Something uneasy tugged at the corner of her mind, rousing her from a deep sleep in the dark early morning hour. Is something wrong? Could one of the kids be sick? A light down the hall beckoned Diane out of her warm bed as she hurried to investigate. Rounding the corner to see why the light was on, she stopped in her tracks.
There sat our teenage daughter, propped up in bed, with her Bible open on her lap.
“What’s the matter? Why are you up so early? You don’t have to be at work until six!” Diane’s worry-turned-annoyance grated on her own ears.
“Go back to bed! I’m fine. I just can’t go in to work without taking time to read and pray and listen. It’s harder than you know, Mom. I need this!” Her words jolted Diane fully awake. Seriously? Our teenage daughter was up at four in the morning to read her Bible and pray? This same daughter we’d worried over, fasted, and prayed for? The girl we loved with such ferociousness yet who seemed to question everything we believed?
When Diane recovered from her shock, it was all she could do not to dance her way back to our bedroom — the Father was answering our prayers! Somehow, in a way we hadn’t seen and didn’t understand, God was working out our daughter’s own faith, apart from us. Not because we were doing everything right — far from it! We loved our children with such fierce devotion, yet we often found ourselves overreacting and under-listening. There were too many times when we felt powerless to protect them from a freeway full of dangerous choices.
But we learned, slowly and awkwardly, to go first to God with our worries rather than continue in the typical pattern of nagging-worrying-scolding that every parent knows too well. More than anything else, what we have discovered about raising children who love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, is this: God really, actually answers prayer. He does! In fact, “he bends down to listen” (Psalm 116:2, NLT). How else, really, could any of us hope to raise a child who passionately and persistently follows after God?
We have come to recognize, after hours and years and decades of praying for our kids, sometimes wrestling in prayer for our children, that parents actually have the power — through prayer — to prepare and protect our sons and daughters from the attacks that will come their way. Prayer is like putting the roof onto our house of faith, not preventing the storms, but keeping us safe in the midst of real life. What kind of prayers can we pray for our family?
Prayer Keeps Us Safe
Not long ago, while we were sorting through boxes in storage, we came across a notebook Diane made when our kids were growing up. Those pages are a reminder of all God has done for our family, of all those times we cried out to Him for wisdom, for knowing, for help. The journal is filled with Scriptures we prayed for our children. Verses like: “I will make a permanent covenant with them: I will never turn away from doing good to them, and I will put
That is what we asked God — over and over — to do in our children’s hearts. We knew full well that children are born with a choice to follow God or not. God will not force your child to love Him! Yet He listens to our cries for help. He sparks desire deep in our hearts — a desire that keeps us close. We asked Him to do that for our children.
Hosea’s story became our prayer for the work of God’s Spirit: “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14). We asked the Father to allure our children to Himself. Using Romans as a guide, we prayed that each of our children would be saved at a young age: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1).
We prayed that each of our children would see their aching need for a Savior and that at the same time they would have eyes to see and ears to hear His intimate love for them. Fearing our own tendency to emphasize rules over grace, we prayed Ephesians 3:19 over each of our kids, especially in their teenage and early adult years: “Know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19).
Once, when Diane complained to a wise older woman about being so tired because our firstborn baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night, she challenged Diane to spend that time praying for him. So she did! In those dark hours, while the world slept, Diane poured out her heart to the Father, bringing every possible scenario and stage of our son’s life to the One who loves like no other. She prayed for his future wife, that God would protect her and watch over her, keeping her from horrors that could affect their marriage. She prayed for career choice, for godly friends, for health and happiness.
For a while, she prayed that he’d even get good grades — until the unease in her spirit alerted her to a need to ask God how to pray.
When she was pregnant, Diane learned to pray instead of complaining, latching on to Isaiah: “I have cared for you since before you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Isaiah 46:3-4, NLT).
Prayers With & For Your Children
Our kids grew up knowing Diane was praying for them. That’s the one thing she knew she could do. In her own words, “I wouldn’t always be patient, though I knew I should. I wouldn’t always memorize Scripture with them like I knew I ought to — but I could pray.” We prayed with our children as well as for them. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll be praying for you,” but sometimes it seems like a struggle to actually stop right then and there and pray with them.
If your child says, “Mom, pray for me. I have a big test in Algebra this afternoon,” stop and pray right then and there! Put your hand on your child’s shoulder before he walks out the front door and pray — even if it feels awkward at first! Now our grown children do this for us, enveloping us in their faith, hemming us in with their affection. We love it!
A 3-by-5 index card we found in a box of memories recently had Colossians 1:9-12 written on it in Diane’s handwriting: “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.”
Diane walked the hills surrounding our neighborhood as she prayed for our daughter, who had been offered a job in Los Angeles and would be on her own for the first time. We wondered and worried if she was strong enough to stand with Jesus; if her faith had developed the kind of fortitude we knew she would need.
Instead of continuing to deplete her confidence by over-warning her, we decided to set aside “Fasting Fridays” just for this girl we loved so much. And she did stand strong, learning to wear her faith in her own way. Another prayer came from Luke: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Insert your child’s name and pray with confidence that God is listening, knowing that, just like Jesus, there may be times when we plead for our kids in prayer.
One mother told Diane with a fierceness that belied her petite frame, “I saw what was happening to my daughter at school, and one day when I was praying, I told Satan, in no uncertain terms, ‘Not with my daughter! She belongs to the Lord!’” She was following the wisdom found in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).
Prayers for the Next Generation
When our children were teenagers, Diane prayed specifically for the spouses our children would someday choose. Catch- ing herself falling into the nasty habit of worrying through their dating years, she watched and prayed as each of our children was beginning to figure out what kind of person they needed and wanted to marry. When our first son met his future wife, Tammy, all the pieces of Diane’s prayers seemed to come together. Tammy was 17 years old when they met, already a godly woman from a rich heritage of faith. By the time John Mark asked for her hand in marriage, Diane had a confident sense that Tammy was the very woman she had prayed for all those years. Diane experienced a joyful recognition, a heart connection that continues to this day.
It happened again many years later when our youngest, Matthew, started dating the woman he would marry. There is no doubt whatsoever that Simona is an answer to many hours of prayer — her gentle beauty adds richness to our family. Ephesians 3:14-19 has become the prayer of our hearts for the next generation of Comers who will take over where we will leave off:
God hears the prayers of a mother for her sons and daughters. And dads, your prayers are weighted with the power to make a difference! We fully believe that in addition to God’s grace toward our children, it’s the prayers we prayed for our children that had the most impact in seeing each one of them become passionate Jesus followers. E.M. Bounds once said, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.” Yes! Talking to God about each of your children is an ongoing conversation with the One who loves them even more than you do.
We would urge you to begin your own prayer lists and cards with Scriptures you find. Take those truths with you to pray and clear space for God to work in your children’s lives. You will never regret the time spent praying over your kids. Remember: Prayer is like putting on the roof to protect your children from the rains you know are coming.
This article is adapted from HomeLife Magazine.