It’s painful when your child wanders away from God. I’ve been there. I understand how much it hurts.
I hope this post encourages you to never give up on your child’s soul and to trust that the Lord will save or lead him or her back, at just the right time.
My friend Steve’s mother prayed for his soul for a very long time. As Steve wandered farther and farther from God, it must have been very painful for her. But she never stopped praying for Steve and his family.
Here’s what happened:
Steve Siniard casually tossed the new Bible his mother gave him aside, not even bothering to open it. As a rebellious fourteen-year-old, he had no interest in God at all.
Four years later, when his mother moved him into his dorm room in Tuscaloosa, she placed the Bible on his bookshelf. But he never opened it during his college years—not even once.
When he moved back home, somehow the Bible moved with him. He threw it into a drawer in his new apartment, but he never opened it—not even once.
Steve got married, took over his late father’s business and had two girls. Somehow the Bible stayed with him, move after move, but he never opened it—not even once—until April 1, 2001.
Early that morning, Steve found a notice on his desk. The bank was calling in his loan, leaving his company insolvent. In one day, he lost everything. As reality crashed down upon him, the truth about his life was painfully evident.
“I had squandered away my Dad’s company. I was irresponsible. Arrogant. My marriage was under great strain. I had no relationship with my mother. I did not know God at all. I managed to mess up every single area of my life.
I had to call my mother that day and tell her I had lost Dad’s company. I was utterly humiliated.
I drove around for hours in a daze. Finally, I ended up in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church on my knees, admitting to God that I was completely broken. I promised to get to know Him, but I didn’t know how. I prayed, Lord, please lead me to you.
Later that night, I couldn’t sleep. I paced back and forth alone in my den, not knowing what to do. And that’s when I noticed the Bible Mama had given me, still unopened on the bookshelf. We had other Bibles in our house, but curiously, I picked up the one Mama had given me, so long ago.
When I opened it, I was surprised.
Back in 1977, Mama had underlined key passages and wrote little notes to me beside them. Her message was timely, even 24 years later. I read the marked passages over and over that night, as if my life depended on it. Her highlighted verses and notes guided me through the darkest hours of my life.
The next day, Mama left a note for me saying: I’ve prayed for your soul since the day you were born, and I always will. Have faith; the Lord will take care of you. For 38 years Mama faithfully prayed for me while I wandered away from God, until I was ready for a relationship with Him. Thankfully, she didn’t push or badger me—that would have just pushed me further away from God. Instead, she prayed, not just for my outward circumstances, but for my soul.
And in her own loving, quiet way she led me to Christ.
I took baby steps at first, and even though I’ve stumbled at times, God has transformed me into an entirely different person. Now, my life is filled with purpose and joy. My marriage has been restored and I’ve rebuilt my company. I am active in ministry to others. Remarkably, the Lord even changed me from a rebellious son to a doting one. In the last years of Mama’s life, God enabled me to love and serve her like I never could before.
I’m so grateful Mama never gave up on me.”
While encouraging your kids spiritually can be rewarding, sometimes, honestly, it can be pretty frustrating. You may feel ineffective. Your efforts may seem fruitless. And your prayers may not be answered for a long, long time. But Steve’s experience reminds me—and hopefully, it will remind you, too—to keep on encouraging our children in their relationship with God. From Steve’s story we can learn:
That only the Savior can save a child—parents cannot.
How a parent’s Godly influence can have great, far-reaching value.
To never stop praying for a child—some answers come packaged in decades, rather than years.
Since the evil one wars against your children’s souls every day, they need a lot of encouragement. Be willing to share and to listen, humbly.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Ask your children how you can pray for their faith—their answers may surprise you.
- Be vulnerable. Tell them a little about your struggles and how God has helped or is helping you.
- Encourage your children to choose faith for themselves, not for you.
- Cheer your kids on in whatever they are doing for God, whether it be big or small.
- Dream, discuss and brainstorm about how they might use their gifts in God’s kingdom.
- Give your kids room to grow at their own pace (not yours) because being spiritually pushy might push them away from God—and away from you.
What ideas can you share? Please help other parents who want to encourage their children’s faith, by adding your thoughts in the comments section below.
This month, I wrote about 7 things to pray for your kids’ souls in Focus on the Family Magazine:
I’ve made this list into a FREE printable to give you specific things (with Scriptures) to pray for your child’s soul. Print it out and tuck it in your prayer journal. Send a copy with a card to strengthen another parent. Use it for a devo at church. And here’s a novel idea: Share what you are praying for your children, with your children.
Click here to get “7 Things to Pray for Your Children’s Souls.”
Thanks for generously sharing your story, Steve Siniard!