John Fuller: This is Focus on the Family with your host Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And later on in our broadcast we’re going to be featuring Dr. David Ireland in a conversation about simple yet profound ways to develop a love of prayer in your kids and certainly these are days to be praying. As we begin, though, we have an important and very timely conversation about the Supreme Court vacancy and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Those hearings beginning today. Jim, spoke by phone with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the confirmation process.
Jim Daly: Leader McConnell, thanks for joining us on Focus on the Family.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: I’m really glad to be with you, Jim.
Jim: Hey, lets, uh – lets get right to it. Tell me about Judge Barrett’s qualifications. Why do you think she’s qualified to sit on the Supreme Court?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Well, you know, her former dean at Notre Dame Law School said she was the best student he ever had.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Then she went on to clerk for Justice Scalia. And she’s been on the 7th Circuit for the last three years. She’s got an all-star family, seven children, two adopted, one special needs child. She and her husband, who’s also a lawyer, I’m sure are extraordinarily well organized (laughter) in order to deal with two high-profile careers and take care of seven kids at the same time.
Jim: Well, that – it does for us at Focus on the Family – I mean, that qualifies you for just about any job right there with the – the kids, special needs kids, et cetera. Mr. Leader, let me ask you about your role and let me ask you specifically, how many judges have you been able to seat over the last almost four years now during this administration – just generally at the federal court level? How many judges have you been able to get through?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: 225. The most prominent, obviously, are two Supreme Court Justices and 53 circuit court judges – that’s one step below the Supreme Court. And, Jim, you’d be interested to know, this is the first time in 40 years that there are no vacancies on the circuit courts anywhere in America. I put this at the top of our priority list. I think this is the single most important accomplishment of the Trump era – lifetime appointments to the court. Young men and women who believe that the job of judges to actually follow the law. Justice Scalia used to say, “If you want to make policy, why don’t you run for office? That’s not what we do here.” Justice Gorsuch has said, “We don’t wear red robes or blue robes, we wear black robes.” Those are the kind of men and women President Trump has been sending up. And, um, I think they’re gonna be there producing constitutionally based decisions for years and years and years to come.
Jim: Yeah. And again, I think many people are active in the last election, the coming election, because of the judge issue. Let me – and I mean no disrespect. I know you I hope well enough I can ask you this question. I’m assuming that you and your counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer, have meetings from time to time. And I’m just thinking you’re sitting there having coffee with him, talking about things. And he says to you, “Listen, Mr. Later, this is really unfair, this Amy Barrett judge nomination.” What – if he was sitting right across from you what do you say to him when he says that to you?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: First thing I would say is if the shoe on the other foot, you’d be doing the same thing.
Jim: (Laughter) Right.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: You got a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate and a Supreme Court vacancy right now, they would be doing the same thing. So, all of this talk about who’s a hypocrite and who isn’t is irrelevant. They’re doing everything they can to slow it down. They want to complain about having, uh, hybrid hearings with some of the members remote. We’ve been doing that all year since covid hit us back in the Spring. They oppose Judge Barrett also because she is strongly religious. We saw that come up when she was confirmed to the 7th Circuit three years ago. The ranking Democrat on the committee suggested that a person of strong faith might not be able to be objective. We don’t have a religious test in this country, none whatsoever. You don’t have to pass some kind of neutrality pledge with regard to your – your religion in order to serve in public office in America.
Jim: Well, exactly right. I think many of us, certainly our – our faithful listeners, you know, people of faith, have every right to apply for jobs and to do the things in this country, to work in government or industry, whatever they might be. In fact, we have the First Amendment, which does protect a person’s right to that religious conviction. Why is that getting so muddy today? And some of us would even argue – just to add another question to this – that the religion of secularism seems to be alive and well, but that’s not recognized as an ideology.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Yeah, you’re right. I – I think people – a lot of people on the left have a very secular view and a real, kind of, inherent bias against people of faith as somehow unwilling to uphold the Constitution – the oath that we all take to the Constitution, that somehow you don’t really mean it when you swear to uphold the Constitution, if you happen to also be a person who is deeply religious. I can only repeat we don’t have a religious test for public office in this country, none whatsoever. And this kind of view strikes me as way out of the mainstream.
Jim: You know, for many of us, Mr. Leader, when we look at the history – I was a much younger person as you were when we think of the nomination of Judge Bork to the bench. And that really seems to be the modern beginning of all of the, uh, really divisive tactics being used by those who opposed him and then, of course, Clarence Thomas and most recently with Judge Kavanaugh. And people just seem to get so in the gutter with this. I guess the question for me is, how do you keep above that fray? And then how do we as Christians – and I know you’re a man of faith – how do we absorb the unfairness of it all? I think when others are nominated by the other party, there tends to be a fair review. It might be rigorous, it might be tough, but it doesn’t seem to be the same tactical approach at all. People are not dragged through the mud. And yet it seems to be the standard protocol for your colleagues in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: You’re absolutely right. Every one of these outrageous confirmation processes occurred around a Republican President’s nominee for the Supreme Court. In that same era, the last two or three decades, Breyer, Sotomayor, um, both confirmed without acrimony or charges of character flaws. Um, (unintelligible), Ginsburg, confirmed without accusations of character flaws or outrageous tactics. So, I think Republicans in the Senate have dealt with the confirmation process respectfully down through the last three decades. No matter who is the President, no matter who was being nominated, and it appears to me as if the Democrats are so intent on trying to prevent Republican Presidents, um, from confirming judges that they’re willing to do anything. Yeah, it’s laughable now in retrospect, but they made similar charges against John Paul Stevens, who turned out to be a total liberal. And David Souter, who did – who turned out to be a total liberal. The playbook is the same every time a Republican President makes a nomination to the Supreme Court. They pull out the same old playbook and use every play they’ve used before plus some – plus some, which we certainly saw on the Kavanaugh, uh, confirmation process.
