When you hold your little baby or teach your toddler how to pray, it’s hard to anticipate that one day they will grow up and be an adult. And as hard as that is to envision, your child does grow up and your role as a parent changes through many seasons over the years.
Praying for Adult Children
Learning how to pray for your adult children takes a change in focus and intensity. Your prayers change from protection of your tiny, fragile baby and young child, to praying for God’s guidance and leading in their daily decisions, knowing that you are not guiding those decisions in the same way.
The Bible gives us some examples of parents who prayed for their adult children. Probably one of the most well-known stories is the story of the father and the prodigal son. The story is found in Luke 15:11-32.
The Prodigal Son
The custom of the time was that the estate would be divided after the father died. So when this younger son came and asked his father for his share of the estate, it was sort of an “in your face” kind of request. He was not showing respect for his father and was clearly just wanting his money.
You probably know the story. The boy took all of his inheritance and set off to see the world. He “squandered his wealth in wild living.” (vs. 13) After he ran out of money, there was a famine so he was hungry and a long way from home.
He got a job taking care of a bunch of pigs. This was a very degrading and conflicting job for him because pigs were considered “unclean” back home.
He realized that he has degraded himself to be doing something considered wrong by his family and his religious community. He was working a terrible job and yet still hungry!
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)
Lesson #1 – Praying for a Prodigal
This father was watching for his son even while he was a long way off. He recognized his son even though the swagger and fine clothes were gone.
He saw his little boy through the tattered, dirty clothes. He saw him, ran to him, and threw his arms around him and kissed him.
When his son admitted what he did was wrong, the father called the servants to bring the best robe and the family ring and shoes. Then he called for a party.
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24)
This story is actually a parable and Jesus told this story as the third example in a series of three “lost” stories. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy.
No matter how far away the son had gone from his father and what was right, the father welcomed him back with open arms and a party. He put the best robe over his dirty clothes and covered up the filth. He was still his beloved son and he had come home.
This story gives us so much encouragement as parents. Not every child grows up to be a reckless adult who throws away what they have been taught.
But, as a parent, you know that your adult child is making their own choices to follow God or not. They are making lifestyle choices that align with the example you have provided, or not.
As an adult, your child, (and yes, they will always be your child), is thinking for themselves and may be trying things you wish you could shield them from.
But just like the father in the parable, your job as a parent is to continue praying for your child no matter what and to love unconditionally. God has not asked you to be their conscience. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.
But you can pray for the influences in your child’s life.
- Pray for the friends they make and the job they have.
- Ask God to put people in their daily path who will lead them and direct them to Jesus.
- Pray for their future or current spouse and their family.
Then stand back and watch for your child to come “home” again. Just like the father of the prodigal, be ready to welcome your child and celebrate with them. Even if your child hasn’t left, each decision they make to follow Jesus helps to direct the path of their life.
Do you have a prodigal child for whom you are praying? Learn how to specifically pray for your prodigal child here!
Lesson #2 – Pray Like the Persistent Widow
A few chapters later in Luke, Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should keep praying and not give up.
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” Luke 18:2-5
Even though this poor widow was up against big odds against her as a woman in a male dominated world, she continued to beg her cause. She is committed and relentless and isn’t afraid to ask, plead, and beg for answers.
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? Luke 18:6-8
Jesus used this story to remind his disciples that prayer is something that is continual. He does not get tired of hearing our prayers even when we are praying the same things over and over again.
When you are praying for adult children, do not get discouraged if you don’t see answers right away. Your son or daughter will undoubtedly make choices and decisions that you wish you could prevent. Know that your prayers on behalf of your child can be like this persistent widow.
How to Pray for Adult Children
- Pray daily for the salvation and eternal choices your child will make. Pray circles around them as you claim God’s promises for their life.
- Ask your child how you can pray for them. They know the needs they have and knowing that you are praying for those needs is a huge support and blessing.
- Pray persistently. You don’t have to kneel down and close your eyes to talk to God. Pray about your kids as you are driving, folding laundry, cleaning the house, or whenever God impresses them on your heart. God understands your heart’s cry so you don’t have to have the perfect words to pray.
- Commit to being a praying mom or dad and don’t give up. Make prayer for your children a daily habit. The more you pray, the more you will see God’s answers. When you pray on behalf of your children, it gives God permission to work in their lives.
- Use God’s word to pray for your child. Start collecting promises for the specific needs of your child and claim those promises as you pray for your son or daughter.
If you’d like some promises to get started, these scriptures to pray for your child will help you pray for specific areas of your child’s life.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
As you pray for your adult children, remember that God sent His Precious Son to die on a cross for your child and you. There is nothing He wants more than your child’s salvation.
When you pray for your child to follow God, you know without a shadow of a doubt that that is a prayer God wants for your child as well!
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16
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