Sometimes the teenagers we love go through season of pain and suffering, and we quickly reach the limits of our human ability to help. We long to pour out our hearts to God, but it can be hard to find words when we are worried or afraid. Thanks be to God, we who have the Holy Spirit do not have to form perfect phrases, because “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). But there are times when it is a comfort to us to speak words, to pray out loud from the Scriptures, because as we pray we are reminded of the promises and character of God who loves our teenagers more than we can imagine. Over the next few weeks we will offer you prayers you can use as a starting point to lift up the teenagers you love to the Lord. We hope these will encourage you to remain steadfast in prayer, for “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jas. 5:16).
Every parent knows the pain of watching their child struggle. Whether it’s in academics, sports, or their health, our instinct is to make the struggle disappear, and if we can’t, at least do everything we can to help them manage it. Sometimes we are able to help: we might arrange tutors for the kid who’s experiencing academic struggles or counseling for one who is experiencing anxiety or depression. When it comes to our teen’s social struggles, however, our role as helpers is decidedly limited. Our kids are likely to view any suggestions or offers to help as intrusive and unwelcomed.
It’s particularly painful to see our teenager struggle to make friends. God created us for community, and we thrive when we find those special friends whose presence we enjoy and who understand and encourage us. When our teen doesn’t have that friend that gives them a sense of belonging, we as parents can become angry and overly anxious as well. But when our child finds him or herself in a season of loneliness, it becomes important for a parent to be a calm, steady anchor. We can remind our struggling teens that we have a Savior in Jesus Christ who knew quite well how it felt to be friendless. After all, his constant companions of three years abandoned him in his darkest moment when he needed them the most.
We can also pray for our child who struggles to make friends. As we pray for them, we must look honestly at them to discern why they are having such difficulty. What are their expectations? What are their weaknesses? How can we pray specifically for them?
Father, we know that you created us for community because you said it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). We are at our best when we feel the support and encouragement of our family and friends. But there are times when friendships are difficult to make or sustain, and we feel lonely and disconnected. O Lord, it is painful for me to watch my child going through this season of loneliness. Give me wisdom in dealing with this situation (James 1:5). Keep me from inserting myself into my child’s struggles in a way that makes it about me. Help me remember to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in any and all interactions with my son or daughter (Galatians 5: 22), particularly love, patience, and gentleness.
As my child navigates this season of difficulty in friendships, I pray that they would seek and feel your presence with them through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20). Remind them that you know and understand their fears and sympathize with their weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Lead them in understanding what true friendship looks like: a friend loves, encourages, and supports at all times and in all situations (Proverbs 17:17).
If they are looking for popularity, show them that, unlike humans, you do not look at the outward appearance – you see and value what is in a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Help them see others as you see them. If their need is security and belonging, guide them in understanding that you are our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). I pray they would not be deceived by those who would hurt them or use them for their own selfish purposes. Lead them to friends who not only accept them, but challenge them in their faith journey. If there is someone who needs my child’s friendship, I pray you would lead them to each other. Give them a heart for those whose need for friends mirrors their own.
If my son or daughter feels like an outcast, like they don’t belong with any particular group, remind them that Jesus came for just those people: the ones who feel needy, lonely, and afraid (Matthew 5:3-6). Keep them from seeing themselves as unworthy or unwanted, and bring encouragers into their lives who will show them their worth and demonstrate to them how to be a friend. If they feel different and isolated from others, show them that all are created in your image (Genesis 1:27). Open their hearts to look for ways to connect with others that go beyond narrow interests or opinions. If they feel as if they will never find a connection with a friend, remind them that you give strength to do what might seem impossible (Philippians 4:13).
Finally, Father, give them hope that this season of difficulty is just that: a season that will change. You are the giver of all good gifts, and even though our circumstances may change, your love and steadfastness do not (James 1:17). Fill them with the hope that comes in realizing that you will not leave unfinished the good work you began in them (Philippians 1:6).
May they grow closer to you as they walk through the challenge of making friends, and by your grace, may they learn how to make lifelong friends as well as how to be a lifelong friend. Amen.