How should we pray for our children in these troubled times? It’s easy to pray in fear for their future, but will fearful prayers accomplish anything?
When Rebecca was about two or three there was a lot of preaching in the Christian community that persecution was coming to the church. It’s not something we know much about in America, but persecution has always been a part of Christian history. True believers have always suffered for their faith.
At that time word was slipping out about underground churches in China and pastors like Richard Wurbrand, who was tortured for fourteen years in a Romanian prison for preaching the gospel. Families were separated, children sometimes left to the mercy of strangers while their parents were in prison.
I remember well how I felt.
I hate to be cold more than almost anything, so I got Rebecca a new coat. I remember looking at that coat and wondering if it would be the last warm coat my daughter would ever have. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? That forty-some-odd years later, I would remember my very real fear that my daughter would be cold.
Well, she’s had a lot of coats since then (closets full!). But the possibility that our children will someday suffer hardships because of their faith is still a real one. We’re living in a world afire. In my opinion, to think American believers will escape what those in other countries have not is probably just wishful thinking.
Rebecca tries to keep me up on what’s new on social media. It’s a challenge, believe me. By the time I learn one platform, another has replaced it! She tells me what mothers are talking about. One Christian mother wrote on Facebook that the women in her carpool refused to take her daughter to school because of the mother’s political affiliations.
I want to emphasize that people of true faith in Christ can have differing political views, but politics and religion tend to have blurred borders sometimes. And when people are stirred into a frenzy by the media, they sometimes see enemies where they don’t exist.
Other women wrote that their children were being harassed at school. That is one of the most difficult things for a parent. It breaks our hearts.
We hurt for our children because we don’t want them to suffer.
We don’t want them to be ostracized. But what can we do?
Of course, we can and should pray for our children as they face their world.
But how should we pray?
In my earlier years, my prayers for my children were often an attempt to manipulate God. They were rooted in fear.
Are we praying that our children’s lives will be undisturbed? That nothing will rock their boat? Is our prayer, “God don’t let anything bad happen to my children. Don’t let them be challenged in any way.”?
When we pray that way, are we asking what is truly best for our children?
Is it possible that it’s actually good for them to suffer a little?
I know you’re cringing right now, and I don’t blame you. It’s our natural instinct to protect our kids. But our fearful prayers only demonstrate our lack of trust that God will take care of our children. Believe me, I know.
I was one of those mothers who did everything she could to keep her children from suffering.
I had gotten into the bad habit of being a buffer between my husband and my children, hiding anything negative from their father. I felt my husband was unreasonably strict with the kids and their punishment wasn’t equal to their crimes.
But hiding the kids’ wrongdoing from their dad wasn’t good for them, or for their father. It let him off the hook. He didn’t feel any of the pain or worry about their transgressions because he didn’t know about most of them. I carried it all. The Lord began to deal with me about keeping my husband in the dark.
When my oldest son was in the eighth grade, he started getting into trouble at school. He was at a turning point in his life. He could have gone either way. After one particularly bad season, I did something that was really difficult for me. I took him aside and told him that I was going to pray that whatever he did wrong, he’d get caught.
It wasn’t an easy prayer to pray.
We were pastors. It was embarrassing. People aren’t always gracious to PKs. I was afraid his dad would overdo his punishment. I didn’t want to see him get in trouble, believe me. I didn’t want to see him suffer the consequences. But I battled against the fear. I knew it was better for him to face them while he was still at home with us than learn the hard way when he was out from under our authority.
One day his dad was shaving and the Holy Spirit prompted him to go look under our son’s mattress.
Tucked under the mattress was a magazine. Today, it might not seem so bad, but in that day, it would have been considered pornographic.
I prayed that he would get caught, and the Holy Spirit saw to it that he did.
Bill had never looked under that mattress before, and our son said he’d only gotten the magazine that day. Someone from school had given it to him. He was going to take it back to the boy the next morning. The timing was undeniably an answer to prayer.
I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been willing for him to suffer a little? Pornography is addicting, and it can destroy lives.
We could have punished him at home and spared him the consequence at school But his dad took him right to the principal. It hurt, but I agreed it was the right thing to do, since there was another student involved, and this was a private Christian school.
