I’ve hesitated to share this deeply personal struggle. One of my children has told me that he/she does not believe in God. My first reaction was to blame myself for my child’s lack of belief. I thought, “If only I’d been a better example… if only we’d gone to another church sooner…if only…” Well, let me tell you, those “If onlys” can drive a person nuts.
I have struggled, argued with my child, seen that did no good, and finally came to the realization that I need to get over myself. I admit that there is a big part of my ego involved here. I have worked in Christian publishing for my entire career. I worried, “What will other people think of me when they discover my child doesn’t believe in God?”
As I prayed about this situation, God helped me to come to a new place in my parenting journey. “It’s time to let go … and trust me,” I felt God saying. So I began to pray differently. “Lord, I give my child to you. I know you love this child even more than I do. Please, God, please…let my child meet some Christians who will treat him/her with kindness, unconditional love, and respect. Let my child encounter Jesus followers who are comfortable with questions, doubts, and who will accept him/her as he/she is.”
That led me to write the following prayer, which appears in Prayers for Life’s Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments, compiled and edited by Mary Lou Redding and published by Upper Room Books in 2012. I share this prayer with those readers who know someone who’s an atheist, and for those of you who are dubious about the existence of God, and especially for Christian parents whose children have arrived at beliefs they never expected.
Father God, thank you for your unconditional love
for each of your children.
I pray today especially for my child
who says he doesn’t believe in you.
Lord, help my child who’s struggling with cynicism and despair.
I believe that doubt is part of the faith journey.
Please send a sensitive soul to encourage my child–
someone who will say words to gently point
this one I love so much toward you.
Loving God, I lift up __________ to you.
Though it is difficult, I release my child to you,
trusting you to continue to work in his life.
Help me to let go and trust
that the seeds of faith I helped to plant will take root
and that my child will grow in the sunlight of your love.
Thank you, dear God, for hearing and acting.
I am grateful that you love this child
much more than I ever could,
and that though I must let go, you never will. Amen.
From page 17 of Prayers for Life’s Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments, compiled and edited by Mary Lou Redding. Copyright © 2012 by Upper Room Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission.