of Biblical illiteracy among Christians today, Jim. And one of the things we’re observing is while people want to read more Bible – everybody puts their hand up when you say, “Do you want to read more Bible?” It’s actually in the lives we live today very hard to do that. You know, a morning devotion is tough for a lot of people in the business world, for example. Busy mothers, school kids and students. And – and so, we move into trying to read Scripture with great desire and with great motives, but then we find the practice of it becomes very, very hard and we become discouraged and I think the enemy comes after us in that. And so, the Public Reading of Scripture is purely and simply a strategy of reading Scripture, which is the ancient strategy, which is all the way through the Bible, whether it be Ezra, Josiah, et cetera. What they did with the Scriptures, when they had Scripture, they gathered people together to read the Scripture in public. And that’s really what we’re doing, is we’re gathering people in community to be able to listen to God’s Word over a significant period of time, maybe half an hour to an hour’s worth of listening to God’s Word, and it’s amazing how much you can get through in that period of time. But listen together where you have that concentration and somehow the Spirit meets us at that time and the depth of understanding we gained from that Scripture at that time is really remarkable and we’re just seeing lives being changed and we’re seeing people desiring to be in God’s Word as a result of this in a very different kind of way.
Jim: Bill, let me ask you, how long ago did you start this Public Reading of Scripture at your company and what does it look like? Describe it for the listeners. We don’t have a video for them to see it, so fill in that blank. How does it work?
Bill: (Laughter) Started about 10 years ago in Manhattan, and, you know, it – it’s total about an hour and we would usually have the Bible in front of us, but mostly we would listen for about, you know, 50 minutes, five zero minutes, about half Old Testament, half New Testament. And, uh – and, uh, somebody will explain generally what we will be listening because teaching – in this case, short teaching is very important. And then we – we pray, but we pray the Psalms. So, usually will we pray a Psalm together, Old Testament listening about 30 minutes and then 20 minutes or so of listening to New Testament and, uh – and finishing by praying a Psalm. And, you know, as we began doing this about 10 years ago, what was really shocking to me, who always struggled to read and listen to the words – entire Bible, that 66 books, listening and reading the whole Bible takes less than hundred hours. So, we’ve been doing this for about 10 years. So, for my story, you know, I really struggle to read the Scripture for first 45 years of my Christian life. Now I’m about 55 and last 10 years by just attending these gatherings couple of times a week, I’ve been finishing and listening to the entire Bible once a year which is a miracle.
Jim: (Laughter) Yeah. It’s so good.
Jim: And I’m serious, guys. I mean, what’s so amazing being with you in New York City, you know, in a skyscraper. You probably had 80 to 100 people that came. It was a big boardroom. You served lunch. But these were people from not only your company, but other companies around that area and they knew that on that day of the week, they could come in and grab a quick bite to eat and listen to Scripture together. And you’re right, it’s very simple. Nobody’s really giving a lot of instruction, just saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And then a quick wrap up. And it – you know, if anything in our country right now, this is exactly what Christian business people – and, you know, in your home, you can apply the same thing to do the whole Bible in a year by following this ingredients that you guys have created. So, I just think it’s a great thing. But speak to that – that I think the issue right now, societally, where this is the antidote we need. You know, over the weekend, last weekend, I was thinking, what’s the answer to all these riots and protests and brutality and injustices that are being committed? I mean, the only answer I could come up with is Jesus. More people need to know Jesus.
Andy: You know, I think that – I think that’s exactly right, Jim. And, you know, I think if – if COVID had nothing else, I think it shocked a lot of people in terms of how fragile, you know, not only life is, but society is and things that we banked on in terms of jobs and economy and institutions and how – you know, how fragile they are, too. And I don’t know if a lot of people had the same thought that I did. A lot of the times I had this question, “Well, who’s in charge? Isn’t there someone that’s running this show?” And, you know, you come back and say, “Yeah, you know, frail men and women are running this show and many of them with poor philosophies and wrong philosophies. And – and why – why are we therefore surprised that we’re getting deeper and deeper into this range of problems?” And – and, you know, the answer is we need to listen to God. And that’s really what this Public Reading of Scripture about. It’s we want to hear God talk.
Andy: And we’ve heard a lot of our men talking, but now we want to hear God talk. And I think Jesus is the antidote and the Bible is the way that people will learn about Him.
Jim: No, it’s beautiful. And I think let – let’s talk about that for a moment. Just how we use this in our home. So, translate that for us. Do you do that once a week as – as a family or do you do it more than once a week?