Our son got suspended from school for the rest of eighth grade. He didn’t get to graduate with his class. It was very hard for him, and for me because it seemed extreme. But he learned a great lesson, and he started on a different trajectory.
His heart softened toward the Lord.
A couple of years later a fellow student offered to help him cheat to avoid the consequences of not having his homework done. His reply was, “No. My mother prays that whatever I do I will get caught.” I imagine he still thinks about his mama’s prayers when he’s tempted to do wrong.
Can we, as parents who trust in the Lord for everything else, trust God with our children? Or will we hold back, begging God not to let them suffer.
Abraham was the greatest example of a parent who trusted his child to God, even when God told him to do what seemed reprehensible.
He knew God. He knew God’s promise.
God had promised Abraham a son, to be born of his barren wife Sarah. Isaac was an answer to prayer. A miracle.
We can read the story in Genesis 22:1-18. God told Abraham to take the son that he had been waiting on for all those years to a mountain in the region of Moriah, and offer him as a burnt offering to God.
I know this sounds terrible.
And I want to say that people do crazy things in the name of God. It sometimes frightens me to tell this story for fear some unstable soul will think God is telling them to do the same. He is not. He would not. But there is a wonderful lesson to be learned here. And in case you haven’t read it, Isaac doesn’t die in this story.
God gives Abraham the command and in verse 3 we notice something remarkable. Abraham doesn’t even hesitate. He gathers the boy and the wood and a couple of servants and heads in the direction of Moriah. When he reaches the mountain, he tells the servants to stay with the donkey, that he and the boy are going up the mountain to worship and THEY will return. He had confidence that whatever God asked Him to do would turn out right, no matter how terrible it seemed at the time.
Isaac saw the fire and the wood, but there was no lamb to offer for a burnt offering. When he asked his dad about it, Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”
We know that lamb was Jesus, who God gave as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
In verse 12 God stopped Abraham from offering his son. He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now, I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Are we withholding our children from God?
Are we afraid what might happen to them if we don’t beg God to protect them from everything uncomfortable? I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for our children’s protection. I do it every day. Pray for them! Your prayers can make a difference! Your prayers can keep them out of trouble!
But, please, let’s not pray in fear.
Let’s lift them up to God and say, “Here, do whatever it takes to get them to where you want them to be.”
We can have peace when we offer our children to God if we truly trust Him.
Abraham had complete confidence that God was going to be true to His nature, and whatever He did would be the best for his son Isaac. I’m not saying it’s easy. Especially not in the beginning. But we can do it. We must do it!
It is very possible that our children and grandchildren will live in a completely different world than the one we live in today.
The way things are going, it seems almost inevitable that they will suffer in one way or another for their faith. Are we preparing them for that possibility? Are we teaching them to be brave in the face of adversity? To be strong in the Lord? To love their enemies and do good to those who persecute them?
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Or are we teaching them to despise people that are different than they are? To return curse for curse? To hate those that hate them?
What do our children hear when we’re watching the news? Do your kids ever hear you talking back to the television?
It doesn’t matter if they understand what you’re saying. They hear your tone. They see the screen.
Most of the time, children don’t have a real grasp of current affairs, but sometimes, they pick up on their parent’s anger and frustration and take it to school with them. They try to defend their parent’s position, having no idea what that truly is. And unfortunately, some parents allow—no—encourage their children to bully others for their beliefs. I think that’s the saddest thing of all. It’s hard when that happens to our children—and I would hope our children would never be the bullies.
How do we teach our children to talk to people who are different than they are? If our children hear us disparaging people at home, they’re likely to take it to school. How did Jesus talk to people? First of all, He talked to a lot of people the religious folk of his day wouldn’t be caught dead speaking to. He engaged with tax collectors (the most hated people in town), sinners of all sorts: adulterers, thieves, prostitutes. He treated people with respect. The only people he really got into it with were the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees. Teaching our children to respect people who are different than they are can help them deal with the things that they go through at school and might even defuse some of the hostility directed toward them.
But, of course, the devil never gives up.
He hates God. He hates Jesus. And he hates believers. And he’s constantly inciting that hatred in people who don’t believe. We won’t escape that if we’re true Christ followers. He said if they hated Him, they would hate us as well. John 15:18-27. But we can meet it with grace and not act as our enemies do.
When we pray for our children, believing that whatever they face, they have the grace of God to get them through, we can have real peace.
Rebecca has some funny confessions to share. At the bottom of her post, you’ll find a resource we’ve prepared for you, Ten Powerful Prayers To Pray for Your Children. It’s a printable PDF that you can carry in your purse, put in a frame, tape to your bathroom mirror. Or you can save it on your phone and have it handy when you start to worry. We believe it will be a blessing to you.
Whew!! This is a HARD post for me.
If I’m being really honest, it’s one of my biggest struggles as a mom. If I had my way (thank God I don’t), my girls would never have a problem, always make great choices in life, never feel pain, heartbreak or hurt—basically live in a bubble. Haha!
Well, thank God I don’t always get my way because that’s unrealistic and VERY boring! And when I stop and think about it, I really don’t want that for my daughters at all.
I’ve learned a lot from my mom through the years about how to pray for your children.
I haven’t always followed her example and many times have found myself doing the opposite. But her voice was always in my head. “Don’t let your prayers become a begging session for God to keep your kids from trouble or pain. Instead, pray that they’ll trust God through it and be better off because of it.”
I’m so about to embarrass myself right now, but I want those of you who have struggled with this to know you’re not alone.
In the past, I literally found myself praying all kinds of silly prayers like:
God please, please protect my kids from all harm! Don’t let anything bad ever happen to them!
Please never allow MY child to be involved in a school shooting.
Oh God, don’t let any boys ever break her heart!
Don’t let my kids ever be bullied or ostracized.
Please blind our girls’ eyes to their parent’s marriage problems. Don’t let them remember the bad times.
Help them never to struggle with their weight.
Don’t let my kids embarrass themselves—or me—by making mistakes in front of others.
Please God! Don’t punish my kids because of the mistakes I made as a way to prove a point to me. (Yeah, I know. So dumb.)
The list of silly prayers goes on, blah blah blah blah blah!
But I’ll spare myself more embarrassment and you the pain of reading.
I’m ashamed to admit to these crappy prayers but yep I prayed ’em. I’m kind of hoping someone else has too so I don’t feel like such a nincompoop! Ha! Any hands?
One day, I was reading James 1:2-5, 12 These well-known scriptures tell us that we should consider it pure joy when we face trials because the testing of our faith produces perseverance. It suddenly occurred to me that if my kid’s faith was never tested, they wouldn’t learn to persevere in life.
I was basically robbing my kids of becoming “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The scripture goes on to say, “The one who perseveres under trial, and stands the test, will receive the crown of life.” Woah!
How off course was I?!
I began to realize that I was praying out of fear. My prayers were selfish—for me and for them. They didn’t have an eternal perspective. They were prayers from a mother’s fearful heart, not a heart that trusted God with her children. https://perseveringwomen.com/two-reasons-why-we-dont-trust-god/
A few years later, I was given a list of prayers to pray for kids. It got so worn out I could hardly read it. It really helped me to learn to pray how God instructs us in His Word.
Don’t get me wrong, once in a while, I still pray out of fear for my children. But it’s something the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of. I back it up and pray this instead: “Jesus I’m sorry for not trusting You with my kids. You say we can trust You and come boldly. Help me not to come to you in fear. You love my kids way more than I do, and that’s a lot, so I trust that You’ll do what You know is best. I can be confident that it will turn out good, however that looks because we’re your children.”
So, for you parents out there who raised your hands, admitting to your worrisome prayers, please download the printable list of scriptural prayers to pray over your children. Or any others that you have influence on. Keep it near, and use it every day to pray for your kids. Don’t waste one more breath on silly selfish prayers.
Thank you for this encouragement to pray in complete trust and not out of fear. I also prayed when my kids were younger that the Lord would take all my mistakes as a mother and use it for good in my three kids’ lives. He was and is so faithful!
Thank you, Paula. God is faithful.