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"How Can I Pray?"
by Barbara Smith

Christian parents, who have given their children so much, are amazed to see many of their children literally chuck all their labors of love and devotion. The temptations our children face are horrendous . . . and the consequences for failure to overcome them have compounded. An unplanned pregnancy can end in diseases whose names we can barely pronounce or death. Sneaking a smoke, getting high, shoplifting, hacking, even driving fast are the essentials of our teens' vernacular, not the exception.

We can't keep them from temptation, but we can pray for them to be discerning and strong in the Lord to resist when we can't "police" their choices. We can pray for them to have pure hearts and clear consciences.

How do we pray for our children, though, when they "mess up" big time? What do we pray when they not only chose wrong but persist in it?

Moses faced this predicament. He was late getting back to the people and they could not wait to "worship" in Exodus 32. Peer pressure prevailed among the children of God and suddenly the unthinkable became a distinct possibility because Aaron wavered. They took what God had specifically provided for them, what their former masters gave them when they left Egypt and gave it to a false God. (Exodus 3:22)

God's people exchanged the Truth for a lie, and Aaron compounded it! (Exodus 32:4-6)

Did God know? Yes. He told Moses about the problem: obstinate people; and the solution: wipe them out pronto; then establish HIS man, Moses. Now, Moses had a problem with this. While he would have lost a wife and children and a brother, his concern was deeper. Considering what Moses's attitude for the rebellious behavior was can help us when we wrestle in prayer for our children. (That's wrestle "for" not "with.")

Moses, who had talked face to face with God, now beseeched God for His people not for their welfare, but for the sake of God's reputation. In Exodus 32:11, Moses reminded God that HE had *made* each person who was now troubling and offending HIM. Then the Egyptians could seize on His destruction of His own people as proof that HE were no different from their cruel and demanding idols. Finally, Moses reminded God of His promise His servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel that their descendants would possess the land.

So, Moses prayed for the people who deserted his Friend. (Exod. 33:11) And the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Nothing is more exasperating, heartbreaking and discouraging than the parent who discovers the child squandering God-given resources: his or her mind or health, talents, or time. We shudder to see our children dissipate their gifts before worthless idols of peer pressure or personal indulgences. These emotions can defeat our prayers for our children.

Whatever our children's offenses are, if they have sinned, they have first offended God. Whatever restitution their offenses might entail, we must pray that God enables them to seek HIS forgiveness first.

But did you notice . . . ?

When Moses prayed for God's people, he did not differentiate himself from them. God's people blew a fortune of gold jewelry on a worthless idol. In time Moses ground it up into a fine powder, spreading it over the water, that he made the sons of Israel drink. Then, those silly people eliminated their riches! However, Moses knew what it was to be carried away with passion. (Exodus 2:11) And Moses believed that God who formed his faltering lips could form a holy nation from unholy vessels.

So, when I pray for those who are wandering and wayward, I have a pattern: remember and believe God. Moses' prayers were compassionate, pleading the cause of those who could not plead for God's glory and for His word to be revered. He did not demand retaliation but asked for restoration. His prayers "changed" God's mind.

When our kids "fail," -- when we fail -- restoration isn't what any one of us deserves. Nevertheless, restoration is what God has done in Christ.

Haven't I done the same stupid things that Israel did? Haven't I used that which God gave me in foolish idol worship? My time How well do I manage my twenty-four hours? Well enough to spend a half-day in prayer? My money How much will I be sending to the hurting folks in Central America? My health ?

Do my excuses sound as lame as Aaron's (Exodus 32:21-24)

God dealt with those who had sinned against Him -- and asked Moses keep to the task He had assigned Him. When He gives us the responsibility to care for those who opt to go out of control, we can give the responsibility for their well-being *back* to Him.

O Lord, Your righteous anger burns against my child for his or her sin.

Yet Father, it was You who knitted him or her
together in their mother's womb.
YOU knew, from the foundations of the earth, the flaws in their hearts
that would threaten to destroy them;
and yet You preserved their life until this day.
O Holy Father, who has made a way of escape
from Your justified wrath by the only Way
Your Son Jesus Christ,
Have mercy!
The same mercy that You have shown me
when I have erred and strayed, like my lamb who now wanders.
Keep me from willful presumption upon Your mercy,
and make me mindful of my mission
To pray for Your child, who You have so graciously lent me.
For Your glory and YOUR purposes, remember Your promises.
Extend Your Kingdom and enfold my child for Jesus' sake.

© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)


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