Bill: You know, we in our home in New Jersey – we do it only once a week with my two daughters. So, it’s a matter of training. So, by, you know, listening to Words of God together, just like eating food. You know, Jesus told us God’s Word is our food. How do we eat food? Mostly together at a set time. Right? So, if you…
Jim: Three times a day. (Laughter)
Bill: Yeah, exactly. So regularly. Sometimes you – you skip. And then I jokingly say to people who say, “Oh, Bill, I – I want to really read the Bible every – you know, entire Bible every three months.” I said, “That’s sort of overeating food.” So, as you said, Jim, this should be just part of our lives just eating the food together and sometimes alone. Nothing’s wrong with reading and listening to the words alone.
Bill: But as a strategy let’s train ourselves to serve God and serve this country.
Jim: No, I so appreciate that and I think what I’d like to suggest – you know, so many people right now are saying, “What can we do that’s practical to engage the culture, to, you know, what Andy said a moment ago, to become less illiterate when it comes to the Word of God?” My goodness. You know, sometimes it’s so simple. It’s, “Well, start reading it.” And what a great way to begin either in your home or, and, with your business. Or if you’re not the owner of the business or the CEO, suggest it to the owner. See if you can get one day a week where you can get volunteers who want to come and do this during the lunch period, the lunch break, and start it. And I think the fascinating thing is when we lift up God and this is what you guys are all about. I know. When you lift up the Word of God and people learn about the Word of God, it changes hearts and how desperate we are in this nation for a change of heart.
Andy: No, it’s so right, Jim.
Bill: Amen to that.
Andy: And, you know, can I just add another thing about the family? Because I think it’s so important.
Jim: Of course.
Andy: You know, I think a lot of times dads in particular feel a kind of a pressure to sort of be a spiritual leader in the home, but they’re not quite sure how to do that often because they’re absent from the home a lot. And I think, you know, this Public Reading of Scripture, using these apps that we have, using these drama Bibles and, by the way, they’re really – they’re really wonderful to listen to if you’ve listened to them, Jim, because they are every different voice is a different person, a different actor. You have the music. You have the sound effects. So, you’re really listening to a drama, if you will.
Andy: And so, what we’re finding is for kids, you know, from all ages, my 5 and 3-year-old grandchildren, I see them listening to this just – just intently. But – but this very engaging production that children of all ages and adults really love. And so, now, Dad, can I have something that he can come home with and say, “Kids, you know, let’s listen to this Bible for 15 minutes, maybe after dinner.” But all of a sudden, I think Dad in particular and Dad and Mom together have something that they can introduce to their kids. And we know that when you introduce kids to something that is really meaningful, that becomes a practice that continues. And in my household, it leads to all kinds of very interesting discussions about faith in Jesus, the practice of faith, if you will. So, I really commend it to families in that way.
Jim: Well, I so appreciate that. And I think, again, it is the answer. And if we as Christians believe that let’s act on it.
Jim: Gentlemen, this has been good. Thank you for what you do on Wall Street representing Christ in that mayhem. And what I’m talking about is just your normal workday, not all the things that are occurring today. Thank you for this. And I hope literally thousands of people will accept your offer to go and start reading the Word regularly and to learn the Word of God. Thank you both.
Bill: Thank you, Jim.
Andy: Thank you.
John: You’ll find informative videos and reading plans from the Public Reading of Scripture at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, for the rest of our time together today, we have some more encouragement for strengthening your family through prayer and helping your child learn how to pray.
John: Here at Focus on the Family, we routinely receive prayer requests from children, and they go something like this. One girl wrote us and said, “Dear God, help me have a good education in life because I am only 8, so I’ve just started out in life.”
Jim: (Laughter) But, John, I love these prayer requests. One of my favorites and when I speak, I’ll often repeat this one, was a little 9-year-old boy who wrote prayer requests right here in our Welcome Center and said, “Please pray for my brother. He wets the bed.” Which is a great prayer, but then he added, “And, also pray for me. I share a bed with my brother.”
Jim: Those are heartfelt prayers. Maybe even some more serious ones, like a boy who is 8, asking that if God would help his dad stop drinking so he could become healthy again. Really heartfelt things.
John: Yeah, kids – kids are dialed into life.
Jim: They know what’s going on.
Jim: And to hear these prayer requests and to read them is such a life changing moment.
