We had 5 kids in 7 years including twins. Very quickly I realized I needed to run to God for help. I was desperate! The fast pace of our hectic schedules felt like a roaring train bearing down on our household. Homework, athletic practices, carpools, play dates, and summer schedules to plan. Varying emotions erupted at any moment. One child was anxious about a summer camp. Another afraid she won’t have a friend. One couldn’t decide what sport to play. And I had a hard time discerning what was right for my family.
“There are so many needs oh God, What do I do?” And God answered, “My Child, Come unto Me for you are heavy laden and I will refresh you.”
1. Getting Focused
When our kids were growing up my husband John and I took time each year to go away alone for a day and night to discuss our kids’ needs for the coming season. This enabled us to get a clearer picture of how to pray for each child in the coming months.
We discussed each child in 5 areas of growth: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and social. In each category we asked questions like:
- Physical: Does this child need better eating habits? Does she need a way to get exercise?
- Emotional: Does this child need to feel special in our large family?
- Social: Does this child need a friend? Or perhaps this child needs to learn to reach out to others.
- Mental: Does this child need to develop discipline in studies?
- Spiritual: Is this child growing in her faith? Does she need to be in a Bible study with some other teens?
As we talked together we wrote down the needs for each child in each category. This became a major part of our parents’ private prayer list for each child. This exercise also helped us as parents to adapt family schedules to the real needs for the next few months. It enabled us to say “no” to over-commitment and “yes” to other things. But mainly it helped us to organize our prayer life. And it gave us the opportunity to watch God answer prayers.
2. Needed For Prayer: a Time, a Place, Notebook and Bible!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with so many things to pray about. Setting aside at least a half hour first thing in the morning to pray has made a big difference in my own life. I need to begin my day this way or else I will never get to it. God cares about my day, and He loves my children even more than I do. I desperately need time alone with Him.
Buy yourself a new prayer notebook. Write your parent’s list of needs for your children. Add other things you are praying for each child. Pray for the spouses God may give them; for purity and a healthy sexual identity; for wise choices in friendships; for a love of God’s word. We also had a list of character traits we prayed for God to develop in our kids (and now our grandkids)–traits like integrity, a servant’s heart, a teachable spirit, compassion, gentleness, etc.
It helps to divide your notebook into 7 separate days praying for different things each day. Otherwise it’s too overwhelming. As God answers record the answer. We will be encouraged when we look back at God’s faithfulness in answering our prayers.
But what if he doesn’t answer? He always answers. I have found that God answers prayer in basically three ways. Yes, no and wait. But he always answers out of love. If your young toddler wanted to play in the street you would answer “no.” You in your wisdom know that his request is not good for him. If your 16 year old asks to get engaged you will answer “wait.” You know she is not yet ready for this step. If your 6th grader asks to help with the dishes you will say “yes!” (You may faint first!). If we in our imperfect ability to love our children answer in this way how much more does God with his perfect love answer our prayers and our child’s prayer in a similar fashion.
When God answers a prayer with a “no” remember it’s a “love no.” He’s answers because he knows the request is not the best thing for us. Sometimes when the answer seems to be “wait” there is a silence and that can be difficult. But just because there seems to be a silence does not mean God has forgotten. He is still at work. Isaiah 55:8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God is always working in our best interest. And he will do what is best not necessarily what is fast.
3. Praying the Scriptures
A part of my quiet time each morning is time in God’s word. If I want to know His will I need to know his heart. His heart is found in His word. We cannot separate prayer from scripture because we will slip into the danger of “creating” God in our own image.
Every day I read one Psalm and one Proverb. With the Proverbs I simply pick the day’s date. It’s easy to keep track. Then I simply put a check in my Bible as I work through the Psalms over and over. Often in my study a particular promise will be relevant to a current need in a child’s life.
When an older girl broke up with my 7th grade son, he was devastated. I shared with him Psalm 30:5, “Weeping lasts for the night but joy cometh in the morning.” Together we prayed that even though He was brokenhearted, God would bring joy in a future morning. What my son needed at that moment was hope. God’s word gave Him hope and comforted us both as we prayed together.
When my college sons were biking across America one summer I was fearful for their safety. Psalm 91 became my mother’s prayer for my sons that summer. Often I haven’t known how to pray for my child. Yet as I read the Bible I discover ways to pray. Ephesians 1:17-19 is a beautiful prayer to pray for a child. Insert the child’s name into the place of “you” as you pray making it more personal.
4. Praying with Others
For 16 years I hosted a weekly prayer meeting in my home. Every Monday morning several of us-all with kids in the same public school district- met to pray. We prayed for our kids, their teachers, and staff. Over the years we have seen some amazing answers to prayer. And we have been comforted by each other.
Many of us do not live in the same town with extended family. It often helps to have a prayer partner who will pray with you for the concerns of your children. It also helps to adopt a local “grandma” who will pray for your children, spend time in your home and give your perspective.
5. Keep Two Things in Mind As We Pray
Remember, God has given you exactly the children you need not merely so you can raise them but so that they might be used as tools in your life to help mold you into the woman he has created you to be. It’s helpful to ask,
“Dear God, what are you teaching me in this situation as I pray for this child?”
Sometimes what we learn in the process can be more important than a specific answer. Remember that as we go to God in our weaknesses and failures, often with wobbly faith, that it is not nearly as important who I am or am not as it is who God is-My almighty Father- who loves me perfectly and who loves my child even more than I do. He knows my child and He knows the plans He has for him. He will gently lead me as I raise my children.
How God Answered Our Prayers
When Chris was in middle school I felt that one of his emotional needs was that he feel special. Stuck in the middle of five kids I felt it was easier for him to feel squashed than special. And so we began to pray that he would have a sense of how special he was. In the spring he had a serious accident falling head first onto a cement floor. His skull was fractured and his brain was swelling. When the neurosurgeon met the ambulance at the hospital he wasn’t very encouraging. He simply did not know if we would lose him, if he would be brain damaged or if he would completely recover. It was too early to tell.
Many people prayed for us and when he became conscious we shared with him a verse from Romans 8:28, “For God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him and are called according to his name.”
“Chris,” I said, “We don’t understand what’s happened but let’s pray that God will use this for good.”
We prayed this for the next two weeks in the hospital. Chris completely recovered and just before we were to leave the hospital I asked my son, “Can you think of any way God has used this for good in your life?”
Looking around at get well cards stuck to his walls, the gifts piled up, he responded, “Gosh Mom I never knew how special I was.”
Yes, God answers the prayers of parents.