My phone rang yesterday. It was our 22-year-old daughter, Susy, calling from California.
"Mom, what are you doing today? How can I be praying for you this week?" Susy asked.
"Pray for me to become a woman of gratitude. Too often I take God for granted. How about you?" I continued. "How can I pray for you?"
"Please pray for my job. My boss is leaving, so that impacts my duties. Oh, and thanks for praying for my daily devotions. I've had consistent quiet times this week."
Could it be that the most important thing we do as parents is pray for our kids? Unfortunately, sometimes we're so busy trying to make it through the day that it's hard to make the time. Here are five suggestions to help you activate your prayer life for your children.
1. Get Organized
I use a notebook that's divided into seven sections, one for each day of the week. Under each section I list my children, my husband, and myself. I have certain things I pray for concerning each person on that particular weekday. For example, on Mondays I pray for my son Chris's study habits, his time alone with God, his friendships with three guy friends, and his ability to discern God's direction about his next step schoolwise. On Tuesdays, I pray for different things for Chris. This way I don't feel as though I have to cover all my children's needs on any one day. As things come up, I simply add them to a day of the week.
My husband, John, has a similar notebook. He loves to glue photos of each person he's praying for next to their section. (I'm not that organized!)
2. Ask What Your Child Needs
It's all too easy to respond to your life randomly rather than intentionally. But the good thing about summer approaching is that it offers you a little more time with your kids, especially if they're young. So look at them with fresh eyes and ask yourself, What are my children's needs for this summer? Perhaps your elementary school-aged daughter is struggling to find friends or your teen is questioning his faith. Ask God in the weeks ahead to reveal specific things you should be praying about for each of your children.
Then, mark a date on your calendar now for some time in August to discuss with your husband your family's needs and goals for the coming year. If you're a single parent, do this with another mom or couple, and agree to pray for each other's children over the next several months.
3. Use Prayers from Scripture
When I don't know how to pray specifically for one of my children, I head directly to God's Word, which contains wonderful prayers. For example, Ephesians 1:17-19 is a beautiful prayer. So is Philippians 1:9-11. Insert your child's name into the prayer wherever it says "you." My morn inserts her grandchildren's names into the Lord's Prayer to pray for them. Stormie Omartian's book, The Power of a Praying Parent (Harvest House) or author Jodie Berndt's Praying the Scripture for Your Children (Zondervan) are excellent resources, particularly for mothers of young children.
4. Expect God to Answer
God always answers prayer—but He doesn't always answer it in the way we expect or according to our time frame. I've found His answers generally fall into one of three responses: "Yes," "No," or "Wait." If the answer is "wait," you may find yourself wondering if God hears or really cares. But God hears your prayers—and is at work in your child's life! For instance, if you have a rebellious child, you may not see God's answers for years. But remember, He loves your child and wants what's best for her. So during a waiting period, ask God what He wants to teach you. It may be a lesson about something unrelated to the issue at hand.
5. Remember Who's in Control
The task of praying for our kids can often overwhelm us. But don't forget, your children are God's children first. He knows them better than you do and loves them more than you do. He also knows the plans He has prepared for them (Jeremiah 29:11). God is your paitner in parenting; it's not all up to you.
You can go to God in confidence not because of who you are (sometimes I feel like the worst mom in town!). Go to Him because of who He is, King of kings, the one for whom nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37), the one who is praying for our kids (Hebrews 7:25). When you feel overwhelmed, say out loud God's character traits: He's faithful; He's merciful; He's slow to anger; He's mighty, an ever-present help, etc. Remembering these aspects of God will help your faith to grow.
Well-known author Oswald Chambers has said, "We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible's idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself." That's exactly what happens when you pray for your kids.