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Trusting God with Your Adult Child

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 4, 2024 8:18 am

Trusting God with Your Adult Child

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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I pray most for my adult children that they would follow hard after Christ no matter what circumstance comes into their life. Though my children were raised in a Christian home, they've wandered away from the Lord, and my prayer for them is that they would come home to the Lord. For my son who's 19, I pray every day that he keeps his eyes focused on the Lord, that he remembers that the Lord is in charge, and that he, just that he can have direction. Well, maybe you've prayed a prayer like that for your children, or maybe you were the reason that your parents were praying like that. Today on Focus on the Family, we're going to hear about the power of prayer, especially as your children become adults. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. Hey John, I think every stage of parenting is great.

I heard that advice from someone, and I've stuck to it. When they were little, my boys, I loved it. They'd run out to the car, grab me by the leg, and let me, you know, kind of monster walk them into the house. It was fun. That kind of stopped at about 12 or 13. Goodness, that's a good thing.

Yeah, I couldn't move if they were on my legs at this point. But, you know, every stage, it has its unique challenges, but it also has incredible blessings. And certainly, like most of you, praying for your children has been something Gene and I have done consistently. And it is, I think, the core thing that you need to do is praying for your kids. And those prayers change. You know, it's, Lord, help them to have potty training.

May they get this soon. Get through that, and then it's give them wisdom, Lord, help them do well in school, and give them the wisdom to apply the gifts you've given them in a good way. And, you know, then it continues to move through adulthood. And it really can be unsettling, because you're hoping you did enough, you did the right things. We'll talk about formula today. Is it always true that if you do A plus B, you get C? I'm telling you right now, I don't think so, after, you know, all the thousands of people that contact us here at Focus on the Family.

But you still want to do those right things to be more predictive about the outcome. But God has them in His hands. And we're going to talk today with Jodi Berndt, and her husband Robbie is in the audience, so we're going to validate everything you say, Jodi. That's perfect.

Want a thumbs up or a thumbs down? But she has written a wonderful book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. And I don't know if there was a previous one, Praying for Your Toddlers, but you might want to come out with that one soon. We have Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. That came out in 2001, and then our kids got a little older, and they began dating and driving, and they got Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens. And then, you know, we have four children, and they're all adults or launching into adults, and I realized I still needed to pray.

They still needed jobs and places to live, and so came out with Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. Well, and it's so good to have you here to focus on the family. Thank you. You're officially welcome. Oh, it's officially a delight to be here.

Thank you so much. And you're coming in from Virginia Beach, one of our favorite places. That's such a great area of the country.

It's a wonderful area, but I'll tell you, so is this place. Now, in the book, you kind of compare adult children to playing whack-a-mole. Now, I feel like teenage years are kind of whack-a-mole. I think whack-a-mole could be at any phase.

If you have more than one child, you're playing whack-a-mole, because as soon as you get, you know, one where you think, okay, we're squared away, we're on a good path, you know, another issue pops up, and you just spend your life whack-a-mole, but it's okay. Now, in that regard, you know, you think of the perfect parent. Oh, who is that? God Himself.

Okay, yeah, that's good. So he had two children, and he seemed to have to play whack-a-mole as well when it came to Adam and Eve. I mean, describe that. All of us.

You talk about the formula. The Lord had it. He knew what was right for them, and they disobeyed Him. And it's kind of the pattern when you're a parent. You do feel a little more sense of where God was at, I think, with Adam and Eve and humanity. But, you know, we get so much encouragement from the Lord and His parenting, because sure, just like Adam and Eve, we all stray, and our kids stray. And yet we see God's limitless love, and that nothing we do can ever diminish that love for us. And I try to draw inspiration and strength for that as I parent my own children, saying, hey, don't be surprised when they take a walk on the wild side and make a step here or there. We all do.

We're all like that. But I want to be like the Lord and just love, love, love. And I love that He has—I say there's not a need we'll face in parenting or any of life that He hasn't already experienced Himself and anticipated for us and provided for in His Word.

I want to move it that way, because that's where the nitty-gritty is. Parents, you know, we have limited control and influence. I don't know that we realize that. I think we come out of a period when they're small that you do have a lot of influence and control. And then you want to exert that at 13, 14, 15, right when they're trying to move away from that control.

