"What are you doing Mom?" my 7-year old curiously asked.
I was in the midst of cleaning beans, which involved intently looking at each bean to determine its condition and taking out the old or rotted ones. I peered down at my daughter's innocent face and God instantly put a message on my heart.
I began to explain to her that I was cleaning beans and I explained what it entailed. I then begin to tell her that God does the same thing to our hearts if we ask Him to. I described that when we ask God to forgive our sins, He also takes out the rotted and old (sin) part of our hearts and makes it clean. I went on to tell her that in order to truly worship and fellowship with God, our hearts must be cleaned on a daily basis through the asking of forgiveness of our sins.
Children must be taught at an early age the importance of asking forgiveness from God. The most well-known Christian prayer is the one found in Matthew 6: "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV). You will notice that it is asking for DAILY bread and the forgiveness of debts--on a daily basis.
Every night, I tuck each of my kids in their bed and pray with them. The length and deepness of each prayer differs with each child depending on their age. With my 7-year old daughter, I delve deep into prayer, with my 5-year old son the prayer is a little lighter, and with my 3-year old son I get straight to the point as soon as possible before he loses interest and begins jumping everywhere.
However, regardless of which prayer I am reciting each one has one common and central component in it. . . asking God for the forgiveness of their sins that they committed that day. Sometimes my 5-year old son whispers the sins quietly with one eye looking at me, hoping that I am unable to hear. Yet, the truth is at that point it does not matter if I hear but it does matter if God hears.
By teaching our children to ask God for forgiveness on a daily basis it teaches them that God is willing and able to forgive all their sins. They will see that regardless of how they stumble, God promises to clean their path and give them a second chance as long as they confess their sins with a sincere heart. On the other hand, if they never learn the importance of asking for forgiveness daily, as they grow older they may become more and more distanced from Christ and become more numb to the various sins they fall into.
Think about how when we mop our kitchen floors on a daily basis (let's pretend okay) and any small track of dirt is obvious and easy to wipe away. Yet, when we delay days or even weeks in cleaning our floors, the tracks of dirt begin to weave into each other and pretty soon the floor begins to look like a beige color and stains are not so evident. As a result, each dirty stain remains and the stains become more difficult to clean off when we actually get to it. This is like sin in our children's (and ours) hearts that is easily woven into other sins and not noticeable, but ever so harmful.
As parents, we are constantly telling our children to say sorry to us or to others. We explain that they must say sorry because their words and/or actions have hurt someone. In reality, children are a beautiful portrait of forgiveness. I have three small children each just two years apart, so I am often demanding one of them to say sorry to another. The hurt child could be crying uncontrollably in a corner and after the offending child apologizes, the hurt child instantly responds "Okay, I forgive you" and in the next breath yells "You're it" while he sprints back into playing with fresh tears still dripping off his face. That is the kind of forgiveness we have with Jesus Christ, we ask for it and we get it--it's that simple! The Bible tells us that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NKJV). The only condition for forgiveness is that we ask Him.
Like most mothers, we are always concerned about keeping our children clean by sanitizing their little hands, taking bubble baths, and brushing their small teeth regularly. However, are we just as concerned with keeping their hearts clean before the Lord? If we truly want our children to have an intimate relationship with the Lord and worship Him with all their hearts, then we must teach them the importance of cleaning out their hearts on a daily basis.
CHALLENGE: each time we ask our children to take a bath or brush their teeth let us also ask them to clean out their hearts by asking God for forgiveness of their sins for that day. By creating this practice, we are enabling them to have a life full of Jesus Christ and a life empty of sin--how beautiful!