When our oldest son was two and a half years old we had a conversation that will forever mark a change in my parenting thinking. Somehow in the everyday training I kept thinking that if you instill the right principles, diligently teach doctrine and create a loving, nurturing environment in which they can explore and grow then somehow, with much of God's grace at work, these children will be able to withstand attacks of the enemy when they come .... somewhere down the road.
We were traveling home from a family gathering when Philip asked our oldest, "Allan, what has God been saying to you recently?" (I highly recommend doing this for numerous reasons - they recognize that God is a person who wants to have fellowship with them, God is a personal God who is very interested in every aspect of their lives, God can talk to them about problems they are having that aren't readily apparent to us as parents but they let us know things to be watching for.) Allan replied on this occasion by saying that God really hadn't been saying a whole lot (which sometimes happens). There was a pause and then he said, "But the devil's been talking to me." He said it so matter of fact that I was stunned - he's only two and a half!
We hadn't really talked about a theology of the devil other than he's the one who tempts us to do wrong. Philip, who was driving, reached over and turned off the music we'd been listening to. "Tell me what the devil's been saying to you buddy." At two a half years old he replied, "He told me that God really doesn't love me. That it's not true." Two conflicting emotions rose us within me at that point - my heart sank realizing that already Satan was working to undermine both our authority (because we're the ones who had taught him that God loves him and we know that from Scripture) and cast doubt on God's character and I found myself instantly angry! How dare Satan create in my child doubt about God's goodness, love, and trustworthiness!
I then realized for the first time the reality that as Christian parents we are engaged in warfare for our children's minds and souls. I don't tend to look at the world and my part in accomplishing God's will on earth as a battle. But that day I was reminded that there are forces at work beyond my sight, that I have no control over. And so a new dimension of parenting became very important to us. Fasting and praying.
Every week we take one meal time (currently it's Saturday lunch) to spend time to fast and pray for our children. This dimension of warfare should not scare us but rather drive us to action. And what a blessed assurance to rest our concerns in the hands of a heavenly Father who can see so clearly both worlds.