John: Well, we’re gonna be talking about children and prayer. And this is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim: And like we said, John, children have such a capacity to connect with God in ways that we adults forget. You know, we forget to just be childlike with the Lord. And I think the Lord loves the heart of a child and I think He even instructs us as adults to have more of that heart in coming to Him. At same time, a child’s spiritual life has to be nurtured and we as parents have a role to play in that. Probably the most critical role to help nurture a prayerful attitude toward the Lord. And I know many of us struggle with that because our lives are busy. We’ve got a lot on. But to stop and actually teach our children how to pray. I really applaud my wife, Jean, because she is so good at getting the boys to pray over the meal and participate in that way. And we’re hopeful as parents of two teenagers that that’ll continue in their adult life. That they will be praying young men.
John: Mm hmm. Yeah, this is an equipping program for us. This is a nuts and bolts kind of how to do it prayer program. And as you said, Jim, a lot of parents wrestle with this kind of responsibility and we hear from so many moms and dads who want to equip their kids in their spiritual development but just don’t know where to start.
Jim: That’s true. You know, for more than 40 years, Focus has been here trying to do that, equip parents. Today, we’re going to talk with Dr. David Ireland. He’s the founder and pastor of Christ Church at a large multisite ministry in northern New Jersey. I didn’t know there was such a thing in northern New Jersey as something spiritual.
Jim: I’m just getting everybody in New Jersey.
John: Oh man, we’re going to hear from people now.
Jim: But he’s the author of over 20 books, and he has often written and speaks about prayer, leadership, racial diversity. And David, it’s a pleasure to have you here at Focus on the Family.
Dr. David Ireland: My pleasure, Jim. Thanks for the opportunity to come and speak to you and the listening audience.
Jim: You’ve written this book, Raising a Child Who Prays: Teaching Your Family the Power of Prayer. Uh, I guess the simple way to start this is say why is this so important to you?
David: There’s no junior Holy Spirit. And our children – the best legacy we can leave them is a legacy – what I call a God legacy. Certainly, we can leave them money. We can leave them lands and houses. I don’t, uh, knock that. But something far more important and more substantive is leaving our children a God legacy. Leave them an opportunity to have an encounter with God and to know how to talk with God.
Jim: Yeah. That is so good. Uh, let’s start with the role of Mom and Dad. Um, a lot of us think the church will fill this void. It’s the church’s role. You’re a pastor. You know, we take the kids to Sunday school, they’ll teach them how to pray. That’s not a good approach to this, is it?
David: It’s not. I mean, the church has the child or the children, maybe about 90 minutes once a week. And that’s not going to be the greatest influence in the life of the church, no matter how good that church is. And I’m a pastor, and I think that the role of a parent is a daunting role, and I don’t want to add another burden on a parent’s life because it’s already overwhelming when you think about, how do I mold and shape this little one? And when they become teenagers, how do I run away from them all of a sudden?
Jim: Hey, are you talking to John and me? What are you talking about?
David: How do I mold and shape them so that they can become, not only productive in society, but individuals that are expanders of the kingdom of God? And Marlinda and I have raised two children, and they’re adults now. And we’ve – thank God, we have been successful with the help of the Lord. And sometimes, we were successful because we stumbled on it accidentally. And I think the idea of training children how to pray, not in this mechanical, academic sense, but in an organic kind of lifestyle sense is something very essential.
Jim: And it’s so important for us as parents not to give that over to others. I know we’re busy. We can make excuses. I think, at times, I’ve done that. You know, they’ll get this at school, or they’ll get that at church. Um, but we need to be the primary caretakers of their spiritual development.
David: Absolutely, Jim. In fact, nowadays, a lot of parents are abdicating their roles. And they’re – they’re paying companies to teach their children things that (laughter) – that we taught our children and – and other generations did. Like child-proofing your home – you could pay 1,250 bucks to a company and they’ll do that. Or you know, two sessions on how to prevent your child from – stop sucking their thumb – $4,300 if you want to have a two-session experience.
Jim: There’s an industry here.
David: And, you know, two-week potty-training with live instructor – $3,700.
Jim: Okay. That one might be worth it!
John: I can’t imagine a live instructor for that. That’s crazy.
David: Yeah. They’ll come and live in for a while. And then, you know…
David: …If you want to teach your children how to have manners – “Yes, Sir. No, Sir. Yes, Ma’am. Yes uh, no, Ma’am” – or to shake hands – $85.
Jim: That – now that’s astounding. The cheapest one of all is the manners training.
