When Your Child Goes Astray...
How do you trust God and not worry when you see your child start spiraling downward?
How can you know when to say something and when to let your child work it out?
How can you trust that God ultimately has "good" in mind when it all looks so bad?
While writing my book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, I discovered that one of the most intense concerns a mother has for her children, apart from her concerns for their physical safety, is her concern for their spiritual condition. We fear our children will turn their backs on their faith and all they were taught and needlessly stumble through life.
That situation can not only be fearful, but it can make us feel so helpless.
I asked hundreds of moms to share with me their secret to maintaining hope for a wayward child, even if the situation looks hopeless. Their answer is always the same. Their hope is in God, not their child, and God's ability to turn that child's heart back toward home.
Here is how you can maintain hope while praying for your child who has gone astray:
1. Pray Scripture over them.
Janice, who witnessed her daughter self destruct into drugs and a dangerous lifestyle for several years, saw God turn her daughter’s heart around. But, she said, her only comfort during the season of her daughter's rebellion was praying Scripture over her daughter. Isaiah 49:16 was especially encouraging to her.
"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."
While that verse prophetically refers to the nail prints in Jesus' hands, it symbolizes to us that Jesus knew each and every person by name that He would die for; those nail prints were like an engraved name on His hand.
"What a comfort to know that my daughter's name was engraved in the hand of Jesus," Janice said.
Related: A Spiritual Warfare Prayer
2. Pray by focusing on God’s character.
One mom whose son went AWOL during his term in the military said she found comfort and hope in God’s Word, especially the verses that talk about God’s character.
"One of the most prevalent Scriptures I have prayed over my son is Psalm 139 - what peace knowing that God is there with him in the dark, in the light, waking up, going to sleep, going out, coming in."
From Psalm 139 alone, we can be encouraged knowing that God is One who:
- Searches us and knows us from the inside out (verse 1)
- Knows our every action and thought (verses 2-3)
- Knows what we will say before we say it (verse 4)
- Follow us everywhere we go (verses 8-12)
- Formed us and watched over us while we were in the womb (verses 13-15)
- Wrote out our life story in His book before we even lived it (verse 16)
- Thinks innumerable thoughts of us (verses 17-18)
- Knows our anxieties (verse 23)
- Convicts us of our offense and leads us in the right direction (verse 24)
That Psalm reminds us that God is more intimately acquainted with our child than we will ever be. And that He is tracking their whereabouts when we can't.
3. Pray for your child to discern God's voice.
A mom of six children told me “I always pray for God to be loud to my children.”
Children will hear our voices in their heads. And they may try to shut out that voice at times if their hearts are hardened. Children will also hear their friends' and peers' voices, and the voice of the enemy seeking to lead them astray. But we want God's voice – the the voice of His Holy Spirit – to be louder than anyone else's voice.
Insert your child's name in this prayer and pray it often:
Lord, help ____________ to listen to what You say, and to treasure Your commands. Tune _______________'s ears to wisdom, and help _____________ concentrate on understanding (Proverbs 2:1-2, NLT). Instruct ______________in the way of wisdom and lead ________________ along straight paths (Proverbs 4:11).
4. Pray for wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent.
There will come a time when your words will fall on deaf ears, but God's never will. Pray for wisdom so you know when to speak, and what to speak, and when to be silent so God can speak. Here's a way to pray for that right now:
Lord, Your Word says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). Lord, I need that kind of wisdom to know when to speak to ______________ and when to be silent. "Do not let any unwholesome talk (lecturing, judging, or accusing) come of (my) mouth, but only what is helpful for building (my children) up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). Let me also be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for (my) anger doesn't bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19).
5. Praise God for what you don't yet see.
There are three verses in the Bible that clearly spell out God's will for us as individuals, as parents, and as children of God:
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It couldn't be said any simpler: 1) Be joyful – always; 2) Pray – continually; and 3) Thank God -- for all circumstances, not just the ones you are comfortable with
Thank God often for something in your child’s life that you wouldn’t ordinarily be thankful for, as a way of trusting His work in your child's life. It’s also a way of acknowledging that He’s in control and a tangible way of waiting expectantly for God to come through.
6. Pray for their eventual return.
Insert your child’s name into the following verses as a way of praying for their heart condition and return to God’s loving arms:
Create in _________________ a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within him/her (Psalm 51:10). Though you have made ______________ see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore ____________'s life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring _____________ up. You will increase ________________'s honor and comfort ____________ once again (Psalm 71:20-21). Thank You that Your word says I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate ___________ from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
7. Pray for the softening of your own heart.
The Bible says we all like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). We check out other pastures. We wander off, not realizing how far we've gone until we look around and realize we're lost and there are wolves lurking in the bushes, waiting to devour us. Yet Jesus told a story likening our God as a forgiving Father who watches the road, waiting for our return, and then runs to meet us (Luke 15). Pray that you will be the kind of parent who will one day warmly welcome your child back into your arms, with forgiveness and graciousness, as well.
Time to Trust
As we surrender our children to God through prayer, we can trust that they are in His hands and He'll do whatever work He wants to do in them for His glory. We can worry or we can pray. We can stress or we can trust. We can lose sleep by trying to control their every step or we can rest in the One who is already in control of their lives, whether they are acting like it or not.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and popular author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, and her newest book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, upon which this article is based. For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.
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