“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.”
One of the best things about being a parent is getting to watch your child grow up.
That’s also one of the hardest things, particularly when the paths our kids choose don’t line up with our vision for what their “happiness” is supposed to look like or when we aren’t really sure what God’s best plan is for their lives. We want our children to become the people God meant for them to be (“God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance”1), but the shape of this God-sketched design can take a lot of different forms. And as our grown-up children make decisions that will impact their future, our prayers for their well-being will be as varied and diverse as they are.
There is one prayer, though, that every one of our kids can use. It’s the prayer of blessing, and as we release our adult children into the grown-up world of colleges and careers and families of their own, this prayer represents a surefire way we can influence their lives and partner with God as He works to accomplish His good purposes.
Our adult children have different needs, but all of them can use the prayer of blessing.
In their book The Love Dare for Parents, brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick say that to bless someone means to “speak well” of that person. In family life, they write, it’s “a parent using their God-given authority to verbally affirm their children for who they are, while also encouraging and inspiring them toward future success.”2 There is no age limit on this kind of affirmation, and as I interviewed moms and dads for this chapter, I got a front-row seat into the way the prayer of blessing can lay the groundwork for God to move, even when our own hearts are heavy or we don’t see evidence of God’s provision.
One mom told me how sad she was that her thirty-four-year-old daughter was still single. “I want her to enjoy the gift of marriage,” she said, “and I know she wants that too. So I am asking God to provide a husband for her, but I am also thanking Him for the good things He has already poured into her life: her leadership skills, her honesty, her compassion, and even the fact that she is as comfortable working in a soup kitchen as she is attending a fund-raising gala in an evening gown!”
Recognizing the weight that words can carry (“The tongue has the power of life and death,” reads Proverbs 18:21), this wise mother looks for opportunities to highlight the ways she sees God using her daughter’s gifts and talents. As a result of this affirmation, the young woman doesn’t see herself as overlooked or somehow inferior to her married peers. Instead, she exudes joy and confidence, along with a healthy self-esteem that comes from knowing she is loved, and that her life has value and purpose.
Another mom shared her devastation when her college-aged son told her he was gay. “I searched the Bible to find anything that might convince me that homosexuality was not the sin I’d been taught it was,” she said, “but I couldn’t find any passages to support that view. I knew God loved my son as much as I did, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to say or do.”
Love him. That’s what this dear mama felt God whisper to her spirit. You can’t control your son’s choices or his lifestyle; leave that to me. You just love him. Emboldened by that God-given freedom to exchange her worry for trust, she took a straightforward approach to blessing her son. “I told him the same thing I would tell a heterosexual child: he should honor God with his body, not engaging in any sexual relationships outside of marriage. But I didn’t make my love conditional on whether he followed that advice. Instead, I let him know how grateful I was for things like his sense of humor and his intellect and for how I saw God using those gifts in his life. “I imagine that plenty of kids his age are experimenting with who they are, what they believe, or where they get their sense of identity,” she went on. “I’m praying that my son will find his identity in Christ, and that God will shape him into the man He wants him to be.” Here again, a mother’s words—and her prayers—created a climate in which love and faith could flourish and relationships could grow.
If it seems awkward to bless an adult child who is not walking with the Lord or who has made a choice that we believe runs counter to God’s commands, consider this: a blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. Rather, when we bless our children, we do the same thing that God does when he blesses us: He forecasts His favor and guides us toward the abundant life He wants us to enjoy. The prayer of blessing is an acknowledgment that we are not trying to control our children’s future; rather, we are handing that over to God and trusting Him to give them a vision for using
their talents and abilities, as well as a sense of purpose in life.
A blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. It’s a way of handing our children’s future over to God.
Poised for Prayer
One of the Bible’s best-known blessings is when God tells Abraham to leave his own country and go to a new land. “I will make you into a great nation,” God promises, “and I will bless you; I will make your name great . . . All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”3
The ultimate fulfillment of this blessing, of course, is found in Jesus, Abraham’s descendant and the Word who “became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”4 One of the things this Word-made-flesh promise says to me is that when we speak God’s Word over our children—taking the Scriptures and using them as prayers of blessing—we are literally covering them with the presence of Christ.
When our children were little, Robbie and I would tuck them into bed with a lullaby. Some were songs we had learned at church; others were just Bible verses we put to tunes we made up (using enthusiasm, or even volume, to bridge the gaps in our musical talent). Their runaway favorite was an excerpt from Psalm 139. The song didn’t have a formal title; the kids just called it “Presence.”
Here are the lyrics:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to Heaven, you’re there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Robbie and I didn’t know it then (and honestly, we were just trying to get the kids to fall asleep), but we were imprinting God’s richest blessing on their hearts and minds: the gift of His presence.
In the chapters to come, you’ll meet parents who’ve prayed their adult children through some of life’s hardest seasons, from broken relationships and financial setbacks to mental health challenges and addictions. The ability to sense God’s nearness, to be able to come into His presence and approach His throne of grace with confidence—in the good times, as well as in life’s long, strength-sapping battles—is what gave these parents hope. It’s what strengthened them. It’s what gave them joy, even when they could see no earthly reason to rejoice.
And that’s my prayer for all of us as we continue to love and pray for our children: that we would know the presence, and the grace, of God. It doesn’t matter whether you feel like you have done everything “right” (and now find yourself wondering why things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would) or whether you are all too aware of your failings (and now find yourself wondering if things will ever get better); all of us need God’s grace in our lives. All of us need His presence.
Pray God’s blessing—His presence—over your children. And as you do, “May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. May the Lord be with you.”5
Prayers You Can Use:
Let my words be helpful for building my children up according to their needs, so that what I say will be a benefit to them. —Ephesians 4:29
Give me a wise heart, so that my words will be gracious like a honeycomb, bringing sweetness and health to my family. —Proverbs 16:23-24
Let your presence go with me, and give me rest. — Exodus 33:14
For Your Children
Bless _______ and keep him; may your face shine on him. Turn your face toward ______ and give him peace. — Numbers 6:24-26
- Ephesians 2:10.
- Stephen and Alex Kendrick, The Love Dare for Parents (Nashville: B&H, 2013), 161.
- Genesis 12:1-3.
- John 1:14.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:16.
Excerpted with permission from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children by Jodie Berndt, copyright Jodie Berndt.
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Being a parent is one of the most important jobs on the planet. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a clear, black and white instruction manual on how to bring your children up and love them well? What an opportunity to lean into the Lord and pray for your kids through every stage of life. What are some of the areas you’re struggling as a parent these days? Come share on our blog!