As moms we know how important it is to pray with and for our children, but what do we do when the burden of life weighs heavy and the words simply won’t come or just don’t seem enough? In this article, Laura Fox reminds us of the Holy’s Spirit’s willingness to intercede for us when all we have is groans, and uses an adaptation of the Lord’s prayer for kids to offer a powerful and relatable mother’s prayer for her children.
It was my youngest daughter’s turn to pray her bedtime prayers, as is our nightly routine. Typically at the end of each day, we read a book, then we pray together. I pray first, then she does. Usually her childlike prayer is mostly sweet 3-year-old babbling punctuated by an emphatic, “amen.” She is simply a kid praying her words and sounds to Jesus; a child’s prayer.
However, this night was different. My girl was in an emotional state brought on by a reactive combination of over-tiredness and a freshly skinned knee. The dramatic wipeout happened on our kitchen floor just before bedtime when she was doing laps around the invisible home racetrack in slippery footie pajamas.
An Honest Lament
I prayed my usual prayer of general gratitude for a good day, and a request for a peaceful night’s sleep at a louder volume than usual in an effort to send my prayers up over the sound of her crying. But then, when it came time for my inconsolable child to pray, only two words came out between gasps for air and salty cheeks:
She wailed the last word as I rocked her and cuddled her. I kissed the Nemo bandaid in an effort to soothe her.
How many times have I cried a similar prayer? This hurts Jesus. Take the pain, Jesus. Jesus be near. Heal me. Jesus help me. Please, Jesus.
THE GROANINGS OF MOTHERHOOD
Prayers do not have to be long or eloquent. In fact, God’s Word says even our soundless inner groans are heard and interpreted by His Holy Spirit.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
When words fail us, God still hears. He fills in the blanks.
And the truth is, never have I groaned more than in motherhood.
A Difficult Task
First, there’s the groaning that comes with childbirth itself, breathing through each contracting arch. Next comes the exhausted groan of a rude midnight wakeup by squalling infant. Then the groan of breathless frustration when wrestling a freakishly strong, wiggling toddler during a diaper change.
Next is the groan of potty training accidents on your new rug. There’s also the groan of hearing the sound of a spaghetti bowl hitting the floor beneath the high chair. Or, there’s the groan of finding pen scribbles all over your couch. And, of course, the exasperated groan of a white-knuckle car ride listening to “Baby Shark”—again.
There’s the inward groan of the painful and unnatural walking away from your child—leaving them in the classroom on their very first day of Kindergarten. We groan beneath the weight of the many ‘what ifs’. What if their shoes come untied? And what if they can’t carry their lunch tray? What if they miss me?
Maybe it’s more of a growl that escapes between gritted mama bear teeth because another kid at school told your child they’re not invited to their birthday party. Or perhaps some classmate taught them the swear words—all of them.
Maybe it’s the inward groan of putting a mask on your child’s face because of ‘unprecedented’ times. Or the groan of yet another isolating quarantine. Maybe it’s the groan of fresh and unbearable grief.
A Weighty Season
I have felt incredibly helpless over the last couple of years, as seems to be the general consensus with many of my mama friends. I have found this year to be especially hard. As a military family, we are currently living split apart. My husband has been sent away on orders to far away training—for a very long time—months on end.
Honestly, the groan of my spirit when my children cry for their Daddy is excruciating at times. Along with this challenge, we are also learning to cope with the grief of watching my mother-in-law struggle through the deterioration that comes with being diagnosed with ALS.
How do I help my children endure being witness to the suffering of their once vibrant, and involved grandma? And more specifically, how do I endure it myself?
I am so weak. This life can be so hard, and I am often reduced to groanings. What can I do but pray? But what DO I pray for? What words are sufficient for the scope of prayers needed to adequately cover my children?
My prayers for my kids have often been reduced to bare bones—to short, clipped, desperate prayers—to soul groanings. I am the child praying to her heavenly Parent. Continually I am beseeching Him on behalf of my children and myself and my family and my world. In my weak humanity, I offer up a child’s prayer to Jesus.
FINDING COMFORT IN THE FAMILIAR
For someone who typically has a lot to say, when the deep love I have for my children collides with these seasons of threadbare and ‘too much’—I am rendered silent. My prayers become condensed. The truth is, more often than not the ‘praying without ceasing’ happens over the kitchen sink with the phrase, “God help me” on a repetitive loop from my heart.
Sometimes, even those few words are too hard to come up with, and when that happens I have learned to return to the familiar. I return to the script Jesus gave us for prayer: “The Lord’s Prayer.” Like a pair of worn, comfortable shoes, I trudge forward in the rhythm of the tried, the true, and the ancient.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).
The Rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer
These words offer me stability in a shaking world. My mind can find rest in the repetition.