Describe that lack of influence. Well, I love—actually, a friend sent me a poem just this week, and she said—I won't quote the poem, right? But the gist of it was, when you were little, I touched you and I covered you with a blanket, tucking you in. Now you're grown, you're out of my reach, and I'm covering you with my prayers. That's a good thing. And I just loved that image, because if our kids are still in the home, they may still be out of our reach emotionally, psychologically.

They might not want to hear what we have to say. And then they're older, they might be physically out of our reach, but they're never out of God's reach. And I love that he invites us to partner with him. You know, we know he's sovereign.

He's got good plans, good purposes. But he wants us involved, and the way he invites us to partner with him is through prayer. Yeah, I'm thinking of some parents—not that I would ever do this—but you pray about tucking in and all that. Then when they're teenagers, you're praying for that opportunity to lecture. Lord, give me that chance to really lay it down for him.

And I want to get to that part at some point. Because it is so easy for us to say, hey, this is the right thing to do. Can't you see it?

Why don't you see it? Right. And you know, sometimes, don't you think God says that to us? Oh, sometimes. Sometimes, yes, yes.

But I just, you know, I love what my friend Jeannie Cunyan, I think she's been a guest on your show, she wrote Mom Set Free. And she has a line, she says, we are significant in our children's lives, but we are not sovereign. And you know, as parents, we beat ourselves up thinking, oh, I missed this opportunity, I didn't do this right. Or we might pat ourselves on the back of our kids, do something well, and we think, yay us. But in neither case do we deserve the blame or the credit. Our kids are individual people just like we are, and they're going to make their own choices, and we can be significant. We can pray, we can counsel, we can, as you say, pray for the opportunities for our kids to listen to us. But that doesn't always happen, but we can't carry that burden. You know, Jodie, it strikes me hearing it in that context how prayer becomes almost an antidote to your worry, to your fears, to your control.

Absolutely. If you can actually pray this way, it relaxes you in the relationship in a very positive way. Yes, I think that for parents, at least for me, and I would imagine for a lot of your listeners, when we find out something's not right, going wrong, whether it's the six-year-old swiping the crayons or the 16-year-old experimenting with substance abuse, the 28-year-old falling out of his job, whatever, our default position can often be worry or fear or even anger.

I don't know, why are you doing that? Those are all good Christian attributes, aren't they? Well, but I think God would say, you know what, let me just tell you, I'm cluing you in. I'm letting you see what's going on in your child's life, because guess what? I've got plans and purposes and they're good, and I want to work with you. I want to invite you into this partnership with me so that you can pray and I can answer and we can work in your child's life. So instead of fear and worry, our default position should be prayer and trust. It's not for me all the time, but I'm trying to get there.

You know, and I need to ask this question now. I know we're going to cover more of this later, but the woman, particularly the mom, who really struggles with that fear and control, how do you, as a mom particularly, Jodie, how do you pull back from that? Did you have this kind of, hey, it's in God's hands attitude the whole time or with friends that you may know? That sounds kind of laissez-faire, the whole, it's in God's hands. Well, speak to that, that kind of thing.

Yeah, I didn't have that. I will tell you though, there were times with our children when I would get too weary or too discouraged to pray. I would think we've been walking through this particular season for a long time. I'm not seeing the needle moving. Should I just, like I told a story last night, I was speaking to a group, I said to our son, there was a season when I just wanted to buy him a pack of cigarettes, put him out on the street corner, because I thought that's going to save us all a lot of worry, he's going to wind up there anyway, let go. We do not advise that.

No, I wouldn't either, but I share that to just show kind of that's how I felt. I was discouraged. And that's where I think you mentioned the community of parents. I was part of a Moms in Prayer group, and those women stepped into the gap for me. They said, you know, we'll take that up.

We will pray for your son. And they did that for our girls too and other things, and I did that for them. Because kind of like, you know the story of Moses when the Israelites are fighting down in the valley and Aaron and her have to come alongside and hold up his hands, because when his hands are up, the Israelites are winning, and when they fall down, they are losing the battle.

And so the other guys come along and they hold up his hands, and the victory comes. And I think that we need that with these other friends, prayer partners. And they don't even have to be your social best friend. They don't even have to be just like you, but someone who will lift up your children. And that's getting back to your point of the community. One of the reasons—I did a study guide for the adult children book.

