Keep Their Hearts Soft
“Oh Lord, keep their hearts soft and sensitive to You, and to Your precious Word.” This is the prayer I constantly prayed for our children as they were growing up, and still continue to pray. I believe now, that it was the right prayer to pray. There is something even more important than teaching God’s Word to our children. If we want His Word to penetrate their hearts and become walking flesh in their lives, we have to work hard on preparing the soil of their hearts.
We see this analogy in the parable of the sower, which you know so well. There is nothing wrong with the seed of the Word of God. It is powerful. It is alive and active to accomplish God’s purposes in their lives. However, it cannot take root unless the hearts of our children are soft and pliable to receive the Word.
Jesus’ parable tells us that the seed of the Word did not bear fruit when it was sown on the hard ground, the stony ground, or the thorny ground. The seed that brought forth thirty fold, sixty fold or a hundred fold was seed that was sown in deep, harrowed ground.
How can you make the hearts of your children to be good ground? We do it the same way that we do it in the natural. All gardeners know that it is a waste of time sowing seeds in hard, unprepared soil. In fact, the biggest task in gardening is preparing the soil. It is the secret to growing a successful garden. If you have good soil, all you have to do is throw in the seeds and they’ll bring forth a harvest! How do we prepare this soil?
I have to confess that when I prepared my garden this year, I didn’t do this, although I know it is the very best thing to do. You are meant to dig your soil about one foot deep to loosen the soil. I did this! The second step is to lay the one-foot of soil aside, and dig down another spade’s length to loosen the soil underneath. I didn’t get to do this part. I’ll try next year.
How do you dig the soil of your children’s hearts? By daily training and discipline. You can’t let behavioral problems go unchecked. You have to constantly watch over your children’s souls. It’s not enough to deal with the outward misbehavior of disobedience and rebellion; you need to also watch for what is going on in the inside of their hearts. This takes effort and constant watching. You have to be on the job, not off somewhere else doing other things. It’s not for the lazy. Digging natural soil is hard work too, but it’s the only way to get the soil soft and aerated.
1 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” There’s more to training children than dealing with the obvious things that we see in the flesh. We must also watch for the sins of the spirit. It is often these habits and sins that cause the heart to become hard, and yet often they go unnoticed. If the seed is sown in shallow soil, it may last while they are children, but it won’t be enough to keep them when they leave home and face the world. The soil must be soft enough for it to be able to take deep root. Jesus explained that the seed that was sown in stony places became scorched with the sun because there was “no deepness of earth.”
It takes constant watching and digging to keep the soil soft. That’s why children who are left in day-care have far more behavioral problems than those who are constantly and tenderly watched at home by their mothers. Although a caregiver will physically care for a child, they will never have the same intense concern to watch over their souls and spirits. My goal in mothering my children was from Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where he prayed, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I longed that my children would not only be kept pure in their bodies, but in their souls and spirits. Mothering is a full-time job. It is more than caring for their physical bodies – we must constantly watch over their souls and spirits too.
The next thing we must do after digging is fertilize. You can’t grow good plants in devitalized soil. I love to make compost and add it to my garden. Oh I am so proud of my compost that I made this year. Well, I can’t take the credit for making it. I just kept adding everything to my pile and when it was big enough I started turning it a few times every day – and watched it become beautiful rich compost. It’s quite amazing.
I believe the compost that we must add to our children’s hearts to keep them soft is encouragement. Encouragement makes rich soil. You can teach your children the Word of God all day, but if it is done in legality and “the letter of the law” it will only harden their hearts. It must be seasoned with loads of encouragement. Children thrive on encouragement as a garden thrives on compost. As you daily encourage and inspire your children, they will rise to unbelievable heights. They will do things that you could never imagine they could do. They will rise into the destiny that God has planned for them before the foundation of the world. In an environment of encouragement their hearts will be kept soft.
Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing form the living God. But exhort (encourage, come along side and comfort and inspire) one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Did you notice that God says that we must encourage one another to keep one another from becoming hardened?
Do you encourage your children every day? Or are you always nagging, always harping, often shouting demands, or even screaming threats? Dear mother, you’ll accomplish a lot more by encouraging! Make a checklist for yourself. At the top of the page, write the days of the week. Down the side write the name of your husband and the names of each of your children. At the end of each day, check yourself. Take time to think about it. Did you encourage your husband and each one of your children today? Make a note on your checklist. Keep doing this until you are encouraging each one in your family every day and it becomes the habit of your life.
Water the soil
If the soil doesn’t receive rain, it will become hard and impossible to work with. Dear mother, we have to pour on the rain. I believe the rain is prayer. Prayer releases the presence of God into your home. Prayer releases the power of the Holy Spirit to work in your children’s hearts. You can’t make them soft by yourself. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit. This happens as you pray.
I believe that lack of prayer is one of the greatest deficiencies in motherhood. Mother, intercede for your children. There is no one who will have the heart to cry out to God for your children like you. I know it’s hard to find time when you have little ones all around you. In these days, you can call out to the Lord in the midst of your daily activities.
As your children grow, and especially as they are in their teen years, spend time aside praying for your children, perhaps an hour. Jesus said, “Can you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) Can we not spend one hour watching over the souls of our children? It is when you pray and listen, that God will reveal to you things about them that you would not notice unless you spent time in the presence of God. It is when you pray, that God will show you how to deal with problems in their lives. It is prayer that will soften the hard places in their hearts. Prayer will accomplish more than hours of counsel. It takes more than a silent prayer. Many times you will need to cry out aloud to God.
Pull out the Weeds
When do I pull the weeds out of my garden? After the rain! Oh it is so easy after the rain. I don’t even have to pull. Dear mother, this is the time to pull out the bad habits and attitudes, and the hard stones from your children’s hearts – after much prayer and seeing the anointing of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They will come out easily. But if you try to pull them out when their hearts are still hard, it’s a nearly impossible job. And even if you try to pull, the root of the weed will still often be left.
My father always says to me, “Nancy, you can’t grow weeds and plants in your garden.” Don’t let the weeds grow too big. Pull them out when they are little.
This is God’s plan for the new covenant. In Ezekiel 36:26-27 God promises, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” What is it that will cause our children to walk in God’s ways? The power of the Holy Spirit - raining upon them, and reigning in their hearts. This will happen as you pray.
Make this your priority, dear mother. When you sow the seed of the Word of God in soft hearts, you’ll bring forth a mighty harvest for the kingdom of God. Your children will come forth from your home to lift up the standard of God’s truth and be a light in the nation. They will stand strong in God’s principles no matter what persecution they receive or what the rest of the world is saying. You may weep in prayer now, but the day will come when you will greatly rejoice as you see the hundredfold harvest.
Primm Springs, Tennessee, USA
You can read Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23; Mark 4:1-9; 13-20 and Luke 8:4-8; 11-15.