A Father’s Prayer


The year was 1985. My third son, Jess, was five months old. His older brothers, Sam and Art, were five and three years old respectively. My wife, Nellie Jo, and I were exhausted. She, in particular, seemed never to rest with the demands of being a stay-at-home mom to three preschool boys. I was sleeping little as well, dealing with the demands of being a full-time seminary student, serving as pastor of a small church, and working an additional thirty hours a week at a bank.

I decided to take a break in my studies one evening and picked up a magazine. I was captured by a reprint of a prayer by General Douglas MacArthur. The prayer was MacArthur’s prayer for his son. Throughout the prayer, he repeated the phrase “Give me a son.” He would then expand on how he hoped God would shape his son.

The prayer captivated me. I was concerned about my sons. I wasn’t sure I had the mettle and godliness to be the type of father I needed to be. I loved those boys so much, and I had been pleading with God to protect them and to shape them.

But in one of those moments that is both indefinable and rare, I sensed that God was telling me something very clearly. My first prayer should not be about my sons, but about me. God gave parents the role of shaping and influencing the lives of their children. I knew that I was the leader God had placed over our family. I needed the help. I needed the prayers for me.

So I took MacArthur’s prayer, brought out my electric typewriter, and begin to write my own prayer. The major change I made was to pray for me as a father instead of asking God to make my sons according to my desires. When I was done, I took the paper and placed it in a cheap frame. That prayer has remained close to me ever since. Indeed if you walk into my office today, you will see the cheap frame and the typewritten prayer.

Thank you for the personal privilege of sharing this 36-year-old prayer with you today. 

A Prayer: From an Imperfect Father for His Three Priceless Sons 

Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my sons the strength to face weakness; the courage to face fear; the grace to accept honest defeat; and the humility and gentleness to accept victory.

Make me the father who will show my sons not a path of ease and comfort, but the ability to accept the challenges of stress and difficulty. Use me, I pray, to be the example of one who can stand up in the storm, and there learn compassion for those who fail.

Make me the father who will teach his sons the value of a clear heart and a high goal; to look in the mirror of their own faults before they find fault in others; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to cry; to reach into the future without ever forgetting the past.

Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my sons enough of a sense of humor, so that they will always be serious, but never take themselves too seriously. Give them humility, so they will always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

And after all these things are theirs, add for me, I pray, the wisdom to show them the dubious value of titles, positions, money, and material gain; and the eternal value of prayer, the Holy Bible, a Christian home, and a saving relationship with Your Son Jesus Christ.

Then I, their father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

Posted on February 8, 2012

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Susan Weil says on

    It is a great poem, a great prayer and one that any good parent should desire for their children. I’m glad to have read it. I plan to use it in my English class this semester. However, I did want to point out General MacArthur doesn’t say “Give me a son”, he repeats “Build me a son”. I don’t believe his intent was to be given anything that wasn’t earned. Building a person is a lot of hard work and dedication, a lot of selflessness and time, lots and lots of a father’s time.

  • Mark Thomasy says on

    While my three sons are now adults (24,23 and 20), this continues to be my prayer as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing this encouragement. I am reminded once more to pray, pray, pray for my children who are all grown up and the ones who are still in my care…and of course to pray for myself to be that father that will lead by word and example.

  • Sheila A Brown says on

    Thank you for sharing. And you are so right. We do want to pray for our children and grandchildren, but we need to pray for the wisdom, strength, and guidance to be example so they can see God at work daily in our lives.
    Thank you so much for your leadership and dedication.

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I have two boys, one 6 and the other 3. Sometimes I become overwhelmed with the thought of being their dad, but I know that God gives strength and widom. Balancing family and ministerial responsibilities is sometimes tough but again, God provides. Thank you for your faithfulness, your example, and your service.

  • nancy wanjiru says on

    its good sharing make its pray of encourangenent.