How to Pray When Your Kids Go Off to College

This article is part of the How to Pray series.

God Involves You in His Plan

Having done what you can to bring up your children, you see them ship off to a war zone, the battle for their hearts, and wonder if they’ll survive. Vicki and I launched children to two state colleges and two Christian colleges, and whether your children leave home for the military, for trade school, for global missions, for an apprenticeship, or for post-secondary schooling, the hazards are the same and the stakes are the same. The contest is for control of their hearts. Will Jesus be the Lord and chief object of their joy? Or will something else? Something that will bring great destruction and regret?

God involves parents in the totality of his plan for their children. Not all parents can provide what they want for their children, but all parents can pray. God invites parents to stand in the gap. He invites us to ask!

I assume you’re reading this article, because you already see value in praying for your children. Stoke your fires with this thought: it’s possible that the most valuable thing you will ever do for your kids is to pray for them.

Parenting with Loving Correction

Parenting with Loving Correction

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This guide offers parents practical steps and tips for wise, God-centered, and consistent correction aimed at transforming their children’s hearts.

Six Ways to Pray

So how can we pray?

1. Pray as you would at other times.

That is, keep on interceding. Do not not pray. Don’t let up simply because they’re no longer under your roof. You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:2) While Jesus warns against vain repetitions, he makes no argument against earnest repetitions.

2. Begin with thanksgiving.

Thank God for your children, their skills, their opportunities, their challenges, their limitations, the grace they receive to not be undone by the defects in their parents. It’s all grace; thank him for it. God is at work all the time, including right now. Appreciate him for it.

Wise petitions are grounded in his promises. He already knows what your kids need.

3. Ask God to fulfill his promises.

Wise petitions are grounded in his promises. He already knows what your kids need. (Matt. 6:8)

Align your own purposes with his strategic purposes. For example, you may be praying for good friends for your child, and that’s not wrong. But God wants your child to BE a good friend, grow in Christlikeness, become increasingly holy. Pray for that. We parents can be tempted to glory in our kids’ prosperity defined in American, materialist, academic terms, when God is interested in Spirit-produced fruitfulness, and might be preparing them for martyrdom.

Ask God to grant them knowledge of himself accompanied by understanding.

Ask for a rich supply of grace, freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), to make their boast in the cross (Gal 6:14), that they not be led into temptation, but delivered (Matt. 6:13). Ask him to place a hedge about them (Job 1:10). Ask God to enable them to put on the whole armor and stand firm (Eph. 6:13). Ask him to equip them with everything good that they may do his will (Heb. 13:21).

4. Pray the Bible.

Craft prayers from Scripture itself. For example:

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart. . . For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:6–9)

Fan into flame the gift of God. (2 Timothy 1:6)

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5)

5. Write out your prayers.

Send them to your kids. It might look something like this: “I’m asking God to. . . ” and then fill in the blank.

When our kids were away at college I wrote them almost daily. Sometimes it was only a sentence from the Bible, or a brief prayer. It doesn’t matter if they kept those prayers in a scrapbook some place. What matters is God heard them.

Writing prayers can “force” us to be specific in praying. Jesus asked, “What would you have me do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Pray names—names of your kids’ friends, instructors, college president, etc.

6. Pray for yourself as parents—to be joyful role models of Christlikeness in every way.

Otherwise, it will backfire to pray for spiritual maturity in them when you are not striving toward it yourself in the strength God supplies.

Remember: even though no heart prays for children like the heart of a parent, the prayers of parents are not the main prayers being prayed. Jesus is also interceding—flawlessly, effectively (Rom. 8:34). And God will do more than we can imagine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory. (Ephesians 3:20–21)



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