The Power of Blessing Your Family
A simple daily act can convey the goodness of God to your children and assure them of your love.
© 2003 by Paul Thigpen
My dad lay dying from cancer, but his face glowed. Like the old biblical patriarch Jacob, he had called his son to his deathbed so he could lay hands on me and pronounce a father's final blessing (see Genesis 49). I knelt by him and listened through the tears.
His final words were these: "May your ministry reach out to the ends of the earth, and may you reach up and touch the face of God." In a few powerful phrases, Dad had spoken the sum of my vocation as I've come to understand it — to reach out to others and to reach up to Him. That paternal blessing was a precious gift I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Two years later, I became a father myself. One day as I remembered Dad's blessing, I thought, "Why wait until I'm dying to bless my own child?" The ancient Jewish priests used to bless the people regularly, just as Christian priests bless their congregations now; and Jesus laid his hands on children and blessed them whenever they came to him (see Numbers 6:22-27; Mark 10:14). So why couldn't I speak a blessing to my daughter, Lydia, now — today — every day?
That night I began. After our prayer with Lydia at bedtime, I laid my hands on her head. I was a bit uncertain about what to say, but then I remembered the words of blessing with which the apostle Paul so often opened his letters: "grace and peace." So I said simply, "Lydia, God bless you with grace and peace in Jesus' name, Amen."
That was almost ten years ago, and still today, every day, Lydia and her younger brother receive a blessing at bedtime.
Can such a small, seemingly insignificant action make a difference in the lives of our children? The parents I know who practice a family blessing agree that it does. Our experience has confirmed what those scriptural examples illustrate: The act of blessing — a simple, spoken prayer for God's favor to rest on someone, accompanied by a symbolic physical gesture — is a powerful vehicle of God's grace.
We're not saying, of course, that these few words can mechanically or magically produce heavenly benefits in our children's lives. A blessing is obviously no substitute for a healthy parent-child relationship, nor should it replace parental prayer. But we've observed that a blessing of this sort, when spoken daily over the years, provides an occasion for God's love and our love to be communicated simply and effectively to our children. As that love is confirmed again and again in their minds and hearts, it gradually transforms them.
In concrete terms, parents who bless their children in this way are setting aside a critical moment each day to accomplish several purposes. First, the blessing is actually a prayer of faith on behalf of the children. God's power is unleashed for their benefit when parents, standing in a God-ordained place of authority and responsibility, speak words of God's favor over their children.
Second, a blessing affirms a child's worth and importance. When we pause from our hectic schedules to bless our children, it says to them: "You are valuable; you are precious to me and to God."
Third, a blessing assures children that their parents and their heavenly Father love them and desire to protect and provide for them. Thus it cultivates a feeling of safety and security — a feeling heightened by the aspect of physical touch.
Fourth, a daily blessing adds a rhythm, a sense of regularity, to our children's lives that's comforting and stabilizing. This is especially true when we use the same words to bless them each day and give the blessing at the same point in our daily schedule.
Finally, the blessing can make a difference in us as parents. Setting aside time to bless our children provides us with a daily reminder of how precious they are and a chance to refocus our thoughts on their welfare. In addition, if we have experienced any conflicts with them during the day, it offers an opportunity to be reconciled. It's hard to bless your children without first getting over your anger and getting right with them.
For all these reasons, a daily blessing can enrich your family. The investment of time is small, yet the rewards last a lifetime. Here's how to get started:
1. Choose a regular time and place to bless your children. No need to be rigid, but structure and consistency can be important, especially for younger children. Our family prefers bedtime.
2. Choose words that express clearly and succinctly the blessing you desire for your children. Try one of the blessings in the box below, or create your own. We use the scriptural blessing from Numbers 6:24-26, prefaced with the child's name and ending with the words, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen," as we cross ourselves.
3. If your children are old enough to understand, explain to them why you'll be blessing them. They'll be much more cooperative if they know something about what you're doing and why. Older children especially may at first be reluctant, but in time, they'll come to look forward to it.
4. When you bless your children, touch them in some meaningful way. Make the sign of the cross on their forehead or lay your hand on their hand. Parental touch is always important to children, but especially during a blessing. The scriptural examples of blessing almost always include some such physical gesture as a visible sign of the invisible grace God grants through the act.
5. Make blessing a habit. Don't limit blessings to your children. Whenever you pray with others, take the opportunity to bless them as you conclude the prayer, even if it's only with a few brief phrases. You'll soon find that words of blessing spill over on the ones who speak them!
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A Few Sample Blessings
Try one of these blessings from the Scripture or Church tradition to use with your children. Preface the words with the child's name, and add at the end "Amen" or "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV).
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7 NAB)
"May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way" (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NAB).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with…you" (2 Corinthians 13:13 NAB).
"May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NAB).
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
"May God give you peace, answer your prayers, forgive your sin, and always be with you in times of trouble." (Adapted from 2 Macabees 1:4-5)
"May the blessing of almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain forever. Amen."
"May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you that He may defend you; within you that He may sustain you; before you that He may lead you; behind you that He may protect you; above you that He may bless you; He who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen."
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