This mission of introducing one's children to the Christian faith can be likened to a three-man relay race. First, your father runs his lap around the track, carrying the baton, which represents the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the appropriate moment, he hands the baton to you, and you begin your journey around the track. Then finally, the time will come when you must get the baton safely in the hands of your child. But as any track coach will testify, relay races are won or lost in the transfer of the baton. There is a critical moment when all can be lost by a fumble or miscalculation. The baton is rarely dropped on the back side of the track when the runner has it firmly in his grasp. If failure is to occur, it will likely happen in the exchange between generations!
According to the Christian values which govern my life, my most important reason for living is to get the baton—the gospel—safely in the hands of my children. Of course, I want to place it in as many other hands as possible, and I'm deeply devoted to the ministry to families that God has given me. Nevertheless, my number one responsibility is to evangelize my own children. In the words of my dad, everything else appears "pale and washed out" when compared with that fervent desire. Unless my son and daughter grasp the faith and take it with them around the track, it matters little how fast they run. Being first across the finish line is meaningless unless they carry the baton with them.
The urgency of this mission has taken Shirley and me to our knees since before the birth of our first child. Furthermore, since October 1971 until early 1978, I designated one day a week for fasting and prayer specifically devoted to the spiritual welfare of our children. (Shirley then accepted the responsibility and continues it to this day.) This commitment springs from an intense awareness of our need for divine assistance in the awesome task of parenthood. There is not enough knowledge in the books—not enough human wisdom anywhere on earth—to guarantee the outcome of parenting. There are too many factors beyond our control—too many evil influences—that mitigate against the Christian message. That is why we find ourselves in prayer, week after week, uttering this familiar petition:
Lord, here we are again. You know what we need even before we ask but let us say it one more time. When you consider the many requests we have made of you through the years...regarding our health and my ministry and the welfare of our loved ones...please put this supplication at the top of the list: keep the circle of our little family unbroken when we stand before you on the Day of Judgment. Compensate for our mistakes and failures as parents and counteract the influences of an evil world that would undermine the faith of our children. And especially Lord, we ask for your involvement when our son and daughter stand at the crossroads, deciding whether or not to walk the Christian path. They will be beyond our care at that moment, and we humbly ask You to be there. Send a significant friend or leader to help them choose the right direction. They were yours before they were born, and now we give them back to you in faith, knowing that you love them even more than we do. Toward that end, we dedicate this day of fasting and prayer.
Not only has God heard this prayer, but He has blessed it in ways that we did not anticipate in the beginning. First, it has represented a project which Shirley and I have enjoyed together, drawing us closer to one another as we drew closer to God. Secondly, this act of fasting each week serves to remind us continually of our system of priorities. It is very difficult to forget your highest values when one day out of seven is spent concentrating on them.
Finally, and most importantly, the children have seen this act of discipline every Tuesday and have been influenced by it. Conversations similar to the one below occurred throughout the critical years of childhood.
"Why are you not eating dinner with us tonight, Dad?"
"This is Tuesday and I'm fasting today."
"Oh, yeah—what did you say 'fasting' meant?"
"Well, some Christians go without food during a short time of special prayer. It's a way of asking God for a blessing, or of expressing love to Him."
"What are you asking for?"
"Your mother and I are praying for you and your brother, today. We're asking God to lead and direct your lives; we want Him to help you choose a profession and to find the right person to marry, if that is His will. We're also asking Him to walk with you every day of your lives."
"You must love us a lot to fast and pray like that."
"We do love you. And God loves you even more."
From Dr. Dobson's book Straight Talk to Men.