Praying Parents

by Joanie Butman

I have a dear friend and fervent prayer warrior with whom I’ve studied the bible for years. Over that time we have shared many prayers for anything and everything. As you might expect within a group of women, many of our prayers revolve around our families. This friend and I have engaged in numerous lively conversations regarding our different approaches to prayer. She prays specific intentions while my prayers are more generic in nature. Bottom line is, there is no right or wrong way to pray. There is no prayer police roaming around ensuring that you adhere to some prescribed pattern or method. The way you communicate with God will be as unique as you are – as will your relationship with Him. The power of prayer comes from our communion with God, not from what we actually say.

Regardless, my friend could never fathom why I wasn’t more purposeful with my prayers – particularly in regard to my children. It baffled her that I wouldn’t pray that my children receive the desires of their hearts or request well-defined results, whether it be for acceptance onto a team, admittance into a particular college or landing a coveted internship. Our discussions went something like this:

You don’t want your children to get the desires of their hearts? NO! If anything, I’d pray they don’t get the desires of their hearts – just because they want it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.

You don’t want your children to get into a specific school or get a specific job?Not necessarily. What they want may not be where God wants them, where they need to be to fulfill His purpose for them – which will be infinitely better than any plan they have in mind.

You don’t pray that your children won’t suffer?NO!

For goodness sake, WHY?

Here’s my logic behind my answers. If my children received all the desires of their hearts without suffering:

  1. They would be unbearable to be around because they would probably become the most shallow, entitled individuals.
  2. They couldn’t become overcomers without ever having to overcome anything.
  3. They couldn’t develop strength or resilience without ever having to exercise it.
  4. They couldn’t be prepared for life if they’ve never had to face it.
  5. They couldn’t develop a relationship with God without recognizing their need for Him.

So what do I pray for them?

  1. I pray that the desires of their hearts be brought in line with the desires of God’s heart for them.
  2. I pray for God to grant them wisdom and discernment.
  3. I pray for protection – physically and spiritually.
  4. I pray for God to draw them closer to Himself.
  5. I pray for God to give them enough.

Before I explain what ‘enough’ is, let me point out that the answer to number four is always going to involve pain. You can’t experience spiritual growth or maturity without suffering, and I wouldn’t want my children to miss out on any of God’s many blessings that strangely enough come wrapped in hardship.

My prayer for enough comes from a story by Bob Perks, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with as it is a popular one. In it, an ailing parent says a final good-bye to their adult child at an airport and concludes with a poem of wishes for their life. The one change I’ve made is to substitute the word pray for wish because I don’t think there is anything ‘wishful’ about these requests.

I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

Do I need to choose to pray for my children? Do I think God will forget about them if I don’t? Absolutely not. They’re His kids first. He’s just loaned them to me for a short time. However, by choosing to pray on their behalf Iam reminded and comforted that they are under His protection and guidance always, that whatever questionable choices they make, He will never leave them – something we as parents can’t promise.

With Holy Week upon us, I can’t help but think about Jesus & Mary’s final good-bye at the foot of the cross. Some of His last words before He died were to ensure her continued care. As far as Mary is concerned, she watched her child suffer more than anyone on earth will ever have to endure. But look at what Christ accomplished through His suffering. As a parent, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been to bear, but it’s what we do as mothers. We stand with our children in their joys but more importantly – in their pain. Did Mary truly grasp her son’s divine purpose as she watched Him die a horrible death? Probably no more than we can comprehend why God allows suffering or the crazy ways His plans unfold – especially when it involves our children. But even if Mary did understand, would it have been any less painful? Again, absolutely not!

Do you remember Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion? One of the things I liked about it was the unique and heart-warming manner in which he portrays the relationship between Jesus and Mary. Jesus may have been the Son of God, but He was also Mary’s child – the infant she nursed, the baby she comforted, the toddler she watched take His first steps, the boy she watched play with His friends, the youngster she lost in Jerusalem, the apprentice she watched toil alongside her husband, the son she watched grow into a man. Remember, Jesus didn’t leave home until He was 30! I don’t think Mary forgot His lineage for a minute, but the bond between a mother and child can’t be discounted regardless of who that child grows up to be.

As far as I know, there is no indication in scripture that God shared his entire plan with Mary, just her own role in it. God offered Mary the painful privilege of partnering with Him to bring His son into the world. He gives us a similar opportunity to partner with Him in raising our children, but it isn’t easy and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that parenting involves a lot of pain. Watching our children suffer is excruciating. What parent wouldn't gladly take on the pain of their child if they could? Even so, I was reminded yesterday of a quote by Corrie ten Boom, “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” This is an important truth to cling to when it is difficult to see through to the other side of our children’s pain. Corrie goes on to say, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Amen to that.

Our children are going to suffer, that’s a fact of life. It would behoove us to prepare them for that reality and to be there for them when it comes. My brother shared this quote with me recently that is spot on: “Our job as parents is not to prepare the road ahead for our children, but to prepare our children for the road ahead.” Unfortunately, too many have lost sight of that wisdom. 

As an infant, when Mary presented Jesus in the temple, in addition to the prophesy she was given about Him, she was also told that “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” And we will suffer the same fate as parents when we watch our children go through their own trials and tribulations. It comes with the territory, which brings us back to where we started – prayer.

Despite our differences in style, my friend and I are in total agreement in choosing to pray for our children because by doing so, it allows me to:

  1. Choose to trust that God knows what’s best for them even when it doesn’t seem so.
  2. Choose to believe His plan is infinitely better than anything I could ever imagine.
  3. Choose to experience His peace and presence amidst chaos.
  4. Choose to rely on His promise that He can use anything for good.
  5. Choose hope because I know that “with God all things are possible.” My parents can attest to that!

I'll be away next week, so will leave wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter! For any struggling parents, Easter is the perfect reminder that God can take the ashes of anyone's life and create something beautiful. Choose hope grounded in the redeeming power of God's love that we celebrate this week!

A beautiful song and video to ponder during Holy Week. I hope you take the time to watch.