By Kristine Brown, Crosswalk.com
“Dear Lord, please help me survive the teen years! Amen.”
If this prayer sounds familiar, you’ve most likely joined the ranks of the most resilient group of battle-ready warriors on the planet - parents of teenagers. Okay, so maybe we don’t always feel battle-ready while parenting teens. In fact, many of my prayers during the teen years resembled the desperation prayer above. It’s hard to find the right words to pray when your kids’ actions and attitude leave you discouraged. So when that discouragement sets in, how do we stay positive in our prayers?
James 1:6 says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” We want to be steadfast in prayer through our child’s teen years, young adult life, and beyond. We want to believe the best for them. But how can we ‘believe and not doubt’ when many times we’re just frustrated and tired of trying?
Thankfully we’re not alone in the struggle. A simple search for books about parenting teens on Amazon reveals 20 thousand results! That alone shows how many moms and dads long for answers as they navigate this unfamiliar territory. So take heart if you’re feeling more battle-weary than battle-ready today. We can not only survive, but embrace the teen years with a few valuable truths. These 5 tips will help us believe and not doubt when praying for our teens.Photo Credit: ©Unsplash-Artem-Maltsev
1. Instead of throwing our hands up in frustration, let’s persevere in prayer.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up,” (Luke 18:1).
I recall pacing through the house, praying fervently for my teen. I would make a couple extra laps around his bedroom, presenting my requests to God (Phil. 4:6). But as I prayed, I realized something: I was praying the same words as last week, and the week before, and the week before that. I became frustrated with not knowing what to say, or how to pray.
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus demonstrated the importance of persevering in prayer by telling the story of a widow who wouldn’t give up. She petitioned the judge in town again and again. She refused to stop until he ruled in her favor. And if an unjust judge responded to her persistence, how much more will God respond to ours? “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).
In our frustration, it’s easy to let our endurance fade. We may even feel like throwing our hands up in defeat. But we should never give up on praying for our teens. Not sure what to pray anymore? Consider asking your teen. I wonder how they would respond if we asked this question, “How can I pray for you today?” Their response may be just the motivation we need for our prayer time.
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2. Believe their unique qualities will one day channel into something remarkable for God’s glory.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Dirty dishes in their room, skateboarding without a helmet, wet towels on the bathroom floor, excessive talking at school. Those little habits can cause big aggravation, if we let them. In those situations, it’s important to remember that God uniquely designed our kids for a purpose. Their habits that drive us crazy today may be hints at the remarkable adults they will become.
In their book, So the Next Generation Will Know, authors Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace open readers’ eyes to the different ways the youngest generation (Gen Z) views the world today. McDowell writes, “When we truly love someone, we aim to understand that person. This is not only true for friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but it is especially true for the next generation of young people. If we truly want to love them, we must make the commitment to understand them first.” Realizing our teens will not always approach things the way we do will help us appreciate, value, and even love our differences.
Is your daughter constantly speaking out at school? The same character trait that gets her in trouble today could be the one that fuels her fire to one day stand for injustice. Does your son joke all the time and ignore his responsibilities around the house? The same trait that leaves his room a mess today may be the one that helps him handle stressful situations on the job with ease. So when we find ourselves nagging about these behaviors, let’s remember this truth. God gifted them for a special purpose. Focusing on His promises for their future will help us keep perspective in our prayers today.
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3. Look to verses of hope in this hard parenting season.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful,” (Hebrews 10:23).
As I stared down a life-threatening diagnosis last year, a long-distance friend mailed me a list of scriptures for encouragement. A typed-out list, on real paper, through the actual mail. That list became a life-line I turned to every morning as I prepared for another hard day. I would choose one verse, write it in my journal, and highlight key words of hope. I credit God’s Word for giving me the strength to get through the most difficult time of my life. His Words will offer the same hope in our toughest parenting seasons, too.
Hebrews 10:23 reminds us of God’s faithfulness. We can keep our hope in Him because we know He keeps His promises. Nothing comforts a hurting parent’s heart like the truth of Scripture. One of my favorites can be found in Psalm 112:1-2, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.”
Even when we can’t see an end to this hard season, God’s righteous right hand holds us (Isaiah 41:10). We can hold onto hope, knowing He will help us through it.
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4. Know that their struggles today may serve as someone else’s encouragement for tomorrow.
"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south," (Psalm 107:2-3 ESV).
From the time our babies are born, we do our best to keep them safe. We buckle them securely into their carseats. We hold their hand on that first trip down the slide at the park. We don’t allow them to go anywhere dangerous. But when they become teens, we discover we have to release some of that control we’ve had for so long.
I want the best for my child. So when she makes a decision I disagree with, instinct tells me to intervene. Take control. Stop her from making a mistake. But stepping into her situation could take away a much-needed life lesson. Because we all know from experience, adversity strengthens us into who God desires us to become.
So many times as a mom I try to mold my child’s circumstances rather than letting those circumstances shape who God wants her to become. Knowing one day she will be able to encourage others by sharing her story helps me pray with belief for a bright future for my teen.
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5. Does your teen know who God says they are? Let them hear it from you.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
Sometimes as Christian parents, we take for granted if our teens fully understand their identity according to God’s Word. We assume because we took them to Sunday school, they remember that God created them in His image. Or because we volunteered in children’s church, they know the depth of God’s love. However, in this world of information overload with differing viewpoints at their fingertips, these memories may have faded.
No matter their age, our kids are never too grown to hear the Truth about who they are in Christ. Teens are bombarded with criticism, pressure, and negativity at a crucial time in their lives. It’s easy for them to fall into doubt about themselves if they sense it from us. Let’s help them develop confidence in the person God created by speaking affirming words. Let’s allow them to hear us proclaiming God’s goodness over them. Our praise and positivity can be life-changing.
We cannot make our teens choices for them, and it’s not our job to do so. Our part is to be the godly example God intended. God has given us the greatest gift in allowing us to pray for our teens. Thank the Lord for this gift!
Let’s resolve to move beyond simply surviving life with teens. We will embrace the precious years we have with them when we learn to believe and not doubt as we pray. God only wants the best for them. Today let’s trade frustration for peace and doubt for belief as we continue in prayer for our teens.
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Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing insight with her readers in relatable ways. Her life experiences serve as a backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions at kristinebrown.net.