How to Pray for Your Teen’s Spiritual Growth

This article is part of the How to Pray series.

Pray the Bible

I just turned forty years old. And I’ll have a teenager living in my house in just two short months, as our eldest child turns thirteen. Yikes! So, I’m joining all of you who are raising teenagers—and seeking to point them intentionally, winsomely, and prayerfully to Jesus and to God’s precious word.

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you already know that you must pray for your teenage child. But perhaps you struggle with how exactly to pray . . . and for what, specifically, you should pray. I’ll offer here seven specific prayers that I’m praying for my own (almost) teenager, and which I’d encourage you to pray for yours. I’d encourage you also to take a moment and read the Bible verses that give root to these specific prayers.

1. Pray for a miracle (2 Corinthians 5:17).

For any sinner, dead in his/her sins (see Eph. 2:1–3), to hear the gospel, repent of sins, and believe in Jesus Christ with saving faith is a miracle! It is God, by the power of the Spirit, making a dead heart come alive in faith toward Christ. That’s why Paul doesn’t say that if anyone is in Christ he/she is “improved,” “better,” or “happier”; he says he/she is a “new creation”! That’s what we’re asking God to do for our teens. We certainly are called to speak God’s word to them, point them to Jesus, bring them (drag them?!) to church, but only the Holy Spirit can make their hearts come alive in repentance and faith toward Jesus. And that’s the miraculous saving work of God; it's regeneration.

God's Great Story

Jon Nielson

God’s Great Story is a one-year devotional aimed to help teens establish daily Scripture-reading habits as they explore God’s grand story of redemption, from Genesis to Revelation.

2. Pray for gospel friendships (1 Samuel 18:1).

Quickly on the heels of my prayers for God’s miraculous, regenerative, saving work in the hearts of my kids comes my prayer for friends who will walk alongside them—not only in companionship but in mutual encouragement in Christ. I’m praying for friends who will chase after God and say to my teen, “Come on! Let’s follow Jesus together!” I think of John 1:45-46 when, in response to Nathanael’s cynical question about Jesus, Philip simply invites his friend: “Come and see.” Let’s pray, Lord, bring friends into our teens’ lives who will invite them: “Let’s go worship and serve Jesus together. Come and see.”

3. Pray for a growing appetite for God’s word (1 Peter 2:2–3).

I’ve often explained to teenagers that personal Bible reading is a bit like learning to love coffee. Coffee is an “acquired taste”—and I personally remember adding a bit more coffee to my hot chocolate over time in the mornings as a college student, only to graduate as a full-blown coffee lover (addict?)! As you encourage your teen to dig into the Bible on their own, pray that their appetite for God’s word would steadily grow. Ask God to develop their spiritual “taste buds” so that they begin to enjoy reading the Bible . . . and crave it in the morning more than you crave coffee. Pray for love for God’s word to grow in them.

4. Pray for a faith that moves from head to heart (Psalm 42:1).

You’ve taught your teen about the things of God—and hopefully that teaching has been reinforced by pastors, youth leaders, and godly men and women in the church. Pray, then, that God would stir their affections for God as they grow in their knowledge of him through his word. Ask God to send his Spirit to help them “pant” for God as the psalmist imagines the wild “deer” panting for water on a hot day. Pray that your teen would grow to say of Jesus: “I believe in him . . . and I love him.” This, too, is a work of God’s Spirit; let’s ask God to do this work in our teens’ hearts.

5. Pray for influential voices in between your age and theirs (Titus 2:1–6).

Parents, we need other voices speaking into our teens’ lives and reinforcing the truths that they hear from us . . . but don’t always really hear. In our church context, God has already begun to answer this prayer beautifully through some college students (who happen to be athletes . . . and my kids love sports!) who love Jesus, serve in the church, and have taken a relational interest in my kids. What a blessing. What a joy to know that my teen will hear God’s truth from me, as well as from these young adults . . . who may or may not be cooler than mom and dad (at least from my teen’s perspective).

It is God, by the power of the Spirit, making a dead heart come alive in faith toward Christ.

6. Pray for a growing love for the church (Ephesians 2:19–22).

I can still remember the smell of the musty old hymnals in the pew of the church where I grew up. I remember the little blue prayer cards that we’d doodle on during a long sermon (and on which sometimes—I’ll shamefully admit—we would compose bizarre, fabricated prayer requests that we’d drop in the offering plate). I remember the awkward conversations—some people I thought were strange, and some older saints who seemed a bit annoyed by my brothers’ and my energy. But I also remember growing to feel in my heart about the church: “This is my home. This is my family. These are the people of God.” It didn’t hit me all at once, but by college, I loved the church. I knew that to be a follower of Jesus Christ meant deep and meaningful engagement with brothers and sisters in Christ—and that meant placing the local church at the center of my life. Parents, pray that your teen grows to love the church—and model that love to them in your attitudes, words, and commitments to your church.

7. Pray for courage to live for Christ in a pagan culture (Romans 12:1–2).

It takes courage to follow Jesus Christ today, especially for teenagers. Bombarded by images and cultural mantras on social media, pressured toward “tolerance” and even celebration of sinful behaviors on all sides, and immersed in a society that is more post-Christian with each passing day—our young people will need courage to stand for Jesus Christ and the word of God. Pray that God would transform their hearts and minds to love and treasure Christ above all else so that they will have the strength not to conform to the pattern of this world.

So, parents, let’s pray.

Jon Nielson is the author of God’s Great Story: A Daily Devotional for Teens.

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