Revive Our Hearts Radio

The Power of Praying Scripture for Your Children

Leslie Basham: Donna and John Avant were concerned that their son wasn’t displaying a strong work ethic, so Donna found Scriptures about diligence and prayed them for her son. After he graduated from law school, she realized God had developed in him that heart for diligence.

Donna Avant: God did it! It was hitting my face before God and calling out to Him and lifting my son up before the Lord.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, coauthor of Seeking Him, for October 19, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I’m so glad to have Donna Avant back with us in the studio today. If you didn’t get to hear our conversation yesterday, you can go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and get the transcript, you can listen to the audio of that conversation.

Donna, thank you for joining us this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Donna: Thank you so much, Nancy!

Nancy: Donna is a fairly new friend. She and her husband, John, are serving on the leadership team at Life Action Ministries, which is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts. They have a passionate heart for Christ and for the world.

In fact, not too long ago you all were in the Middle East. You’ve done this a number of times, working with Christian workers there, Christian leaders. I know it’s a little off-topic of this conversation, but just give us a glimpse of what you’ve experienced as you’ve met with some of those believers in some of these difficult countries.

Donna: Oh, Nancy, I don’t know if I can do it adequate justice, to explain to your listeners the women that I met in the Middle East on this past trip. There was a group of twenty-eight women that we met with—several of them had lost their husbands to ISIS.

They would share openly about their struggles, but they were so confident in who their God was, and Him being Jesus. They were so confident in their faith in the midst of such deep suffering and pain.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning and get my kids breakfast and send my husband out the door, not knowing if he was going to come back or not! Two of these women had experienced that in the last two years—losing their husbands to ISIS.

Nancy: And was that because of their faith?

Donna: Oh, yes, definitely, it was because of their faith. I want to tell you something that I learned from these women that I see as a huge problem in the church in America . . . even if you’re not believing women. I see this as a problem among American women.

The women that I was around in the Middle East, they were each other’s biggest cheerleader. There was not a spirit of competition among them at all! They have to be each other’s biggest cheerleader to survive!

And yes, some of it is a cultural thing, but more than anything, these believing women surrounded each other with just such love and encouragement. I’ll never forget, as long as I live, one of the nights that we got together. We were providing them with a women’s night. We had done teaching during the day, so we just decided this night we weren’t going to do a lot of teaching.

It was just going to about fun. We had a station where they could make a craft; we had a station where we could give them manicures, where we could give them a foot massage.

Nancy: Pamper them.

Donna: Yes. We were just going to pamper them. That’s not something that they’re used to. That very night, one of the girls that had lost her husband exactly two years before was going to change out of what they call the mourning clothes. She was going to take off black, and she was going to change to something colorful, which is a sign, “I’m coming out of mourning.”

They stood in a stairwell, and as she began to come down the stairwell, they began to chant and sing. It was one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen of the Body of Christ just coming alongside them, each other, and encouraging them!

Nancy: Celebrating each other.

Donna: Yes! That is what I saw amongst these women. They just celebrated each other. We played some silly game, and every time one of them would get something right, they would celebrate each other by singing a funny song. I didn’t understand the words because I didn’t have the translator tell me everything. But it was just such a time for me to say, “You know, we need to do that for each other in the American church!”

Nancy: That’s good!

Donna: We need to celebrate each other. Yes, they were there when they mourned together, but we need to be there celebrating each other and encouraging each other even more.

Nancy: “[Rejoice with those who rejoice and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

Donna: Yes. Yes.

Nancy: So you went to minister to those women and you came back, I remember, just saying they so ministered to you.

Donna: I have never gone on any trip overseas, on a mission trip of any kind, where I did not come back being taught more, challenged more, than I think I was used there.

Nancy: And you’ve seen God doing some amazing things in other parts of the world that we aren’t always aware of here in the States.

Donna: Yes, yes, I’ve seen and heard stories over there, first-hand stories, of men who were being persecuted and yet baptizing hundreds—and people coming to Christ. It’s just an incredible movement of God right now among Muslims; it’s just an incredible movement of God!

I believe the right statistic is that more Muslims have come to know Christ in the last fifteen years than in the last fifteen-hundred years!

Nancy: Wow! This is something for us to be praying about even if we can’t get on an airplane and go over there and see it, as you’ve been able to.

Donna: Yes. And you know what, Nancy? The other thing that God’s taught me through this is perspective. Whenever I’m going through an issue, whatever that issue may be, I know Jesus cares about it, but I don’t need to focus too much on it, because I didn’t just lose my husband to ISIS.

I’m not worried when he walks out the door that he’s not going to come back. I mean, I’m not. So a lot of times, going on trips like that helps me keep my world in perspective.

Nancy: . . . about what problems really can look like! Interestingly, those women have a perspective of eternity that gives them grace to consider their afflictions, as Paul said, “momentary afflictions.” We look at their afflictions and we think, Those are horrific!

But they look at Christ and at eternity and at the big picture, and they say, “Yes, this hurts. Yes, we weep. But this is momentary and light, and it’s preparing for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (see 2 Cor. 4:17).

I think sometimes it helps to read these stories, to hear these stories, or even to be able to experience them firsthand to give us a better perspective of the things that cause us to melt down and be so distressed.

Donna: I think one of the things that I saw in these women is realizing that in the midst of all their pain and their suffering, they’re not just focusing on, “Why is this happening to me?” and “What about me?” They’re focusing more on the Kingdom. “What does this mean for the Kingdom? What does this mean for our faith?”

In some of these areas where these men have been have been martyred, the churches are growing faster than ever! I mean, I’m talking about a full-fledged church. They might not have a building, but there are people meeting there with a spiritual leader, and they’re growing in Christ. That came from the blood of the martyrs!

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: And that puts life in perspective. So I’m trying to learn from that, when something negative happens, to try and take my eyes off myself and go, “Okay, what does this change mean for the Kingdom?” not “What does it mean for Donna Avant?” That’s not easy to do and I don’t do it well all the time, but God is teaching me that.

Nancy: That’s so good. And it really speaks to your own personal journey, your story, because as you shared with us yesterday, you came out of a dysfunctional family, parents married multiple times, abandoned by your dad.

I remember you mentioning in an earlier conversation we had this week about when you were sixteen years old and you had to kind of fend for yourself.

Donna: Yes. Memories that I don’t like remembering, but memories that are very true. We were living in a little apartment. We had moved out of our big suburban home because of my parents’ divorce. My sister had gone to live with my dad and I stayed with my Mom, because I was almost finished with high school. I was a junior in high school.

I would come home after school and I would not know where my mom was. There would be no food in the refrigerator, and I wouldn’t have shampoo. I would have to figure out, “Okay, I’ve got to have something to eat. I’ve got to have shampoo for my hair.” Those weren’t fun times, but they were times that God always provided. I never went hungry. Again, He was faithful.

Nancy: As you entered into marriage with a committed believer, you talked about how there were just a lot of issues that you still had to work through. You didn’t know how to be a wife. You didn’t know how to be a mom.

I don’t want to re-tell the whole story, but God began a process. It wasn’t just a moment, but a process, of redeeming and changing you and changing your husband, too, who didn’t know how to shepherd a wife with this kind of hurt and background.

It was how God used the hard things, as you were saying happens to the women, the Christians, in the Middle East who are persecuted. Out of that is coming spiritual growth and vitality. God used the hard things in your background.

You talked about having an anger issue and struggling with that, and how God used His Word to change you and to change your marriage and to, now, give you children who love Christ and are following Him as young adults with their own families.

If you hadn’t had some of those hard things (it’s not that you would wish it or that you would write the script that way), I think perhaps apart from those, you would not be able to speak into the lives of women and encourage women in really hard places in the ways that you’ve been able to do as a pastor’s wife, as a mentor, as a Bible teacher.

You’ve been able to speak and say, “Look, this isn’t just theory with me.” As you and your husband do marriage seminars, you’re talking about having been through some really rough places in your marriage.

I think that gives hope to a woman who’s saying, “We’re still in a really rough place! I’m still in a really rough place! I haven’t been able to put all my past behind me.” And you say, “Look, the change doesn’t come in a moment; it takes time. But God’s Word and God’s Spirit and God’s people . . .”

You mentioned a mentor, a woman named Esther who spoke into your life. Change really can happen. God can redeem and then He can use the mess of your past to make you even more fruitful, moving forward.

Donna: I don’t know where this saying came from, but it’s one of my favorites: “He can take your mess and make it your greatest message.”

Nancy: Wow, yes. Just say that again, because some woman listening right now needs to hear that and believe it.

Donna: He can take your mess and make it your greatest message, and I believe that’s what God has done with my life.

Nancy: I’m asking you, a woman listening and you’re in a mess right now, do you believe that God can take your greatest mess, past or present, and make it your greatest message? He really can! And, Donna, you’re a testimony to that.

Donna: Yes, He did. My mentor Esther really challenged me. I shared last time some of the things she challenged me, but she also challenged me to pray Scripture into my situations. You can’t pray Scripture over somebody unless you’re in God’s Word. So I began to read God’s Word, asking the Lord to give me passages of Scripture to pray over my children.

I began to ask God to give them a life verse—a verse that I would pray for them nearly every day, a verse that I could see would become fruit in their life. I would not tell them what this verse would be until they were eighteen.

I also did that for my husband, and that was one of the turning points in our marriage. The verse that I began to pray for John was in Ephesians 3:14–21, and I began to pray for this for him:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that John, out of Your glorious riches God would be strengthened, that he would have power through his Spirit in his inner being, so that Christ may dwell in John’s heart through faith.

And then I would go down to verses 20 and 21 and I would pray,

Now God, would You do immeasurably more in John’s life than all I could even ask or imagine, according to Your power, God that is at work within John (adapted from Eph. 3:14–17, 20–21).

And I began to pray that, just quietly. I would write it on a card, and I would keep it where I had my time with the Lord, and I would pray that over him.

So, years later, John was going to write his first book. He just said, “I’ve really been praying about writing my first book.”

And I asked, “Well, what do you think it’s going to be on?”

He said, “I think I’m going to write a book on Ephesians 3:20 and 21.”

I just almost fell out of my chair! And I said, “You’re what?!”

And he goes, “Yeah. I think I’m going to take that passage and write a book called The Passion Promise, and I’m going to talk about passion in that book, and I’m just gonna take apart that verse, and that will be my first book.

And I said, “I need to show you something!” And I showed him that I had been praying that verse for him for years!

Nancy: Wow.

Donna: My oldest daughter, Christi, when she was ten . . . She’s typical first-born. She’s strong-willed child, has a lot of passion, like her dad. I began to pray this verse for her; it’s found in Philippians. I began to pray this verse in Philippians for her because Christi had an attitude (as a lot of ten- and eleven-year-old kids will have).

She had an attitude! I was studying through the book of Philippians, and when I came to this passage, I knew this was Christi’s life passage,

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence . . . Continue to work out your salvation . . . for it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose. Christi, I pray that you would] do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you will shine like a star in the universe as you hold out the word of life (adapted from Phil. 2:12–16).

So Christi’s story is: I started praying that for her when she was ten. Again, I wrote it on a card. I put it away and I would pray it for her nearly every day. And so, when she was sixteen and she announced that God was calling her to do musical theater . . . We didn’t even know that she could act!

She immediately landed her first role in a big, huge high school thing, and my husband and I just looked at each other. And then again, I remembered what I’d prayed. We always knew she could sing, but we didn’t know she could act.

God called her. She majored in Musical Theater. She spent time in New York doing theater and in Georgia doing theater. She’s currently a theater teacher at a school, as she’s in the time of her life where she’s having babies, and I just saw that verse played out in her life!