It's available, free download on my website at And one of the reasons I did that is I wanted to give parents a resource to say, I'm going to grab a friend or two, and I'm going to go through some of these prayer needs, work through the Scriptures together, so that I can support my friend and her children, and she can do that for me. Because I think we really need that. Well, it's so good, and I think it helps to relax the fearful heart. I mean, that's, I think, the key benefit. You learn that others are struggling through those kind of difficulties.

And they can reorient you. You know, they can say, hey, let's do a little perspective change. Let's get God's Word in there.

Jodie, let's get to it. Describe what a prayer blessing sounds like for our adult children. I love that you say prayer blessing because one of the things I think people who have adult children sometimes face is, I'm not sure I like the choice my child has made. You know, kids don't come to adulthood the same way we do.

All those traditional markers of go to school, get a job, find a place to rent, find someone to marry, get a home. You know, they do things differently, out of order. They skip some steps. They make choices that we might not always agree with. And yet, as we pray for our kids, I think we can also bless them. We don't have to agree with everything they're doing to say, I bless you. You know, and pull some of those blessings out of Scripture. Our family loves the number six one, may the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine on you.

And there's so many others. I do a whole chapter on blessing. But because a blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. You know, it's not saying, get on your Roger that way to go and you know, your life of sin.

It's not that. It's just saying, I'm forecasting God's favor over your life. I'm speaking favor over your life. I'm opening the door so God can work these blessings and provide them in your life. Now, how does a parent overcome the obvious and still pray in a positive way? Well, I love that question because it really gets to the heart of what this is all about. And as I interviewed parents for the book and hearing their stories, there are a lot of folks whose kids were walking a very tough road. Sexual sin, faith crisis, walking away, prodigal children, all of that. And these parents cried out to the Lord.

And it was very interesting because it was almost like, you know, I could have put them in a soundproof booth where they didn't know what each other was saying. But a refrain that I heard over and over again was as they took those fears and those worries to God and said, what do I do? What they felt like the Lord said to them was, love them, love your kids. They know what they're doing is wrong. You've spent years lecturing them, teaching them, trying to plant God's word in his commands.

They know you don't have to remind them of that. You've got to love them and pray for them and trust me to work in their lives. The prayer verse I have hung on to in my adult children parenting more than any other is Philippians 2, 13. And that's where Paul says that it's God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose. The NLT translation, New Living, I think says God energizes us to do and desire that which pleases him. And I've prayed that I've said, Lord, my kids are doing this or that.

It's not lining up with what I think is your best plan. So would you energize them to do and desire that which would please you? You know, this is the right thing. You're saying the right things.

You're living the right things in that regard. I believe in the book you share a story about a friend who maybe is part of that group you're referring to. But they were living what I would say is a real world example where their daughter was cohabiting with a boyfriend and that. Here's a shocker to all our Christian parents. That is a normal issue now. We hear about that here at Focus on the Family.

Oh, 100%. I had people read the book and say, wait a minute. Aren't you worried you're going to offend readers because everybody is cohabitating now and that's wrong? You know, and I had to think, well, you know, my understanding of scripture is sex outside of marriage is not a happy thing. Well, that proves the point that we as parents are having to even teach at that level.

That's something so fundamental that we think is understood. But speak to this friend's experience because I think it helps to prove the point. Oh, I absolutely love this sweet mom.

She was so vulnerable and willing to share her own heart because she said she was praying and praying and saying, God, convict them. Let them know what they're doing is wrong. You know, show them. Show them your word.

Bring people into their lives to tell them that's not your best plan. On and on, you know, prayer warrior mom. Which is a natural response.

May I defend that? But I'll tell you, the Holy Spirit spoke to her and just said, stop. They know that.

Why don't you pray, mom, that they would see my love? You know, Romans tells us God's kindness leads us to repentance. And so for her, that was like an exhale. That was like an ability to let go and just say to the Lord.

Yeah. Let me go deeper with that because this is a topic for me that really, in the parenting area particularly, I'm trying to communicate consistently whether the book A Good Dad I wrote or others. And I get criticized for this, but it's this idea that God actually is in control. And that you've got to, in some ways, you have to relax. I guess it's a boundary question I'm asking you.

When is it laissez-faire, as you referred to it earlier, where you're too passive? And where's that healthy line to say, you know what, we need to accept that God is shaping our child. And I would suggest for all of us worried parents that oftentimes children, even adult children, are shaped in the valleys, not on the mountaintops. I know that's true of my own life. I learned more when I was hurting than I learned when I was on the mountaintop dancing. You seem not to have an open ear at that point. But when you're crushed, like the scripture says, he's close to the brokenhearted, saves those who are crushed. You speak to that issue and how we need to have a little more confidence as parents that it's okay for our kids to be in a valley.

