‘Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children’
People sometimes ask me why I like praying the Scriptures.
There are lots of reasons, but a big one is because Jesus said, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, as whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
That’s John 15:7. And it’s not some sort of name-it/claim-it guarantee that just because we slap a Bible verse on top of prayer request, God has to do it. Instead, I think what the Lord meant was that the more we dig into the Bible—the more we read it and think about it and let it soak into our souls—the more out thoughts will begin to line up with God’s, and the more our prayers will reflect what he wants to do.
I have four adult children and two sons-in-law, and I’ve lost count of how many of God’s promises I’ve prayed over their lives. I’ve asked him for wisdom, safety and protection, good friendships, marriage partners, and so much more. I’ve even covered things like the bickering in the back seat with verses like Ephesians 4:29: Lord, let no unwholesome talk come out of my children’s mouths (or mine!), but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.
Each year, usually at the end of December, I spend some time thinking about each one of my children, about where they are spiritually, socially, emotionally, physically, and all that. I ask God to show me what they need, or what he might want to do in their lives, and then I keep a lookout for a verse that I can turn into a prayer for the coming year.
For instance, back when our son Robbie was a kindergartner, he wound up in the principal’s office. My husband and I knew our son was an athlete; what we didn’t expect was that he’d be willing (and able) to hit just about anything—a baseball or a classmate—with surprising dexterity. Things like wisdom and self-control seemed to be hopelessly absent from his character and, after a series of depressing parent-teacher conferences, I was ready to buy the boy his first pack of cigarettes and let him loose on a street corner, since I figured he’d wind up there, anyway.
That was the year I turned to Proverbs 23:23-24 for help. Here’s what I prayed: Help Robbie to get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Let him be the righteous man who brings joy to his parents, the wise son in whom we delight.
As the months went by, we began to notice little changes at home (Robbie’s sisters, for example, stopped flinching when he walked by), but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw on the teacher’s report at the next conference. Reading upside down, I could see what looked like a big, fat “zero” right next to the word “Behavior.” I wanted to cry. But then the teacher flipped the paper around. She told me that she’d been blown away by the turnaround in Robbie’s classroom conduct: “I gave him an O for Outstanding,” she said. “He’s really become a bright spot in the class.”
I did start to cry then. And I’d cry even more right now, if I wrote out all the ways that God has answered that Proverbs 23 prayer in my son’s life. It hasn’t been a spotless journey from anger to self-control (a few of our friends still love to tell the story of when he got ejected from a lacrosse game as a nine-year-old), but it has been an incredible one. Today, as a college student, Robbie has truly become a righteous man who brings joy to his parents. And it’s not because of anything we did (I was the one with the cigarette plan, remember?). It is all because of God’s faithfulness.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s word is “alive and active,” and that when it comes to penetrating our thoughts and attitudes, it is as sharp as a sword. Isaiah 55:11 says that when God’s word goes out, it won’t return empty but will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sends it. These verses—and others like them—help flesh out the John 15:7 promise, that as we use God’s Word to animate our prayers, good things happen.
What good things? We get things like wisdom and self-control, sure, but that’s only part of the picture. The real answer, I think, is couched in the very next verse, John 15:8. When we allow God’s word to dwell in us and shape our prayers, we bring glory to God, our lives become fruitful and productive, and people will know we love Jesus.
As a parent who wants God’s best for my kids, I can’t think of a better outcome—or a more valuable legacy—than that!
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jodie Berndt is the author of several books, including Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, and Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (HarperCollins/Zondervan, December 2017). She and her husband, Robert, have four grown children and two sons-in-law. A speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie encourages readers to pursue joy, celebrate grace, and live on purpose. Find her writing at JodieBerndt and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook