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By Hannah Bemis

Perhaps the single most terrifying thing about parenthood is that what I speak over my children sticks. What I say to my kids and what I call them will never be forgotten. The words of a parent are as strong and consequential as prophecy.

The Bible offers proof that as parents our words (good or bad) have great authority. They can actually shape the destinies and futures of our children. In the Old Testament, a parent’s “blessing” was often more of a prophecy about their future character and achievements. We see this when Isaac blessed his sons Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27) and again when Jacob blessed his twelve sons (Genesis 49). In both cases the parental blessing both honored the gifts and talents that were already present in each child and also made a prophetic declaration about what the child’s future would hold.

Mark Batterson, author of Praying Circles Around Your Children, calls our unique role in our children’s lives that of “prophet-historian” (pg. 45), meaning that we can see our children’s past, present, and future in a way that no one else can. It’s our job to help them discover who they truly are and what God has in store for them. Rather than steal Batterson’s term, I will refer to our role as that of “prophet-parents.” The term “prophet” can be loaded with preconceived ideas, both good and bad. Many people, Christian or not, would never presume to identify themselves as a prophet. Batterson reminds us that Jewish philosophers believed that all parents, indeed all people, could be prophetic as they grew in their relationship with the Lord. He clarifies that being prophetic “doesn’t mean you will start predicting the future. It means you’ll start creating it” through your prayers and the words you speak into your children’s lives.

So how does this look in real, everyday life? We know we don’t want to speak unkind words, highlight our children’s failures, or shape their lives in a negative way, but where do we go from there? How do we know what to prophesy when we don’t feel much like prophets at all? I can tell you that I am possibly the least qualified prophet-parent as I often feel like my least spiritual self when I am parenting. However, God meets me in that imperfect place (as God always does), and He has shown me a few ways to get started on this prophetic journey.

1. Prophesy the good you already see present in your child. When your child does something amazing, take note! When you see a pattern of some skill or character trait or spiritual gift, write it down and start praying into it. Then start speaking it out loud, identifying that particular gift or skill and letting your child know that you see it. I first saw the power of my own words in my oldest son’s life. He had a day when he was really struggling to see where he fit and what he was good at. After a few minutes of thought (and honestly, it was a bit of stretch at the time), I reminded him that he was one of the best ones in our family at comforting his little sister Nora when she was crying or hurt. I think he was hoping for something with a bit more of a cool factor. However, over the next few weeks, every time Nora started crying, Asher rushed to her side to cheer her up. Still today, over a year after my conversation with him, he has taken on the role of Nora’s special comforter, and he’s grown in his ability to redirect, use humor, and show compassion as well as a ridiculous amount of patience to cheer up his siblings.

2. Prophesy what God has shown you about His plan for your child, even if you’ve seen no evidence of it yet. In our family, name meanings are a big deal. My husband and I prayed about what God had planned for each of our kids. We chose their names because we felt the meaning of those names held a clue to what God’s calling was for their lives. I laugh now because I see how strategic God was with each name we chose. Our kids’ names have often highlighted exactly what we need to pray for during their greatest struggles. For example, when my youngest son was born he had to spend extra time in the NICU for breathing issues. A time that should have been fraught with anxiety was actually a really sweet time of prayer. I rocked him and remembered that God had led us to name him “Abel,” which means “breath.” I prayed for the breath of God to fill his lungs and prophesied that his voice and lungs would be used for great things.

Those who know my older son Asher might laugh at his name meaning: “happy and blessed.” Whether he’s deep in thought or whether he’s struggling to find joy in the day’s events, he frequently has a frown on his face. In this, too, God has given me a starting place for prophesying into his life. I get to pray and prophesy the opposite of what I see happening on his face and in his attitude. I get to remind him that God has called him blessed and that he is gifted to see the good and find joy in everything. Oh my goodness, some days doing this is easier than others. But there is power in praying and declaring the opposite of what we see in the natural. God did it when he called cowardly Gideon a mighty warrior, when he called fatherless Abraham the father of many nations, and when he called a willful, wishy-washy fisherman the rock upon which his church would be built. We get to do what our Father did for us and create a new future by declaring God’s destiny for our children, whether or not we see evidence of it yet.

3.Prophesy the Scriptures. Sometimes we don’t know what else to say or pray. Maybe you are still getting to know your child, or you just aren’t getting any fresh revelation concerning them. Maybe it’s one of those days when they are being awful and you’re being awful and it feels like there isn’t a spiritual word to be found. I have those days A LOT and it is on those days that I fall back on Scripture. When “fresh” prophecies for our kids run dry, prophesy character traits and promises that God has meant for all of us to have. These are solid promises we can stand on, prophecies that are God-breathed and God-blessed. Scripture is not a last resort; rather it is the most powerful and secure of any words we can speak to our children. It is the Word from which all other words or prophesies derive. I had a day just recently when one of my sons was having a super rough day. We were in the car and he was in full melt-down mode. I felt myself getting ready to scream, but by the grace of God I lowered my voice to a level that was still kind of a shout but not ear-splitting, and I started declaring random Scriptural promises over him. “You are a child of God, you have a godly inheritance, you were created to be loved by God, and you will show that love to the whole world.” Was this a beautiful and spiritual moment? Well, not exactly. I was still shouting and feeling a little bit angry. But it did halt my son’s meltdown. He looked at me like he thought I was sort of crazy, but there was also a new calmness in his eyes that showed me he recognized the authority of the words I was speaking (shouting). There is no stronger and safer way to prophesy over your child than to prophesy the Word of God. Even an imperfect delivery can change behaviors and shift circumstances.

What if we start to really believe that our words have power? What if we begin choosing our words with care, not just because we want to be nice but because we know the words we choose will actually change the course of our children’s lives? I want to be intentional about calling out the best in my children, about reminding each one who God has said they are whether or not they are acting like that person. I want to pray and declare over them specific promises from God’s Word. With God’s help, I want to be a prophet-parent.

About The Author

Hannah Bemis

Hannah Bemis lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband, Jordan, and their three kids. She works as both a mom and as a private tutor, and loves writing about what God reveals to her through the chaotic and mundane events of everyday life. She and her family attend Turning Point Open Bible Church, also in Spokane.