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Avoid This Mistake When Praying for Grown Children

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

For years I avoided reading the book of Job because I was afraid I would contract some of his suffering. I knew enough about his story to have zero envy of the wealth and success he enjoyed before and after his period of suffering.

Then I spent a week focusing on Job for my Bible study class during my children’s teen years. I’m now a fan of his because of what I learned about God and about Job’s prayers for his grown up kids. The timing was right for me.

As any parent knows, endless frightening possibilities force us to pray. Teenage driving, coed parties, international mission trips, or carefree backpacking in national parks are out-of-our-control scenarios that send us to our knees.

When our six children left the nest and moved away, I discovered I wasn’t “in the know” anymore. I no longer heard daily accounts of my kids’ activities and events once they went to college and then married. I no longer knew their friends, where they were, when they left or arrived back home to their dorm or house.

It was a great loss … a time of learning to trust God in new ways as their mom. I learned to pray differently, now that I didn’t have details.

With 10 grown children, seven sons and three daughters, Job felt what every mom or dad feels today. The seven brothers hosted big feasts on their birthdays every year and invited the siblings, including their three sisters. Job wasn’t invited. But he knew they went all out with great food and fine wines.

Even though he missed out on the fun, Job developed a routine, a habit of prayer, to exercise when he knew the party was over and everyone was traveling back home. The focus of Job’s prayer was for the hearts of his children. Not their success, wealth, or accomplishments. His prayers weren’t selfish and temporal focused but were holy and eternally focused. Look at Job 1:5:

“And when the days of the feast had run their course … he would rise early and offer burnt offerings for the number of them all. For Job said [he prayed], ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’”

Interceding before the Judge of the universe, Job confidently and faithfully went before God because as a parent he loved his children and knew it was best for them to follow God all their lives. My husband and I often pray prayers like Job’s for our grown up kids. We also bring other requests to God about qualities and values that line up with our Father’s:

  • Lord, help them always be quick to forgive, quick to ask for forgiveness, willing to do the hard work of relationship building and relationship restoration. (based on Ephesians 4:29-32)

  • Father, guide our children in your ways. (Psalm 43:3)

  • Lord, give them wisdom and understanding as they make decisions on school choices, career choices, marriage, and parenting. (Proverbs 2:1-11)

  • Protect them, Lord, from the temptations of the world and from the evil that wants to destroy. (James 4:1-8)

  • May they be like Job … faithful to You, Lord, no matter what befalls them. (Job 1-2)

  • Lord God, I pray my children, their spouses, and our grandchildren would grow to love Your Word with their whole hearts so they might remain pure.” (Psalm 119)

But as you pray, here is an important caution: Ask your adult children for specific needs to pray about for them. And if they are willing to share those with you, don’t share those requests with others, even your prayer or Bible study group or friends. Once your children leave your home to live their own lives, their lives are their own to share as they wish with whomever they wish.

This is hard to learn for parents who, as their kids were growing up, found comfort at ballgames, church foyers, and prayer groups sharing challenges with other moms and dads with similar experiences. We found camaraderie, sometimes a few laughs, and encouragement that our kids weren’t the only ones doing something that drove us crazy!

But when they turn 18, the rules change.

Respect your adult children’s need to make their own way, to grapple with the issues, morals, and cultural complexities of their generation. Give them space to learn and grow just as you did.

Remember, we are on this spinning planet for His agenda and His purposes. As Job did, line up your prayers for your children with God’s desires. As Jesus taught us, pray, “Thy kingdom come,” a request for Him to reign in your children’s lives and your own.

For encouragement on teaching younger children to pray read Teaching your Elementary Kids to Pray and Teaching Little Ones to Pray.

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