Prayer, Plain and Simple

What else can I do for my child?  Is my best ever enough? Writer and speaker Jennifer Schuchmann faces the sobering truth: she could never perfectly protect her son.  Jennifer wrote the following for a project she and I developed to help parents pray for their school-aged children. Jennifer and I have also written two books together, Six Prayers God Always Answers, and Nine Ways God Always Speaks.  Jennifer is also the author of the New York Times best seller, First Things First, a collaboration with Kurt and Brenda Warner.

We can do many things to protect our children, but bad things still happen. I have probably worried more about my son’s health and safety than I have anything else, but experience has taught me that I have little control over these areas even when I do everything right.

When my son, Jordan, started to crawl, he liked to be chased. One day we played that game on the kitchen floor. I pretended to chase him, he would see me coming and laugh and giggle while his chubby thighs tried to crawl away from me. From this unique vantage point, I noticed a safety hazard. A stray Q-tip was on the floor, if Jordan saw it, he would immediately put it in his mouth, so I picked it up to throw it away. Jordan interpreted my quick moves as part of our game and scrambled to get away from me as fast as he could, but his arms gave out and caused his chin to hit the floor.

 An innocent game of chase-me in the quiet of our kitchen turned into a quick trip to the emergency room as the blood gushed from his chin. After the doctor’s examination, I learned we had avoided a serious injury by only millimeters; Jordan’s new teeth had nearly severed his tongue. How does a child go from the safety and love of his mother’s arms to the straight-jacket used to tie him down in the emergency room? How could this happen when I was right there?

 Before I had a child, I often heard that same protestation from other mothers. “I was right there.” “Yeah,” I would think, “sure you were.” Jordan’s accident was proof that I was wrong. We want so much to protect our children from the things we fear most and yet we have little ability to do so. A healthy child can still get sick and the safest environment can result in an injury. Our ability to keep our children safe is inadequate.

I confess that I also didn’t know fear until the day Jordan arrived. Joy. Love. Those emotions I expected. Only the intensity of the feelings surprised me. But the fear of not being the perfect mom, of not being able to protect him, and of being unable to provide for his every need, surprised me. Some may think the word fear is too strong, they might use words such as worry, concern, or anxiety, but the feelings are still the same–the lack of control we feel over someone we love so deeply.

 These initial worries seem trivial or maybe even irrational as our children get older, but at each stage we continue to face new ones that seem insurmountable. Those first fears give way to new uncertainties in our children’s development. By the time our children are teenagers we’re less worried about who is breathing on them then we are about who takes their breath away. What are their friends like when we’re not around? Should they date that person? Why aren’t they home yet? How can I make them happy or keep them safe?

And once we faced the fact that we cannot control our world or our child’s world, what then?  Knowing the limits of our love can be the beginning of trusting God’s.  It is here at this point of honesty that we can turn to God to provide the protection we cannot.  If you are struggling with fears for your child’s safety, it is a time and an opportunity for prayer.

“God, I cannot control the world or stop all the dangers that threaten my child.  My arms too short and my eyes are too limited.  The world outside is full of risks, but you, oh God are both good and powerful.  I know you love my child even more than I love my child.  I ask you to provide the protection I cannot.  You promise in the Bible to be a shelter for those who ask for your help.  I ask now for you to shelter my child against the dangers around him/her.  I choose to turn my fears into an opportunity for my faith, now.”


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