I remember vividly the day I had to sit down with my children and tell them that their young cousin had died. The circumstances were particularly painful and I had no idea what to say. I broke the news to them the best I could and we talked about the things that had led to her death, and the hope we had in the resurrection. But let me tell you, there was nothing on earth that could have prepared me for that moment. It was only strength from God that got me through. Much of that strength came from prayer, and not solely my own. I never asked, but in that moment, I suspect my children were praying for their dad.
You were probably taught to pray as a small child, perhaps by mom and dad or maybe by your grandmother or older brother. They probably knelt down by your bedside with you and said things like, “Thank You God for all You give us. Please help me to be nice to my sister. Please help Uncle Joe feel better. Thank you for Mommy, Daddy and all You do for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” That’s a really special and beautiful thing. I remember doing that with my children, and it brings tears to my eyes. It is truly a precious memory.
As you got older, prayer time was something you began to do on your own. At first, perhaps you recited a similar sort of prayer as you did when someone was first teaching you to pray. Maybe something happened, and mom and dad reminded you that Uncle Joe was better now, but encouraged you to pray for Mr. Jones at church who was sick. Then there were other things that came up, making their way into your conversation with God—maybe a bad storm, some natural disaster or something else to be thankful for, like a new sibling or a better job for your parents.
Eventually, your prayers became more organic, less rote and repetitive with an occasional update on current events in your life, and more about things that were affecting you on a spiritual and emotional level. You recognized the need to repent of sin, or you asked God for help in dealing with a challenging school assignment. Maybe a personal relationship was creating a lot of stress, or perhaps it was going well, and you expressed gratitude to God for it.
All these things are very appropriate to spend time talking to God about. But I’d like to submit to you an area that is worthy of adding to your prayer life if it’s not there already. Your parents taught you to pray, and there’s no doubt they pray for you. But have you ever thought about praying for your parents?
They need help
Whether you realize it or not, being a parent is one of the most important and challenging jobs on the planet. Rather than give you a long list of all the things your parents do for you (I’m sure they’ve recited it to you a few times!), suffice it to say they do a lot. They do all of it out of love of course, but in addition to that, it is also a command from God that they do certain things.
After being freed from slavery in Egypt and as they were ready to head into the Promised Land, the Lord took time to review some important things with Israel, such as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2). He later distilled these down into one great commandment. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Jesus Christ reiterated the importance of this commandment in Mark 12:29-30.
But notice what the Lord added after giving this great command to Israel. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Your parents are specifically commanded to teach you about God.
Helping you memorize the books of the Bible or the Ten Commandments is relatively simple and a great place to start. But the command in Deuteronomy goes far beyond that. Parents face difficult and challenging situations, and figuring out how to help their children understand and cope with them in a godly way is a part of the overall command to instruct their children. Doing that in a situation where there is no clear cut and simple explanation is a next level sort of skill that no one is born with. In your prayers, ask that God help your parents to do what He has commanded them.
A benefit to you
As parents we are quick to point out, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Listen to your mom and dad, and your life will be better. Having been a child myself (although it’s been a few years since I was your age), I can attest that this is true.
But notice what Paul goes on to say in verse 4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It’s easy to bark orders and pull out the old “because I said so” card when you’re a parent. Bringing children up in the training and admonition of the Lord often conflicts directly with our human desires. It’s not that as a kid you want to be bad, but sometimes the things you want—playing football on Friday nights or dating someone outside your faith—lead in a path away from where your parents need to lead you.
This can easily flare into conflict and parents saying or doing things that upset you. Keep in mind that their goal isn’t to make you mad. Their goal is to fulfill the commands God gave them as a parent. It’s okay to pray that God give them the wisdom to do so in a loving and effective way.
Once you begin to think about praying for God to help your parents, there is a part you must play as well. We just read in Ephesians 6 a reminder of the commandment in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Just as your parents are given a command to raise you in the admonition of the Lord, as a child, you must honor the work they are doing. We, as adult children, must still honor our parents as well.
For example, we know we are to honor the Sabbath day. But next Saturday there’s a really big charity drive going on to help raise money for a class trip. Participation is mandatory in order to go on the trip, and you really want to go on the trip. After asking your parents if you can help at the charity drive, they say no, citing Isaiah 58:13 (not seeking your own pleasure on the Sabbath day) as the reason. As hard as it might be, you need to honor their decision. Of course, that’s not to say you couldn’t ask your parents to talk to your school and see if some sort of alternate charity work could be done on another day, but it must be done in a respectful way that honors your parents.
Aging, lost or surrogate parents
Some of you may have parents that are a little older than your friends’ parents. I remember when I was in elementary school, several of my friends had grandparents who were younger than my dad. An older parent can’t always do the things a younger parent can, but there are still many things you can pray about for them. Pray for their physical health. Pray that the wisdom they gathered over the years be passed on to you. “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (Proverbs 19:20).
No, parents don’t always have all the answers, and yes, they occasionally make mistakes. But they have wisdom, nuggets of knowledge that can be helpful for you as you live your life. Maybe you’re tired of hearing their boring old stories or admonition to stay away from bad company, but they tell you these things for a reason. Pray this wisdom will be passed on to you and your siblings. This could apply to praying for grandparents as well.
Unfortunately, some of you might not have both your parents anymore. They may have passed away, or otherwise be out of the picture. Still, you can give thanks to God for them. Thank Him for the good memories you have and the love you felt from them. And if your family dynamic is such that there may not be many good memories, you can still give thanks to God for the parents that gave you life. If you have a step parent, they need prayers as well. Blending a family is hard, and it’s something they likely never thought they would be doing. It’s as new an experience for them as it is for you.
Whether you realize it or not, being a parent is one of the most important and challenging jobs on the planet. They do it out of love of course, but in addition to that, it is also a command from God that they do certain things.
If those you live with now are not your biological parents, there are some special things to consider. Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3-5). But because they are not your biological parents, they may feel unqualified to be a parent. Let them know how much you love them and how thankful you are that God brought you together.
Pray for your parents
Hopefully, your prayers have matured quite a bit since you first learned to pray. There will always be worries and troubles to pray about, and although harder to see at times, there are always things to give thanks for. When you pray, don’t forget to pray for your parents. They have a tough job and will surely welcome all the help they can get. You can help by not only honoring them, but praying God will give them the wisdom to fulfill the command to bring you up in the admonition of the Lord.
In considering this topic, here are a few questions to discuss with your parents:
- What is an instance where you wish you would have listened more closely to what your parents told you?
- Ask, what do you see me doing in my life that makes you happy? Is there anything that makes you concerned? Why?
- If there is one guiding principle you could give me to live the rest of my life by, what would it be?
We’d love to hear your feedback about your discussions! Please feel free to share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.