“Back to school” has been blaring at us from every media outlet.
Ready or not, it’s here.
We attempt to lay aside, at least mentally, the sand buckets and surf boards of summer and focus on pencils, notebooks, backpacks and whether jeans this year should be boot cut or skinny leg.
Or maybe we leave those details up to Mom. As dads we tend to focus more on whether the dollars are in the account to pay for it all.
All the back-to-school supplies and equipment and outfitting is important in its way, but there is another area where our kids need to be equipped to face school—the spiritual department. No matter our particular worldview, we definitely want to be engaged dads here, not leaving this all up to their mothers.
How do we send them back to school ready to juggle the issues of friendships, temptations, values, and life-altering decisions? No stores offer sales or promise rebates on these items.
We can set good examples, steer them solid in terms of friendships, talk and listen as they work things out in their own minds, get them into a good youth program at the nearby church, and do what we can to ensure good influences.
But mainly what we can do is pray.
A good place to begin
If the idea of praying for your children is new to you, praying for them when they go back to school is a great place to start experimenting with prayer. After all, it’s almost instinctive to yell a silent “help” to God at critical spots in your child’s life. A personal prayer life can begin right there with that one word.
My 10-year-old asked me to pray for her in a way so practical that I would not have considered it. Facing a challenging hike with her classmates, she asked, “Would you please pray that I’ll be able to keep up?” Okay, I can do that.
I can pray she’ll keep up to her peers, and if not on every trail, that she’ll keep up to the plan of wise living, and to the high standards path for her as an individual.
There are a lot of good things in our schools, but I admit some things unnerve me. I see bits and pieces of curriculum I don’t agree with. Relationship challenges unsettle me. Peer pressure is all too real. And if I’m concerned, how do they feel?
I recall that Daniel of the Bible, as a teen, had no choice but to learn the literature and wisdom of Babylon, a culture not known for its teen-friendly agenda. But he became a model student, and then rose above it to his own higher calling.
So I send my children among this generation of youth back to school with this prayer:
God, may our young ones be strong, but not tough.
May they be wise without being cynics.
Surround them with high fortress protection, but prevent them from crawling into a shell.
Grant a sense of humor to buoy them over hard situations. Give them that trick of phrase to joke their way out of awkward corners.
Give them clean minds and bodies, with determination to keep them so, without a holy-joe aura.
Give them caring hearts for every student they meet. Let them be the ones who help school become a place of caring, welcoming, and respect.
Help them issue report cards on themselves with realism.
Give them courage to see weaknesses and determination to turn them into strengths. Let them value themselves as you do.
God bless their fresh cheeks, blemishes and all. Bless their fresh ideals that challenge an adult world grown stale. Bless their dancing hormones; harness them for only good things. Bless their flashing orthodontic hardware, worn like a badge of maturity.
Give us as parents the grace to love when we don’t quite understand. Teach us to pace and be patient, when they don’t quite measure up.
May we have hearts to listen when we don’t quite speak the same language.
Give us strength to jump in and grab the steering wheel if we see them headed for disaster, or to carry them in our arms if they wipe out.
May we always be on their sides, not on their backs.
May we be there cheering at every finish line they cross.
Question: have you ever prayed for your kids? Did your parents ever pray for you? If you pray, what have you prayed for your kids?