Sometimes prayer feels elusive or uncertain leaving us unsure of where to begin or what to say. Parents and ministry leaders alike can struggle in regards to prayer, so we asked Jeremy Lee, Founder and Owner of Ministry to Parents to share with us how to pray for your children and teenagers guilt-free.
How to Pray for Children and Teenagers Guilt-Free
Since I was a child, I’ve struggled with guilt in regards to prayer. Every time I began to pray, I would either feel like I wasn’t doing it right or I wasn’t doing it enough. That struggle led to several seasons where I didn’t want to pray, or I felt very frustrated during my time in prayer.
These feelings only increased and multiplied when I became a parent.
I can remember attending wedding rehearsal dinners where parents would look at their son or daughter’s soon-to-be spouse and say, “We’ve been praying for you ever since our child was a baby.” I would think, “Oh my goodness. Did they pray for their kids’ future spouses every single day? What a dedicated and loving parent! Why can’t I do that with regularity?”
Please don’t misunderstand me! I do pray for my kids’ future spouse, but there’s always that voice in my head that tells me I’m not doing it enough! Have you ever felt that way as a parent?
Do you want to be that mother who is seen on her knees praying for her children when they come down for breakfast? I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I walked downstairs in the morning and caught my mom praying by her bed. She was there every morning.”
It’s not just moms! I’ve heard people share of the times they would walk in a room and see their dad spread out on the floor praying over the family, as well. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of parent, but I readily admit it is often a struggle.
In the matter of prayer, I wonder whether I let my family down.
Because of my struggle with this issue, I went in search of help. I met with some mentors and intentionally focused on growth in the area of prayer. I want to share five things I learned to help me move into a comfortable place in the way I pray for my family. Hopefully, this will encourage you today.
1. Prayer is not entertainment.
Prayer was never meant to be entertaining, but it can be incredibly powerful. Early on, I would get frustrated by my distracted mind or aggravated that I felt bored. Guilt would set in, and the cycle would repeat. I finally learned that those feelings are normal. Prayer is not supposed to be like watching a movie or a play where you’re entertained without working to keep your mind and heart focused.
Prayer is a conversation with an invisible God. That requires some effort to keep your mind and heart engaged. Rather than feel guilty about it, you need to invite yourself back into the conversation gently.
Why would you want or need to do that? Because prayer is powerful. That’s the motivation for prayer. I’m not going to pretend to teach you all the aspects of the beautiful reasons to pray, but I will share this important truth: Prayer is the moment when God invites you to be part of what he’s doing in the world. He gives his ear to you so that you can speak to him on behalf of yourself and others, to learn from him, and be involved with him. That’s a real relationship.
Prayer is powerful because it provides so many opportunities to connect with God. When I pray for my family, I can invite God’s power into their lives. That is worth my time, even if sometimes it seems boring.
2. God doesn’t grade your prayers.
For whatever reason, I have experienced a lot of anxiety regarding prayer. Whether it was insecurity over praying in public or concerns over my private prayer life, I would question whether I was praying correctly or effectively.
If this is a struggle for you, I encourage you to let it go and realize that a loving and gentle God wants to interact with you. He’s not up in the heavens writing a review of how well or how poorly you pray. You are free to engage God without the fear of performing or doing it incorrectly. You can just enjoy the experience. What an incredible gift God has given us! I pray that you accept it from him!
3. Some prayer is better than no prayer.
We all have the opportunity to create an ongoing conversation with God throughout the day. If this does not describe your prayer life, do not just freeze and quit.
Sometimes if we struggle with a task or skill, or when we fear we are not good at something, we tend to do nothing, rather than do it incorrectly. In the case of prayer, something is better than nothing. I’m growing towards this because I want to be able to enjoy it as I move through my life.
When it comes to prayer, just pray. Pray as often as you can, as much as you’re able, and especially when God brings something to your mind. Be willing to respond and pray for your family in any way you can. Position yourself to tap into God’s power through prayer. Begin by doing something rather than nothing.
4. You can grow in prayer.
God gives us room to grow. When you show up and make an effort in your relationship, God begins to provide you with the ability to grow. As believers, we think we should be prayer experts. That’s not true. If you want to make prayer a part of your daily conversation, you have the freedom to slowly and surely grow.
This is true in other areas of your faith journey, as well. As believers, we often feel we should be spiritual giants, and we’re disappointed when we fall short of where we think we should be. The invitation to journey with God in growth is the whole prize because we have the chance to work and walk with God in an area of life.
When it comes to praying for your family, be patient in the same way God is patient with you. Allow him to grow you in this area. By using that perspective, it allows me to calm down, relax, and walk daily through this process of prayer.
5. Your prayers don’t have to be perfect.
This was a huge revelation for me. As a parent, I have to trust that God sees and loves my kids, even if I don’t pray for them perfectly. God is not in heaven, turning a blind eye to my kids or refusing to do anything in their lives unless I pray and ask him. Please don’t misunderstand me. If I decide to engage God and pray for my kids, I’m inviting his blessing and protection in their lives in amazing ways.
I’m not saying that we don’t need to pray for our kids, but I am pointing to the grace and mercy of God. We, as parents, don’t accept full responsibility for the spiritual protection and provision of our kids. That is God’s job, and God will do his job even if we don’t do ours. That’s not an excuse not to pray for your kids, but it is a beautiful truth that gives permission to engage God and grow in this area if it doesn’t come easily.
Praying for our kids does two beautiful things. It helps us connect with God and grow in a relationship with him, but it also puts our kids and their needs close to our hearts–and God’s heart. Essentially, praying for our kids draws us closer to God and brings us closer to our kids.
I hope you see that prayer is something worth pursuing. Whether you find it awkward, or it is just an area of struggle, it is something worthy of engaging. However, please don’t live in guilt over your prayer life. Instead, choose to do something rather than nothing in the area of prayer and give God the freedom to grow and encourage you through the process. It is possible to pray for your children and teenagers guilt-free.
Jeremy Lee is the founder of Ministry to Parents, co-author of Pass It On, and has more than twenty-four years of ministry experience. He is passionate about helping ministers create strategic plans for connecting with the parents in their church. He lives outside Nashville, Tn with his wife Elisabeth and two sons. You can contact Jeremy at www.ministrytoparents.com.
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