Whether or not my mom and her siblings knew it, these words—spoken regularly, and with the authority that comes with being a parent—shaped their lives. They served as a daily reminder of God’s presence (“Walk with the King”), and they injected a sense of purpose into even the most routine or unremarkable mornings: Your mission today is to be a blessing.
Robbie and I adopted the practice of speaking blessings over our children when they were very young. Sometimes we spoke or softly sang these words in the tender darkness of their bedsides; sometimes, we practically hollered them at the kids as the school bus rumbled up the street and everyone scrambled to find coats and backpacks.
We had a few favorites, all taken from the Bible. Today, our kids (now ages 18-24) might not be able to quote the chapter and verse, but these words are locked in to their minds:
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may he make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.
The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. The Lord will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
And this one, which the children simply called, “Presence”:
Where can you go from his Spirit? Where can you flee from his presence? If you go up to heaven, he’s there. If you make your bed in the depths, he is there. If you rise on the wings of the dawn; if you settle on the far side of the sea, even there his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
The Bible is full of verses that can be appropriated and personalized to create your own family blessing. You’ll also find rich words in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the Methodist hymnal, and even The Fiddler on the Roof. (Our kids had bit parts in that high school musical, and family blessings don’t get much better than the Sabbath Prayer: “May the Lord protect and defend you, May he always shield you from shame…” I could have sat through that number, with Tevye and Golda warbling about things like peace and strength and good marriages, 15 times. Come to think of it, I probably did.)
If you’ve never spoken a blessing over your family, start today. If your children are young, snuggle them into your arms as you speak. If they are prickly teenagers, a simple “The Lord bless you!” as they walk out the door can penetrate even the thickest shell. And if they are adults, consider writing a letter of blessing, or giving it to them as a gift for birthdays, Christmas, or as a New Year’s benediction.
A family blessing does not have to be eloquent, complicated, or long. Simple works. But I can’t think of an easier—or more powerful—way to speak God’s grace over your children, and to remind them that he loves them and that his power is active in their lives.