But I’m a writer. Words are what I do. Even in the times where I experience prayer paralysis and fall mute, there are a multitude of words waiting to get out of me.
The silent groanings of my soul speak volumes in and of themselves and I can’t help but add my own embellishment, just as the ancient liturgists did when they wrote in the final Doxology line to the communal recitation that we all have memorized: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
In these days of groanings, these are the words I can’t quite seem to articulate into the silence, standing before my altar of the kitchen sink—Lord, hear our prayers.
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN
- Mighty God of the universe.
- All-powerful God of the galaxies swirling in space, and the freckles on my daughter’s nose.
- Omni-present God of the heavenly banquet table, and the crumbs on the kitchen floor.
- Majestic God of the rolling ocean, and of salty tantrum tears.
- Awesome God of mangers, and of toddler beds.
- Kind God of the overflowing cup, and of the glass half empty.
- Good God of the grandparents, and of the embryo.
- Compassionate God of the brave, and the child stuck at the top of the slide.
- Emmanuel God of early morning wake ups, and of small voices asking for more water long past bedtime.
- Omni-present God of labor pains, and postpartum exhaustion.
- Glorious God of birthday candles, and virtual funerals.
- Grieving God of the fallen, and those clamoring to their feet.
- All-knowing God of the future. God of the here and now.
- Gracious God of my children.
YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE
They are Yours. I too often claim ownership over them and declare Lordship over their every decision.
Help me to let them go.
Pry these squeezing tight fingers open. Meet me in my fear. Help my unbelief. Be near to me even in my lack of trust. I am often so willful. Often I only want my way. I believe I know what is best. Help me to trust in Your goodness, even when the circumstances of life don’t make sense to me. Let me believe that Your Kingdom is at hand. Give me eyes to see Your work in my kids’ lives. Help them to see it too.
Give me the courage to pray for Your will and to believe in Your unfailing goodness.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
Today may my child remember You. May the food they eat nourish their growing bodies, even if it’s just a frozen waffle and applesauce pouch. Give us the wisdom and strength we need for each moment. Equip me in Your Spirit to face whatever mess, tantrum, or complex situation that comes my way.
Help their shoes to stay tied, and their lunch tray to stay level. Please help them to remember to use soap when they wash their hands, and to take their daily multivitamin.
Give them a moment of marvel, where Your creation astounds them—catching them off guard and turning their thoughts to You. Help them to look at the sky and become aware of their smallness, and as their necks crane upward whisper to them with Your Spirit that they are big!
Give me just enough. Just enough patience. Enough grace. Just enough food. Enough sleep. May we rest in Your sufficiency—in Your ‘just enough-ness’.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
Forgive me for when I fall short. Please forgive me for yelling. Forgive me for scrolling my phone while my child hollers, “Watch this!” I run into my own incurable insufficiency time and time again, with each minor aggravation that drives me to lose my temper out of exhaustion and exasperation. Some days I live for bedtime, and then I feel guilty for resting.
First, forgive me for when I mess up. Make me humble enough to apologize. May my children see an example of repentance in me. Make me a reflection of Your forgiveness. Would they recognize quickly when they are in the wrong, and be willing to own up to it. May the words, “I’m sorry” be common in our household—not said in order to pacify or out of insecurity. But out of genuine contrition and humility secure in the depths of love.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
In the darkness of this world, may my children glow with Your light. May they not be overcome by any evil that comes against them. As they grow, may they also grow to have a supernatural ability to detect Your truth in the lies that will seek to deceive them. When they sin, let them not be consumed. May they recognize it quickly and seek deliverance through You, and the earthly tools You use to bring healing. In their own insufficiencies, teach them that only You are sufficient. And in You, they have all they need. Give them a deep understanding of Your peculiar and abundant grace, which will lead them to live a life free of shame.
May they know what Your presence feels like and return to it often. Holy Spirit, dwell within them and around them. Teach them to pray their own prayers—whether they be long prayers of poetic words, or short and to the point.
When this world brings pain, and grief, and suffering—Holy Spirit, hear their groans. May they remember the prayers of their youth. Would they remember the prayers of their mama. Finally, in their own threadbare and ‘too much’ seasons, turn to You even if all they can manage to utter is:
This is a mother’s prayer for her children. It is my humble attempt at bringing clarity to my innermost groanings. But there are not enough words in all of the languages of Earth to cover it all. Holy Spirit, fill in the blanks with Your celestial tongue, and we will rest in Your sufficiency.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
15 SIMPLE WAYS TO ADD JOY TO YOUR DAY IN LESS THAN AN HOUR
Need a little extra joy in your day?
Our team has put together this FREE printable for our readers to help you infuse joy into your life quickly. Enter your name and email below and we’ll send this fun printable right over!
Share This Post