By Aaron Wilson
I pray daily that my children will become passionate followers of Jesus. Outside of this plea, however, many of the prayers I make on their behalf tend to be of the “healthy, wealthy, and wise” variety.
While there’s nothing wrong with this, Scripture encourages the Church to go deeper, prompting believers to pray for the next generation in ways that—on the surface—seem downright strange.
Here are five counter-cultural things you may not have ever dared to pray over young people, but that God’s Word says you should.
1. “Let them honestly question the faith.”
In the Old Testament, God knew Hebrew children growing up around visual reminders of the law would at some point ask, “What’s the meaning of all this?” (Deuteronomy 6:20).
God readied Hebrew parents and adults to not shy away from such encounters. Instead, they were encouraged to lean into young people’s questions and use them as opportunities to shepherd.
God desires for young people to love Him with all their minds (Matthew 22:37). Thus, the church should pray for the next generation to be filled with questions that lead them to examine the evidence for God and the rationale for believing in the authority of Scripture.
Here are some effective resources to help churches and parents in this area:
- Why God: Big Answers About God and Why We Believe in Him
- So the Next Generation Will Know
- Cold Case Christianity for Kids
- The Case for Christ for Kids and For Students
- Apologetics for a New Generation
- Truth Matters Bible Study
- Mama Bear Apologetics
While some parents may bristle at the thought of their kids questioning why it is they should believe the Bible, this intellectual wrestling with God is one of the healthiest spiritual endeavors young people can engage in as they begin to embrace Christian beliefs and values as their own.
2. “Allow them to experience real need.”
It’s natural for parents to want to give their kids the world. But Scripture says if our kids receive everything they want at the expense of knowing Christ, they’ll suffer great loss (Mark 8:36).
In Proverbs 30:8-9, a man named Agur offers a peculiar prayer. He asks God to give him neither poverty nor riches. Agur’s apprehension about wealth is that he’ll be tempted to place false security in it and say, “Who is the Lord?”
The sweet spot for Agur is a place where he tastes the provision of God while still encountering regular needs which testify to his dependent state before the Almighty.
Agur’s proverbial advice encourages Christians to pray that the next generation will experience regular provision and real need. Both are designed to point to Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides.
3. “May not all people speak well of them.”
While Scripture encourages believers to seek a good name defined by godly character, it offers a warning about widespread popularity. This is because identification with Christ attracts hatred from the world.
In Luke 6:26, Jesus pronounces woe on people who are admired by everyone. And counter-intuitively, Christ says there’s blessing in being scorned on account of His name (Luke 6:22).
If our children are popular with everyone, it may mean they’re people-pleasers who shrink from the gospel and its polarizing message. A blessed life, as defined by Scripture, requires a bold love for Jesus that necessarily attracts worldly resistance.
At minimum, this will require that not all people speak well of our kids.
4. “Prepare them for a difficult life.”
This prayer may sound heartless on the surface, but it’s actually filled with love when one considers Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14. Here, Jesus describes two paths: one that leads to heaven and the other to hell. The road to destruction is easy to travel. Many walk this comfortable path unaware of its destination.
But the path to eternal life? Christ describes it with one adjective: difficult.
Jesus has already completed the arduous work of dying as a perfect sacrifice for sinners. Yet, He calls believers to daily respond to the gospel by taking up their crosses and following Him.
This is a difficult calling and is why Jesus asks would-be followers to count the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:27-33).
For Jesus, there’s no such thing as an easy life as a Christian. For this reason, we should pray for the next generation to run toward a hard life in light of the cross and the eternal reward set before them.
5. “Grant them dissatisfaction in this world.”
While God longs for His children to be content with His provision, He also desires they remain dissatisfied with this world in its current state.
Faithful believers remember they’re exiles in this world and long for their true home in heaven and on the future new earth. For this reason, the author of Hebrews says God is proud of His saints for this kind of heavenly anticipation and the active faith it produces (Hebrews 11:16).
There’s nothing wrong with praying for the kids and youth in our homes and churches to be happy. Indeed, Christians should be the most joyful people on the planet. But we should also pray for young people to seek their greatest happiness in the world to come.
This requires they live in a state of dissatisfaction that continually prods them toward heavenly promises. Two great resources for churches and parents on this topic are the book Heaven for Kids and Does God Want Us To Be Happy? (for youth), both by Randy Alcorn.
Mining the Scriptures for Surprising Prayers
This list contains a mere sampling of the kind of counter-intuitive prayers Scripture encourages the church to pray over the next generation.
As you seek the best interests of the children, youth, and young adults in your church, make an effort to mine the Bible for surprising ways you can prayerfully equip them for the radical journey of following Christ.
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor for Facts & Trends.