A mother's heart, a child's will and God's divine direction become entwined when moms commit to praying for their kids. Long before my two boys entered high school, I prayed that neither of them would have a steady girlfriend until they could behave like gentlemen. I wanted God's will in this area of their lives. However, as my oldest son, Brian, entered high school, my prayers changed to mirror his longing for a dating relationship.
Brian didn't enter his first steady relationship until he was a senior. Perhaps I would have been more at peace during his high school years if I had kept in mind the broader picture of my son's well-being, shaped by God's infinite wisdom and perfect timing, instead of my son's dating angst. As parents, our desire is often for our children to succeed in the moment. That desire isn't necessarily bad, but it can cause even a noble prayer to evolve into a misguided request.
It isn't that we don't love God, but rather, that we are constantly bombarded by earthly ideals — and we unwittingly succumb to them. Yet to pray with an eternal, rather than momentary perspective, we need to come alongside what God is doing rather than require that He come alongside our shortsighted desires.
Desire and Expectation vs. His Will
As I've chatted with other praying moms, I've found I'm not alone in learning to trust God's will while I pray for His intervention in my children's lives. My friend Robin prayed for her son Dustin, a high school football star, who had the hope of becoming a college quarterback. Robin knew her prayers were not empty words lifted to a capricious deity but to a loving Father. Yet Dustin's hope of becoming a first-string college quarterback turned into a second-string reality.
When God answers "no" or answers in a way we don't expect, we see that His way is not always our way. Since He has given us free will, we can respond by submitting or rejecting His sovereignty — following or turning away from Him. And if we ignore His direction, our rejection of His sovereignty steals our ability to rest in His peace and hinders us spiritually.
Robin's prayers had revolved around when Dustin would play so her perception of prayer was challenged because God didn't answer in the way she expected. But prayer isn't about getting what we want or influencing God to act according to our finite plan. Prayer is about trusting that God knows best, and His work in our lives reflects His all-knowing perspective. God wants to meet our kids and touch their hearts wherever they find themselves and in whatever decisions they make, good or bad.
Over time, Robin realized that the problem wasn't really about Dustin's rank on the field or team. It was a problem of the heart — her son's bruised ego. "So I changed my focus," she says, "and prayed for the Lord to move in Dustin's life. Today he understands that real victory doesn't come from being on a football field, but from loving the Lord."
An Eternal Prayer Perspective
Christie Love, the executive director of LeadHer, a ministry focused on helping women make a godly impact on the world, says, "When we have the honor of lifting up others in prayer, we have to approach God with hands that have been emptied of our own agendas, expectations and goals." Praying for earthly blessings at the expense of godly direction hinders our ability to walk in God's peace as He reveals His plan for us — and for our kids.
Christie goes on to explain, "Effective prayers are emptied of selfish motives and seek the will of God in our lives and the lives of others." The difficult part of prayer is marrying our earthly perspective with that of an eternally minded God. His perfect will may not always reflect what we envision when we pray, but His answers help us understand Him better, often through challenging our finite perspective of who He is. And His answers show us how to redirect our steps, when that's necessary.
As praying parents, we are on a journey that helps us learn more about God and how to pray. And as with everything else, we can take our lead for praying from an eternal perspective from Scripture.
• In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed for another way but added, "Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). He prayed from the heart, but asked for the Father's will above His desires.
• When Jesus predicted His death, Peter was adamant that it wouldn't happen. Jesus immediately reprimanded Peter to let him know he needed an eternal perspective: "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Matthew 16:23). God wants to replace our earthly motives with an eternal perspective.
• Paul urged us to pray in all circumstances. Then "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). Paul encouraged us to pray expectantly, but to submit to His best for others and us. Then true submission is evidenced by His peace in our lives.
************Shona Neff is a freelance author and a client/advocate mentor for the HOPE Pregnancy Center.