I saw her beginning to shine like a star in a very dark world, and I saw God begin to use her in that theater culture to point others toward Christ. And I just stood amazed. I was like, this is not anything I had done; this is just God’s Word coming to pass in her life!

Nancy: God’s Word is alive and powerful.

Donna: Yes!

Nancy: And you’re planting it like a seed in your children’s hearts, unbeknownst to them, and the Holy Spirit’s watering it and causing it to bear fruit.

Donna: Yes. Now, when they turned eighteen, I cross-stitched their life verses and gave that to them as a part of just the celebration of them becoming an adult. My daughter Amy is just such a precious young woman and loves people so much. I wish I could love people like Amy loves people.

I began to pray 2 Corinthians 9 for her—a whole passage. I won’t read the whole passage, but basically I just began to pray, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work” (from 2 Cor. 9:8).

And God called Amy to be a nurse. She was NICU nurse for many years. Being a NICU nurse is a ha-a-ard job! And people that know Amy know that she is a hard worker, that she loves people. Again, Nancy, I couldn’t have done that if I tried! I couldn’t have dreamed this up or made this happen. This was just Jesus working His life out.

Now, the challenge—the big challenge—was the “baby,” Trey!

Nancy: The boy!

Donna: Great young man, but we had moved when he was sixteen, and before we moved he began to maybe not make some great choices. And then when we moved, he really didn’t make some good choices. We were meeting with an educator, and they were wanting to do some testing on him.

And my husband was like, “No, his problem is, he’s lazy. He has a ‘lazy disorder’! He needs to work hard.” There are children that need those tests and there are children that have issues, but we knew in our hearts that this was not a learning disability; it was a heart disability.

I just got some note cards and began to write down every verse I could pray about laziness and what laziness produces in a life.

Nancy: There are a lot of those in Proverbs; did you find some of those?

Donna: Yes. Lots of verses in Proverbs. I began to pray those over him. He had no clue that I was praying those verses for him, none whatsoever. Because, see, if I tell them that, then it’s about me. So I didn’t want them to know what I was praying for them. I wanted it just to be in my momma’s heart and with the Father. I began to pray that for him.

His freshman year at Louisiana Tech (right before the school year started), he texted me and he said, “Momma, you’ve got to come outside.” (I was in an orientation meeting.) He said, “Mom, you got to come outside!”

I was like, “Okay . . .” This was a kid who barely graduated from high school with a “C” average, okay? Just got by, by the skin of his teeth.

And he said, “Mom, you’ve got to come outside. I need to tell you something really important!”

I said, “Okay, Son, what do you need to tell me?”

He said, “Mom, I need to change my major.”

I said, “Honey, you’re not even a freshman yet. How can you change your major?”

He said, “I’ve really prayed a lot about this, Mom.”

And I said, “Okay . . .” That got my attention, that he had prayed about something.

He said, “I’m going to study law. I want to be an attorney!”

And I laughed. And then I realized, “Oh, I can’t do that to him!” And I said, “Okay, Son, do you understand that in order to go to law school that you have to make really good grades, and you have to . . .”

And he said, “Yes, ma’am. Yes ma’am, I do.”

Nancy, he graduated with honors from Louisiana Tech, and he went on to get offers from several good law schools. A year ago he graduated from the University of Houston Law School, and now, he passed the Bar. This is a young man who has an incredible work ethic!

Nancy: God changed him!

Donna: God changed him; not Mommy. Yelling and screaming wasn’t going to do it.

Nancy: Right . . . so good!

Donna: God did it! It was hitting my face before God [i.e. “fall on their face before God”] and calling out to Him and lifting my son up before the Lord. There’s a verse that talks about taking your hands and lifting them up before the Lord and calling out on their behalf. That is my job as a mom. There is nobody in the world that is going to hit their face for my three kids like I do! And that was my job—to hit my face.