Jim: It’s so true. And, you know, I guess it’s just that frustration that we see that it feels like it’s not a fair process. You manage this process. And I, kind of – I didn’t want to ask you that question. I’m sorry to bring it down to civics 101, but most of us don’t live in your world. We don’t know all the functioning of the Senate. What is your job to get this nomination through? Describe that process and even the dates you set. How does that get done and – and I think how can we pray for you in that leadership role?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Well, first, the amount of time from nomination to confirmation is not unusual. We aren’t shortening the process beyond what’s been the average for most confirmations. But we are moving ahead with it because the Supreme Court is currently with a vacancy. We’re moving ahead with it because we’re of the same party as the President and we like the nominee. They would do the same thing. So, if you’re praying for us, pray for us that we keep a steady hand, that we judge this nominee on the merits, and that we finish up the job in the very near future, which is what I entirely intend to see happen.
Jim: Kind of in that civics 101 and I so appreciate the answer to that question. But, um, this idea of a constitutional judge or an originalist judge – again, we’re talking to moms and dads who are busy work and raising the kids. We don’t always understand that terminology. The big battle philosophically is about this, right? The judges doing their job in the judiciary, which is to not make law, but to simply interpret its constitutionality. Describe for us that difference and then what on the Democratic side, the type of judges that they like to place.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Well, I think Justice Scalia said it best, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, he said, “If you want to make policy, you ought to run for office. That’s not what we do here.” And he preached over and over again and ended up having an awful lot of acolytes around the country and law schools and young lawyers that the job is to follow the laws as written, the law and the constitution as it’s written. President Obama kind of tipped his hand when he said he wanted to appoint judges who had empathy. Well, if you think about that a minute, if you’re one of the litigants for whom the judge has empathy, you’re in pretty good shape. But what if you aren’t?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: That approach is what I would call judicial activism, picking winners and losers, wholly aside from what the box might be. And this administration has done an excellent job of sending young men and women up – and we’ve confirmed them rapidly – who believe the job to judge is to follow the law and the Constitution and not to act like a legislator.
Jim: No, I so appreciate that. I, uh – I don’t want to mention the former Supreme Court justice’s name, but I had an interesting conversation with a former Supreme Court justice. And again, I don’t mean disrespect, but in that conversation, he said to me, “The problem we have, Jim, is that the legislative branch is simply too chicken to pass laws that are dealing with the tough social issues like abortion, like gay marriage, et cetera. And therefore, it puts pressure on the judiciary to make these decisions.” And I thought to myself, “Wow, I don’t think that’s your job.” And that’s, kind of, what you’re saying. But this was a Supreme Court justice that said that to me. That’s frightening.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Yeah. Well, that’s – that’s the problem. He – he – he, uh, underscored the problem. It’s not the job of an unelected judiciary to make laws that elected officials elected to positions to make laws have chosen not to do, So, um, that particular retired Supreme Court justice was emblematic of what the problem has been with many appointments, particularly from Democratic Presidents.
Jim: Wouldn’t you say the founding fathers in that regard – just looking at the three branches of government – they intended for those things to boil and to simmer and to cook in the legislative responsibility that if we don’t have a clear law that can be drafted, voted on and approved, that means the culture isn’t ready for a solution in that particular area. Isn’t that fair?
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: I mean, I think the founders fully intended – they didn’t have baseball in that era – but they fully intended the judges to call balls and strikes and not, you know, act like they were, um, making law. That it wasn’t their job to do that.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: And, um, I think we – with many members of the judiciary drifted off in the wrong direction over the last 40, 50 years, virtually all of these activist judges have been appointed by Democratic Presidents.
Jim: Well, again, I so appreciate the perspective that you bring as the leader, and I’m grateful that you’re in the role. I’m – seriously, I’m so grateful that the wisdom that you bring and the leadership that you bring has been so amazing. Thank you for that day to day steady hand and the ability to appoint the number of judges that you have. We’re grateful to you as a community of faithful believers. Thank you.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell: Thank you, Jim.
John: Well, Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly, speaking with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And certainly this is a time for your voice to be heard and we’ll urge you to call the Senate switchboard and make your views known to your senator. We’ve got details and also some background materials about Judge Barrett and her qualifications. All of that is at The Daily Citizen. And the link is at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And with the hearings beginning today, now’s the time to really make sure that your views are made known to your senator. Now, for the rest of the time today, as was mentioned earlier, we have some encouragement for strengthening your family’s spiritual growth. We spoke to Dr. David Ireland some time ago about teaching your children to pray. And he explained what it looks like to rely on God in your parenting and how to develop “strong faith muscles,” as he called them, even in your youngest children. Here’s the conversation with Jim Daly’s first question to Dr. David Ireland.
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?
Dr. David Ireland: 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 (laughter) 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…”
John: Mm. Yeah.
David: “…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: 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-year-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.