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    Tips for the Praying Parent

    Lessons in prayer and faith from a praying mom.

    Linda Gilden

    Mom, did I wake you up?"

    I'd already been awake for a little while that I'd already been awake for a little while that morning when my son called. But what surprised me was that he was awake. It wasn't unusual for Jeff to wake me with a phone call, but that was usually because, being a college guy, he'd call late at night, not the first thing in the morning. This was prime sleeping time for a college student!

    "No, I was already up. How are things going?"

    "During the inevitable bumps in the road, it's not usually a good idea to 'bail out' kids who've gotten themselves into a little trouble. But it's always important to pray them through those situations."

    "Well, I've had a pretty rough morning."

    "What happened?" I asked, trying to keep the maternal crescendo out of my voice.

    "I'm fine," he said, "but someone broke into our dorm last night and stole a bunch of stuff. They took all my credit cards and my new jacket."

    "Have you called your credit card company?"

    "I took care of all that. I'll be home this afternoon to get identification so I can get a new driver's license. Brad is going to drive me."

    That afternoon I sat around the table with my son and two friends.

    "Tell me exactly when this happened," I asked.

    "About 4:30 or 5 this morning..."

    tips for parents praying for their college studentI sat back a moment and thought about what he'd just said. I'd awakened around 5 that morning—about the time my husband was getting up for work. As I lay in bed, I'd been overcome with an urgency to pray for our son. Jeff was on my mind because he was nearing exams and had been very busy. I had no idea at that very moment there was a stranger or two in his dorm room pilfering his belongings. But God did. He knew my prayers were needed for the safety of my son.

    Having a child in college changes your prayer life. When we left our first child at college, we prayed for her as we drove out of the parking lot. That prayer was the beginning of many fervent prayers for our college children.

    The Prayer Connection

    The college years require "letting go" in many areas of our children's lives. They no longer need our permission to go somewhere. We can't monitor their moods or do whatever we can to assure their happiness. We can pack all the vitamins we want for them, but we have no way to know whether or not the tablets are swallowed.

    As my kids approached college age, I wanted a way to feel like a vital part of their lives, even though I knew it was time to let go. Praying often and fervently for them helps me do that. Even though I don't always know their specific needs—like during my son's incident—praying for my kids helps me entrust them to God, who knows exactly what they need.

    Many times I feel like I'm just throwing prayers upward—wondering if God is listening. In those times, I just have to trust in the promise that God really is listening and acting on my requests. Other times, though, I can truly sense God speaking to me as I pray for my children. This happened once when I was praying in the shower for my daughter. I was feeling desperate, like there wasn't enough happening spiritually in her life. I was begging God (again!) to get in there and do something. Suddenly I sensed God saying, "I am in control. I love her even more than you do. Rest in that." God's message was clear. And as I was praying for God to move in my daughter's life, he was working in mine.

    Prompted to Pray

    I'm almost always praying generally that my kids will see God's hand in their lives throughout all of the new experiences college life brings. But I've also discovered some "prayer prompts"—mental tricks that remind me to pray for a specific child or concern. Here are a few that may work for you:

    Close as my hand. I wear rings on the same two fingers. If I need to remember a special prayer need for one of my kids, I move one ring to a different finger. I also wear a "mother's ring" with my children's birthstones mounted in the setting. Wearing this ring reminds me to pray for them, especially during busy days or travel.

    Birthday prayers. I pray for my kids whenever their birthdays come around on the clock. This practice can help you remember to pray throughout the day. For example, if your daughter's birthday is February 6, say a quick prayer for her if you glance up and notice the clock says 2:06.

    Picture prayers. A simple photograph can be a great reminder to pray for your kids. If you're like me, you have already got plenty of those around your house. When your eyes land on one of those photos, take a moment to pray.

    Stick to it. Everyone at our house has a hobby or special interest. For me, placing a sticker that represents one of those interests on the calendar serves as a reminder to pray for that family member.

    Midnight prayers. Whenever I wake up during the night, I immediately begin to pray for my children. Sometimes I pray in chronological order, sometimes I go in alphabetical order, and sometimes I start with the one needing the most prayer at that time. These are among the most precious prayer moments I've experienced.

    When Life Gets Tough

    It's been hard for me to be away from my kids during some of the difficult times they've faced. But when I can't be physically present, I find that praying for them assures both of us that I am with them spiritually. That's been particularly important during situations where I'm still figuring out when to swoop in and "mother" them a little, and when to let them handle situations as young adults.

    When my kids have been sick, it's been hard for me to know when they need me to intervene and help arrange for their care, or whether they need to tough out the misery a little bit. As I've tried to make that decision by listening carefully over the phone, I've also prayed for the doctors and nurses who work on campus. I pray that God will guide them and use their knowledge as they treat my kids and the other patients in their care.

    If your college kids are like mine, occasionally they'll face a tough class, problems with a roommate, romantic ups and downs, and financial issues. Because they're becoming young adults, it's important to allow my kids to make choices and live by the consequences that result from those choices. During the inevitable bumps in the road, it's not usually a good idea to "bail out" kids who've gotten themselves into a little trouble. But it's always important to pray them through those situations.

    Sometimes, as in the case of my son's recent robbery, we will be prompted to pray though we don't even know why. But never fail to respond to God's gentle nudge to lift your college student up to him.

    One of the first Bible verses I ever learned was "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:12). For a child, it was easy to learn because it was so short. But I can now say from experience that there is no more important command, especially when you have a college student. Connecting with the Father on behalf of your college student shortens the distance from home to campus.