A friend whose oldest son was entering the teen years asked me if I had any parenting advice for her. I thought for a moment, searching for something profound to share, some pearl of wisdom that might help her sail more smoothly on the often choppy waters of adolescence. But all I could come up with was one word.
I remember feeling somewhat apologetic. Like I had disappointed her with the simplicity of my answer and lack of practical help. But the more I thought about it, I realized that that one little word really was the one big thing that had helped me through every challenge I had encountered as a mom of teenagers.
Sure, I prayed when my children were young. Back then, though, I was the one planning the play dates and calling the shots. The kids were never far from sight, or if they were, they were under the watchful eye of someone I knew and trusted.
With teens there were so many more variables and unknowns. So much was out of my control. And it seemed like every time I turned around I was being faced with a decision that needed to be made–now.
“Mom, can I spend the night at Amanda’s after the game tonight?”
“There’s this Halloween party Saturday night and EVERYone is going to be there. Can I PLEASE go?”
“Friday night this REALLY cool band is playing that I’d REALLY like to go hear.”
Help! First I would try to gather as much information as I possibly could about the situation. Who is going to be there? Will there be adult supervision? Would it be ok if we just locked you in your room until you turn 18? (Just kidding. But I will admit the thought has crossed our minds. More than once.)
But then what? What’s a mom to do when she doesn’t know what to do? I believe the answer is found in James 1:5:“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
It’s that simple. Ask God. Pray. He promises wisdom and guidance to those who ask in faith. The right path didn’t always appear instantly obvious, but, with His help, a wise decision could eventually be made. (Which would then be followed by even more prayer–before, during, and after the event!)
Other times it wasn’t a specific question needing an answer, but more of a vague uneasiness that would settle over my maternal spirit. Like Madeline’s Miss Clavel I would “turn on the light,” sensing “something was not right.” I believe the Holy Spirit was alerting me to a need or potential danger and prompting me to pray. Often I would discover that the child I was burdened for was indeed in the midst of some struggle and in need of my prayerful attention.“But I am in prayer.” (Psalm 109:4)
David spoke these words during a trying season when he was facing great opposition and oppression. When I have been overwhelmed by a difficult parenting challenge, or felt like we were losing ground in a particular battle, this phrase would encourage me to keep interceding for my children. Prayer really does change things. I have seen healthy relationships begin, unhealthy relationships end, sins exposed, and breakthroughs occur–all in answer to prayers I’ve prayed.
Joining with other like-minded moms in prayer has also been a huge source of strength and support during these years. My weekly “Moms in Prayer” (formerly “Moms in Touch”) group has been a place to share burdens and agree in prayer together. I always leave that time feeling lighter in spirit, less anxious, and more encouraged. Prayer has changed ME.
So perhaps I AM wiser than I thought when it comes to offering parenting advice. Or maybe I just know what to do when I don’t know what to do.