David: I know. So – and people are trying to now tell the church, you – “I’ll bring my child to you, and you train my child how to pray, and you train my child how to be Godly. But I’ll do whatever I want to do.”
Jim: Well, that’s an interesting, uh, phenomenon. What you’re describing there is that in a country where we can now afford to pay others to do the things that traditionally was a parent’s role, we’re opting for the easy way – the comfortable way. “Hey, let’s just pay them to teach our kid not to suck his thumb.”
David: And – and it seems good when we think about it on a surface level. But when you think about it on a deeper level, a substantive level, we’re not only just thinking about what we’re doing to our children by abdicating our roles, but what we need to think about is the future of the church. And so, we’re creating this church that is, what I would call, a cruise ship mentality versus a war – a warship. And Christianity is a warship and not a cruise ship. And when we don’t understand that we’ll – we’re raising up individuals who are, quote, unquote, “Christians” to take over the helm of the church – the Lord’s Church globally – who will really have a cruise ship mentality.
Jim: I’ve never heard it put that way.
David: On the cruise ship, I’m here to be entertained. On a warship, I’m here to fight. I’m fighting against a culture. I’m fighting against the enemy of our soul. On a cruise ship, I look at – at the captain as the entertainment director. On a warship, I look at God, the Captain, as the General of the Army. And it’s a different mindset. The cruise ship docks during wartime. The battleship sails during wartime. And when we abdicate our roles of being able to be parents that can raise up children that can engage the culture and be thriving and vibrant in their spiritual walk, we’re creating this cruise ship mentality. And we can never fulfill the Great Commission with that kind of perspective.
Jim: David, I really appreciate that. I think that’s an incredible insight – motivating, really, to think of it in those terms. So often, I think we as parents, who are hopefully more mature spiritually than our children – our teenagers – we can expect a lot out of them. And we forget this is a process. And what were we like at 13, 14, as a child with uh, you know, not a fully developed emotional brain yet? And they’re gonna make mistakes. We make mistakes. So how do you settle down and, I think, sidestep the fear trap that Satan can lay there for a parent who doesn’t see all the right behavior in their child? Or you know, they forget it’s a process. They’re wanting to see instant gratification.
David: And I think that when I talk about raising a child who prays, I talk about the sociological side of child rearing and the process – their mentality, and I talk about the spiritual side. And then I have a lot of prayer activities that engages the child based on their age. And so, I tell the parent, “Parent, children don’t want perfect parents. They want real, authentic parents.” And likewise, parents don’t want – want perfect children. They want real, authentic children. So, when a child makes a mistake, even when it comes to prayer, don’t stumble. And God doesn’t stumble. In our children’s church, before the class starts, the teacher would invariably ask the child to pray, or children to pray, and pick some children. And I remember one of the teachers told me that in this 5-year-old class – 5, 6-year-old – they asked, uh, little Jimmy to pray. And Jimmy prayed, and he deepened his voice when he prayed, like a baritone voice.
David: He’s 5 years old. Somehow, he thinks that prayer requires that. And – and then afterward, Sally prayed. And when Sally prayed, she said, “God,” and she prayed specifically, “God bless my mom, and meet her needs. And then bless Elmo and Big Bird.”
Jim: Is that right?
David: She wanted the Sesame characters. And I think God has enough wisdom to be able to bifurcate the childishness of children, but yet also accept their prayers.
David: And so, we must not stumble, as parents, with that.
Jim: What I would add, too, uh, especially for parents of younger children not to make fun of that ’cause that can be a tendency. I could do that.
John: Yeah. To dismiss that.
Jim: Say, “Wait. What do you mean pray for Big Bird? What are you doing?”
Jim: But be thoughtful about how you handle that in that moment because you’re teaching your children how to have an attitude of prayer. And if you tease them at that time, they may kinda go into a shell when it comes to prayer ’cause they don’t know how to pray according to your desire.
David: And also, as parents, we are our children’s world…
David: …During the developmental stages. And our evaluation of them, it really makes them and shapes them. If we affirm them and build them up and to give them their high-fives after they pray or just as they’re making any baby steps towards ongoing progress, it means a lot to them.
David: It’s not like a stranger’s words. Our words – our words have significant weight and heft in the mind of our child, and we have to be conscious of that.
Jim: Uh, let’s turn to some of the practical advice for moms and dads. Uh, you have some great ideas on how to make this really simple for parents who are listening. So, let’s get to it. You list, uh, three ways that children can develop the healthy habit of daily prayer – one, having a place to pray.
