Unleashing the Power of the Spoken Blessing

written by Sherry Schumann
10 · 31 · 22

Introduction:

Do you remember the rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” This defense, sung by children when someone hurls unkind words in their direction, is a lie.

Words not only hurt; they curse. Imagine the five-year-old girl who puts on her princess dress and twirls for her dad. “Look, Daddy, aren’t I pretty?” she asks.

“Pretty UGLY, if you ask me” her father responds with a laugh. Chances are this precious child is wounded for life. 

What is the spoken blessing?

While words can curse, they can also bless. To bless literally means “to speak well of another.” When we bless our children or grandchildren, we serve as a pipeline or conduit through which God pours out his acceptance and love.

God knows our sin and brokenness, and yet he still delights in us. His love is not about us; it is about him. Our worth is not a measure of who we are, but a measure of who he is. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Ephesians 2:10). When we give a spoken blessing, we are connecting the heart of God with those we love.

It’s important to make the following clarification: a blessing is not performance-based. While there is nothing wrong with congratulating your grandson when he throws a game-winning touchdown pass or complimenting your granddaughter on her piano recital, these are not examples of the blessing. A blessing is not about who they are, but Whose they are.

In 1986, family counselors Gary Smalley and John Trent published a book titled The Spoken Blessing. They outlined five key elements of the blessing:

  1. Start with a meaningful touch. (Be sure to ask for permission first.)
  1. Express acceptance and love, both yours and God’s.
  1. Communicate high value or worth, based on the Father’s love.
  1. Picture a special future. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11).

  1. Make a personal and active commitment to walk alongside them.

Now let’s examine types of blessings and look at examples.

Types of Spoken Blessing:

There are two types of blessings: the general (recurring) blessing and the personal (specific) blessing.

An example of the general blessing is the Aaronic or Levitical blessing found in Numbers 6. It can be used repeatedly with one or more of your family members.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace,” (Numbers 6:24-26).

I use this blessing whenever I put our grandbabies down for a nap, because it is a blessing of God’s protection, pleasure and peace.

A personal blessing is given to a particular child or grandchild at a specific time, such as one of life’s milestones such as, birth, baptism, first day of school, high-school graduation, new job, wedding day, or other occasions. Personal blessings can also be given at the moments described in Deuteronomy 6:7-9:Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

One such moment occurred at my favorite coffee shop. I took our granddaughters there for a treat, bakery cookies for her and coffee for me. I gave our oldest granddaughter, who was five at the time, a twenty-dollar bill with the instructions to hand it to the cashier and say, “Thank you.” When the man behind the cash register handed her the change, she responded, “Oh, no. Grandma doesn’t need the change. Keep that money for those who can’t afford to buy cookies.” Walking to our table, I realized that this was a blessable moment.

“Anne Louise, may I touch your arm and bless you?” I asked.

She nodded, so I continued. “Papa and I love you from the tip of your nose to the depth of your toes, but God loves you much, much, much more. When he made you, he gave you a generous heart. For example, I never leave your home without a rock, dandelion or a picture that you colored. And now today, you have given money to provide cookies for the people who can’t afford them. God has special plans for you, and he is going to use your generosity to accomplish these plans. I’m glad that Papa and I get to walk alongside you and see all that God has in store for you.”

Why is the blessing important?

The blessing is important for three reasons:

  1. God modeled it.

If we look at the book of Genesis, we notice that the first thing God did after creation was to bless Adam and Eve. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…,” (Genesis 1:28). 

God blessed Jesus at his baptism. The heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and God said, ““This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). 

  1. God commanded it.

Throughout the Old Testament, we witness the family patriarchs blessing their families. “For generations the Hebrew community has used the spoken blessing on a regular basis as an integral component of family life… Grandparents (today) are in the unique position to create a tradition that should be part of every family. It’s a role we should be modeling and teaching to the next generations for their sake.”

  1. The blessing transforms lives.

In his book, Courageous Grandparenting, Cavin Harper tells the story of a little boy named Howie. Known as a troublemaker, Howie was advanced from one grade to the next by teachers who didn’t want his antics back in their class the following year. His fifth-grade teacher went so far as to predict that Howie, along with four of his cronies, was headed to jail. (She was correct about three of the five.) 

Howie’s life changed the day he entered Miss Noe’s sixth grade class. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Howie,” Miss Noe said, “but I don’t believe it.” 

These words weren’t a hopeful platitude; they were a conviction. Miss Noe knew God and believed that he had a unique plan for all her students, including Howie. As a result of her conviction and commitment, this troubled young man turned from his rebellious ways. 

Today, we remember Howie as Dr. Howard Hendricks. A prolific writer and gifted speaker, he influenced the lives of countless young people who sat in his class at Dallas Theological Seminary. How did a troubled youth named Howie become one of the most respected evangelists of the twentieth century? Because a dedicated and loving teacher by the name of Miss Noe connected his heart to the heart of God through the spoken blessing. This heart connection has the power to transform lives.

Final Thoughts:

We live in a society that is more connected than ever before. Ironically, research consistently shows that today’s young people feel overwhelmingly depressed, disconnected and lonely. They are desperate to be connected not only with their family but with God.

What can we as grandparents do? We can bless them!


1 Cavin Harper, Courageous Grandparenting 1st ed. (Colorado Springs: Christian Grandparenting Network, 2013), 133.
2 Ibid., 132.

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Sherry Schumann

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