It is never too early or too late to seek God’s wisdom about a [adult] son’s or daughter’s difficulties or needs. This kind of prayer unleashes God’s power in ways we don’t always understand, any more than we understand how electricity works. We need to connect ourselves to the power of God’s love often, even when we don’t see results. And we need to work at making Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, the Lord of our worries.
First, ask the Father to intervene in a son’s or daughter’s life, especially if their situation is not in line with the message of God’s love and our redemption in Jesus. The Father is concerned about their well-being and will respond. Ask God to show you how he is already at work in their situation.
Second, ask God to send the Holy Spirit into their lives as a guide. Ask for the help they need to recognize God’s guidance.
Third, ask for the gift of understanding. Let go of your opinions and your desires to solve their problems. Our goal is to offer up our children to God and let Jesus do the “heavy lifting.” It is a rare adult son or daughter who can accept a parent’s unsolicited advice without feeling threatened.
Fourth, ask for God’s help in choosing just one detail to pray about. We must let go of knowing God’s whole plan for a loved one’s life, because their needs can easily get tangled up with our own.
Fifth, speak in ways that affirm your son or daughter. Ask respectful questions that will give you better understanding, such as “Could you tell me more about . . . ?” or “Have you ever thought about . . . ?” Act or serve in ways that reflect God’s love and that utilize the fruits of the Holy Spirit—peace, joy, patience, and understanding. These fruits of the Spirit may not always come naturally; you will need practice.
An Example of Surrender Prayer
Let’s follow our friend Russ through these steps for seeking God’s wisdom. At one time, his daughter, Alice, fled her home with her young son, Jeffrey, because her alcoholic husband had become verbally and physically abusive. Of course, Russ’s first prayer was for the safety of his daughter and grandchild. But after the immediate crisis had passed, Russ had no idea how to pray for her. “Should I pray that her husband, Howard, enter a twelve-step program?” he wondered. “Should I beg Jesus for reconciliation between them? Should I pray that Alice have the strength to divorce him? Show me how to pray my way through this mess.”
Step One: Watching for God’s intervention was difficult for Russ. He prayed, “God, show me how you are already working.” Then he reexamined the events of the previous week. As he did, Russ began to thank Jesus that Alice and Jeffrey were now living in safe emergency housing and that Howard had been given a chance to face his behavior and had already received family encouragement to get help.
Steps Two and Three: Russ asked the Holy Spirit to help his daughter know what to do next. “Send her someone who will befriend her in the ways that she needs. Send her good advisors. I offer her to you. I offer myself to you and then to her in the ways that you show me.” He also began reading a book about alcoholism and its effects on family life.
Step Four: Russ prayed, “I need your wisdom about how to pray, Jesus. Show me one specific thing I can pray for.” Then after talking with his daughter, Russ began to pray for a more permanent living situation for Alice. At first it seemed as though God wasn’t listening. Alice’s finances presented a huge roadblock to renting. But after a few weeks, God intervened through some good friends. They invited Alice and Jeffrey to move into their oversized spare room. It was just what Alice and her son needed. So Russ was free to move on to praying for the next thing that God would show him.
Step Five: The next time Russ spoke with Alice, he said, “Wow! God must really love you to give you such good friends.” Then he rearranged his schedule so that he could visit his daughter, affirm her choice of a new home, and thank Alice’s friends in person.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
When you pray with an eye toward God’s step-by-step plan, you will become more confident about the Father’s ongoing care for your sons and daughters. You will realize that the Spirit of God is working even before you realize the need to ask. No matter how far your children might be from God or from the Church, you will begin to see the Holy Spirit working to change their hearts or to change situations that keep them from his love.
If you don’t see results, and if God’s love for a son or daughter seems to be invisible, resist the temptation to stop praying. Instead, you may want to intensify your prayer by dedicating yourself to spending more time in daily prayer, to a day-long retreat, to daily Mass, or to sacrifices like fasting. Any of these additional prayer decisions can be avenues for acting out your belief in the Holy Spirit, who is the heart and soul of prayer.
Read more helpful advice about interceding for your children from John and Therese Boucher in their book Praying for Our Adult Sons and Daughters: Placing Them in the Heart of God (The Word Among Us Press, 2012). Available at wau.org/books