If you’re struggling with praying for your children, I encourage you to ask God to give you that heart, that praying heart, and to pray verses. Put their names in passages and call out to God for the lives of your children.

Nancy: I heard you and your husband talking the other night at a ministry gathering. Somebody asked your husband what is one thing he really, really appreciates about you? And I had to write this down—I actually tweeted it. He said: “I love the way my wife prays! I never have a day where I don’t feel covered by the prayers of my wife.”

I took note of that. I want my husband to be able to say that same thing. We want our kids and our grandkids to be able to say the same thing. I think for many of our listeners, this is a challenge. And whether you’re married or single—whatever kind of family or circumstances or workplace God has put you into—what if the people around us could say the one thing they really appreciate about us is the way we pray, that there’s never a day where they don’t feel covered by our prayers.

Well, Donna, I would love it if you would just take a moment and pray for some moms who have been listening, and their children are only God knows where, and whatever the issues are. I got a an email this morning from a mom who’s on her way to visit a prodigal son today. They’ll be together this evening.

Donna: Oh, wow.

Nancy: She’s become a praying momma. She was reaching out to some really close friends and saying, “Would you pray in these specific ways?” There’s power there—the Word and prayer and the Spirit of God being released into those children’s lives. You never would have imagined, when your kids were middle teens, how God would be using them and working in their lives today, but He is.

So I want us to bond our hearts together and pray on behalf of some of these moms and these kids and these marriages that are in a rough place. God is in Heaven; He’s listening, and He’s eager to hear and to answer as we pray together now. Would you lead us?

Donna: Father, I just come before You and, first of all, I just set You on the throne. You are such a high and lifted-up God, and You’re so sovereign. Father, You say You’re the God on the mountaintop, and You’re the all-wise God, and You see our children. Father, You see their deepest need, their deepest hurt, their deepest fear.

Father, I pray that every mom that is listening, that You will just open up her heart to just even go today to their child’s bed and lay on their bed when they’re not there and ask to understand their child and to know their child’s heart like they’ve never known their child’s heart before.

Father, I pray that every mother would take the authority that You give her, God, from Your Word, to pray Scripture into the lives of her children. Father, I pray that You would make us, not nagging women, but that you would make us praying women, God. That You would make us not yelling and screaming women, but that You would make us women who call on the Name of God for our children!

It’s a wicked and evil time. Our kids are up against so much! But they have an Almighty God, an Almighty Father, and we can intercede for them. God, You want to answer. You’re such a good, good Father! You’re such a good Daddy that You will listen to us as we cry out on behalf of our children and on behalf of our husbands.

So many times we don’t understand the fear that our husbands face, the problems that they deal with. God, make us sensitive women that we listen well. And most of all, that we pray well, God, and that we leave it in our prayer closet and stand and know that You are in control! In Your precious name I pray, amen.

Leslie: That was Donna Avant praying for God to make us women who call on the name of the Lord. Earlier she and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth were talking about how God can take your mess and make it into your greatest message.

Maybe you listened to today’s program and you feel you could use some encouragement for raising your children. We’d like to offer you a book by Paul David Tripp that will support you in your role as a parent. It’s called Parenting: Fourteen Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.

This book will help you regain sight of your ultimate purpose as a parent in a society brimming with how-to’s and “guaranteed|” formulas. We’ll send you this book when you make a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You can indicate that you’d like the book Parenting when you donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959.

Thank you to those of you who have been long-time supporters and to those who may be giving for the first time. God has given Revive Our Hearts the privilege of seeing women experience the freedom and joy of walking in the truth! We wouldn’t see this kind of fruit without your generous support and prayers.

Have you ever asked God what He wants you to do with your life? Next week we’ll hear from a woman whose perspective on life was shaken to the core once she realized that there was more to life than pursuing “The American Dream.”

Next Week’s Guest: You weren’t created for yourself. You weren’t created so that you could go and grab all you can get for yourself. You were created for the glory of God!

Leslie: I hope you’ll join us Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you be a woman of prayer. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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