Jim: A time. And then take it from there, place and time.
David: And an agenda. So, I have three things to develop a habit of prayer – set a place of prayer, set a time of prayer and set an agenda of prayer. And when I say set a place of prayer, your children need a private space – a place where they can call their own. And you may say, “Well, I have so many kids, I – there’s no private space.” But let’s take a play out of the playbook of Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley. She had 19 children.
John: Not many of our listeners have 19.
David: I know. I can’t even count that high when it comes to kids. So, that’s like, wall-to-wall children. But yet, she had – every day, she had her own private place to pray. She had an apron that she’d wear around her waist, and she would throw it over her head.
Jim: Oh, man! (Laughter)
David: And she taught her children, “Whenever you see Mom in her place of prayer, never interrupt her.”
David: So, we can teach our children, get a place of prayer – a private place. It could be part of the closet. They just push some of the clothing away, and that’s their place. Or it could be their favorite chair. Or it could be a favorite sofa. And they can take that place and – and pray when they’re there.
Then when I say set a time of prayer, I want it to be some formalized way, whether it may be right before they go to school for five minutes, or when they come home before they start homework or – or some time where it’s a formal meeting with God, where it’s an official time with God. The discipline of prayer is so important. And so, they set that time. And so, based on their age, again, I draw from Susanna Wesley. When her children were young, she taught them the – the Lord’s Prayer. She taught them to memorize it. And she taught them to then say it. Twice a day they had to say it. As they aged, she taught them then how to branch out in prayer in specific things – praying for your dad, praying for your mom. And I think we need to say that and teach that to our children. The third thing, uh, Jim, I would bring out is this – and John – is to set an agenda of prayer. An agenda is specific topics that – it’s important to us. It’s important to others. And when it comes to the agenda of prayer, that’s where I come into practical ways of habits and styles to make prayer engaging based on the ages – age of the child. Sometimes I say, “Let’s take the tallest person in your family.” Have your child pray for the tallest down to the shortest.
David: And then the next day, from the shortest to the tallest. And that’s one exercise…
John: Mix it up. Yeah.
David: Yeah. Mix it up.
Jim: That is good. You also talk about the five fingers of prayer. I really think this is helpful. What is it?
David: Yeah. If we take the thumb, which is the closest to us, and we’re saying, “Who’s someone close to us? What are they experiencing? Are they hurting? Are they going through a tough time?” Pray for that individual. The pointing finger – someone in our life that gives instruction – a teacher, you know, maybe a coach, maybe a Sunday school teacher. Pray for that individual. That middle finger – someone who takes a leadership role in our life. Pray for their – you know whether it may be the president of our mom’s company or our dad’s workplace, or to pray for the – the principal at the school or pray for the pastor of your church. And then the ring finger speaks of a family member. And then you pray for a family member. And then the pinky, you pray for someone that’s close, whether it’s a good friend, whether it’s, uh, you know, a buddy, whether it’s…
Jim: I like that.
David: …Someone else in your life that you’re concerned about. And when you go through this five finger method, they hold their little fingers up, and they wiggle them. And they make it fun and engaging. And – and you make it enjoyable. And you go through this. You may say, “Well, that’s foolish. That’s silly.” It’s not. Our children – we need to engage them in ways that they can understand. As they mature and as they develop a life of prayer, we can pull away some of these kinds of methods and go on to larger methods where I use social media as a way to connect in terms of prayer styles and prayer habits.
Jim: And prayer journal.
Jim: All kinds of things that that could lead into. But it opens their heart up to the uh, practice of prayer.
Jim: David, this has been so good. Man, I have really enjoyed it. The time has flown by. And uh, let’s continue with a few questions for our web extra, so folks that want to join us at the website can do that. And uh, we’ll have two or three more questions for you. But man, thank you so much for being here, talking about the power of teaching our children uh, a prayerful life and the impact that it has on themselves and on the world around them. Thank you.
David: My pleasure, Jim. My pleasure, John. Thank you for the opportunity.
Jim: And if I can turn to you, the listener, I hope you’ll follow up with us on this topic of prayer. Dr. Ireland’s book, Raising a Child Who Prays, is an excellent resource. And I recommend you get a copy of it. That’s how you can learn about what we’ve talked about today. If not for you, maybe for a young family you know of. We can send you a free copy of this book when you send a financial gift to support the ministry of Focus on the Family. This is our way of saying thank you for helping us equip and empower parents like we’ve done today.
John: Request your copy and donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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