by Rondi Lauterbach
I didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to pray for each one of my children’s future spouses from the moment they were conceived. The mainline church in which I was raised didn’t think in those terms. But my neglect shocked the young moms in the evangelical church my husband pastored.
“Your children are all married to believers?” One wide-eyed young woman enthused. “How wonderful! When did you start to pray for their future spouse?” She paused thoughtfully, “We’re not going to start a family for a few years, but I thought I might start praying for that now.”
I assured her that it’s never too early to pray for your children. But I also let her know that I honestly hadn’t thought about it until their teen years, when circumstances brought the need to my attention. She looked concerned. Then mystified.
“How did they marry so well, then?” I recognized the legalism in her question, the same legalism that easily slips into my heart. “Grace. Pure grace. God has always kept our children better than we have prayed for. Isn’t that great news?”
She paused. Then nodded slowly, a smile spreading across her face.
Never Too Late
It’s never too early to pray for our children. But it’s also never too late.
That’s because our heavenly Father wants us to place our trust in him, not in our prayers. This makes perfect sense if you think about what prayer is. Prayer is simply faith expressed. Prayer takes our hopes and fears for the future and puts them right where they belong—squarely on God’s almighty shoulders.
Because Christ has opened the door wide into our Father’s presence, and Jesus himself leads the way, it’s never too late. Because the Spirit helps us when we don’t know what to say, it’s never too late.
In fact our God is so eager for us to pray, that Jesus instructed, invited, and even bent over backwards to encourage his disciples—including us— to pray:
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1)
Called to Pray for Our Married Children
It was actually after our kids were all married that I felt a strong urge to pray for them. You see, I didn’t assume they were “safe.” In a world of sin and sorrow our children—even our adult children—can walk away from the Lord. The most devoted spouse, believer or unbeliever, can lose interest. Vows, pledged with great sincerity, can be broken in one blow or in a slow crumble.
What should I pray Lord? They had promised “before God and these witnesses” to love and cherish each other until death parted them. So I began to pray that their love would not just remain, but grow.
C.S. Lewis gave me the template in his book, The Four Loves. These categories—affection, friendship, passion, charity—began to shape my prayers.
- Affection—When the newness of married life begins to mellow into comfortable familiarity, you start to fit together like a favorite pair of slippers. But the down side is that the ordinary things can start to annoy you. Why does he clink the spoon against his teeth like that when he eats? Why does she drape her clothes over a chair day after day until it eventually falls over? Affection can morph into contempt.
Lord, please help our children love each other in their daily habits and routines. Renew them in a genuine affection, that covers a multitude of annoyances.
- Friendship—When you are working side by side towards a common goal, the love of friendship grows. It is an equal partnership—you might be better at money while he is better at relationships. You divide the work accordingly. But the down side is when it becomes all about work, without the partnership of play.
Lord, please help our children’s friendship grow as they share times of work and play. Bless their partnership with a sense of intentional teamwork as well as enjoyable rest. Help them know when to do each.
- Passion—When you express your love to each other physically in the divinely guarded privacy of the marriage bed, passion—eros—grows. It is a private journey where love increases because of the treasure of shared experiences. But the down side is boredom, which starts by taking each other for granted outside the bedroom.
Lord, please bless our children’s passion so that it becomes a growing and deepening physical expression of the unity you created when they said their vows. Fill the treasure chest of their love and make their union sweet and resilient.
- Charity—When you express your obedience to Christ in your marriage, you are crowning it with charity, the closest approximation of God’s own love to us. This is servant love—servant submission for the wife, servant leadership for the husband. Both are hard work. Both are uncomfortable. Both call us beyond “doing what comes naturally” into “doing what can only come supernaturally.” But the down side is when the roles lose their connection to Christ and his church.
Lord, please bless our children as they practice the steps of this new dance. Help them to grow in the skills of leading and following so that their lives become beautiful to those around them.
It’s never too early, or too late, to pray for our children. Place your burdens on God’s almighty shoulders.
Rondi Lauterbach is a pastor’s wife who has been a friend and encourager to women in their life’s callings. She is a mother, grandmother, Bible study leader, Pilates teacher, and fierce competitor at all board games. Her journey to find true satisfaction for her own hunger began during her struggles to navigate life through marriage, babies, cross-country moves, and ministry. Her book, Hungry: Learning to Feed Your Soul with Christ (P&R Publishing, 2016) now comes with a video series.
Cover photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash
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We can so easily take something that is a good and helpful concept, like praying for our children’s spouses, and turn it into a “must” or a formula for success. Then we fear that our children’s whole future is going to implode because we didn’t pray “right” or enough or specifically, and we forget God’s promises grace and guidance. And you’re so right that concern and prayer for their relationships shouldn’t stop at the wedding. Thanks for sharing this perspective and helpful ways to keep praying.
Very encouraging post – thank you so much, Randi.
I really appreciate this. I am going to use these prayers with my grown children. Thank you so much for sharing. I had to smile that you didn’t get the memo. I did start praying more regularly for my childrens spouses after Wayne Watson’s song, “Somewhere in the world.”Do you remember that one? It was a privilege to be able to pray for them and you are right – it’s not a formula. I’ve thought a lot about prayer and have come to understand it’s more about us that it is having the right words.
Great reminder that it’s not about following a set of rules or steps, but it’s all grace! The Four Loves prayer template is so helpful. Thanks!
I have prayed for my sons for years, often using Scripture verses/passages. Though neither of them are married your essay is challenging me to pray for them in some new ways. Thank you!