When You Feel Powerless to Influence Your Children

It wasn’t until my daughters graduated and were out of the house that I truly understood my powerlessness. 

In the days leading up to their exodus, I slowly realized I would no longer be a daily influence in their lives. How am I going to take care of them? I wondered. How can I continue to influence them when they’re so far away?

I felt helpless and afraid. Who’s going to stay awake to be sure they get home safely? What happens if they get sick? And my worst fear of all, what if they stop attending church and stray from the faith? These looming dangers easily eclipsed the more minor issues I’d worried about when they were children. 

More important, they revealed the lie I had believed—that my children were safe as long as I was nearby. And that I had the ultimate power to protect them from harm, bad influences, and spiritual apostasy. Without intending to, I had usurped God’s role, at least in my mind, as their guardian and protector. 

Wielding the Weapons of Warfare

When my daughters moved away, I came face-to-face with my own impotence. Simultaneously, I discovered two powerful weapons in the battle for our children’s hearts—prayer and God’s Word. 

While I had already established a prayer routine, something shifted significantly in my heart. Prior to their leaving, I’d stick prayer on my parenting efforts like a bow on a Christmas box. Now the Lord was showing me that I needed to move away from physically and emotionally parenting my children and move toward spiritually influencing my children through diligent prayer. 

He helped me realize that while I couldn't be everywhere my children were, God could. And He cared for them even more than I did. Imagine that.

Some parents of adult children have the added burden of a strained or hostile relationship with their children. They feel doubly impotent and frustrated. Prayer breaks through that and accomplishes what we never could in our own efforts.

God’s influence isn’t limited by time, space, or daylight hours. He can and does work in the hearts of our children, even while they sleep. And He desires to draw those most precious to us into a rich relationship with Himself and will use our prayers (morning, noon, or middle of the night) to help bring this to pass.

If you’ve realized anew your powerlessness in influencing your children, here are five prayers I’ve adapted from the Bible to pray for them. (Italicized portions differ from the original text.) Personalize each prayer by inserting your child’s name.

1. Psalm 25:4–7 

Show ___________ your ways, O Lord
teach my children your paths. 
Lead them in your truth and teach them
Be to them the God of their salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long.

Remember, your mercy O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of their youth, nor their rebellious acts
according to your steadfast love
remember them,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

2. Colossians 1:9–11

Lord, almost from the day I knew we were expecting, I’ve not ceased to pray for __________, asking that my children may be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of you, fully pleasing to you: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you; being strengthened with all power, according to your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

3. Ephesians 3:14–19

For this reason I bow my knees before you Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of your glory you may grant __________ to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith—that they, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all your fullness.

4. Ephesians 1:16–20

I do not cease to give thanks for __________, remembering my children in my prayers, that you, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give them the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of you, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened, that they may know what is the hope to which you have called them, what are the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of your power toward those who believe, according to the working of your great might that you worked in Christ when you raised Him from the dead and seated Him at your right hand in the heavenly places.

5. Psalm 30

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me. 

Do the same for my beloved child.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 

Save __________, too.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy 
on behalf of my child:
“What profit is there in their death,
if they go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

Please turn for me my mourning into dancing;
loose my sackcloth
and cloth me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Are your children far away—relationally, physically, or spiritually? Take heart. You are not powerless. You have the greatest weapon in the world available to you. As James 5:16 reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous man [or woman] is powerful and effective.”

Through prayer, you can influence their lives in a great and mighty way, no matter where your children are. 

Are there younger children (or grandchildren!) still under your influence? Many of us have seen the delight on our kids’ faces as the treasures of Narnia and Middle Earth, Neverland, and Green Gables spill over into their lives. J.R.R. Tolkien postulated that great stories thrill us because they reflect the truth for which we yearn: our redemption in Christ. Join author Kathryn Butler for a discussion of how the best stories glitter with gospel threads in our current series on the Revive Our Hearts podcast, “Pointing Your Kids to Gospel Stories, with Kathryn Butler.”

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