It is okay for them to be in a valley. I wish I had a secret formula for knowing when to step in and when to sort of step back. I don't know the answer to that other than maybe to look at the motivation. Are you trying to correct a child's behavior because you think it reflects on your parenting? Are you trying to bring glory to God in and through their lives? Is there a quick test for that where you could say, okay, which one is it, Lord? I think it's probably the former most of the time.

Answer these three questions and you'll know. It would be so good. It would be such a good test. But yeah, so I think some of it we have to examine our own hearts of what are we trying to accomplish here. But then keep going back, keep going back to the Lord to just say, I trusted you with this yesterday, but I'm going to have to trust you with this again today. And that was a great thing God taught me when I thought I was trusting him and outcomes were not happening like I desired.

And I kind of took that up with him. I said, what the heck? This child is doing this.

This child's doing that. And that's not what I prayed and not what I thought you would promise. And God said, you're not trusting in me. You're trusting in an agenda. You're trusting in an outcome. And I had to really step back and go, oh, he's right. So I need to reexamine my heart and say, what am I looking for?

A result or a relationship? You said earlier his presence in the valleys. And if his presence are with our kids in that dark place, what a blessing.

You know, he's going to be wooing them. It's so true. You, in fact, had a story where you're concerned about your son, where he was not handling anger well.

And, you know, a lot of boys struggle with that. But how did you what did you see and how did you pray? And then what did the Lord do with all of it?

Well, all good questions. Our son is named Robbie. And every December we pick a prayer verse for our children for the year, for the coming year. What I think God might want to do in their lives. And that year, I don't know, he was maybe five or six, I picked Proverbs 23 verses 23 and 24. And I prayed, Father, help Robbie get wisdom, discipline and understanding. Let him be the righteous man who brings joy to his parents, the wise son in whom we delight.

And I'll tell you, God didn't answer that the next day or even the next week. But over the course of that year and then in the years following, we saw a shaping take place. And it wasn't a spotless journey.

He got ejected from a lacrosse game as a nine year old, you know. But as I look at him now as a 22 year old young man, I see composure. I see wisdom. I see self discipline. It's not perfect, but God's done that. You know, Jodie, another issue that parents and adult children need to work through is the boundary issue.

I'm not there yet, John, you've hit it. But you don't want to be the ugly in-laws, right? You know, so how do you stay on the peripheral without overdoing it?

Yes. How do you manage that balance? Well, we had two of our daughters got married within four months of each other. And I realized my prayers were going to have to shift from praying for her, our daughter, to praying for them.

And it was kind of funny because I tell the story in the book with our daughter, Ansley. Robbie and I consider her our best work. You take pride in her. You know, she's just organized and she's squared away.

She holds the passports when we travel. And so I just thought we were giving her husband a gift. Well, they got married and I realized he's more organized than she is. You know, his style of housekeeping makes hers look like she's wanted by the FBI.

You know, she left in a hurry. And we thought, oh, we're giving him this squared away child. And I realized I needed to start praying that he would have patience with her, which is not something that would have ever been on my radar. Really the opposite.

Yeah. And so God kind of began to show me things I could pray not just for her and not just for him, and in my daughter Hillary's marriage as well, but for them that their communication styles would be edifying to one another, that they would be good listeners, that they wouldn't interrupt. And our family interrupting is like a legitimate communication style. But for these young men, they weren't used to being interrupted all the time.

And we had to pray through that. Sure. I'm just sitting here laughing because I'm thinking of, you know, it's not necessarily healthy that they have a perfectly clean house. No, no, absolutely. And they don't, you know, she would say, we don't. But anyway, it's been great to watch God meld them, you know, knit them together so that they each really do, like the proverb says, iron sharpening iron. They've got that relationship now. Jodie, I was really intrigued by the distinction you make between destination prayers, which to me is we're going to Disneyland, we got a problem versus process prayers.

How do we get ready to go to Disneyland? What's the difference in those two prayer types? Well, I think it's really helpful as we pray for our kids to, yes, realize that they're going to be day in, day out issues they face.

You know, they're going to make this team get cut from this team, get into this college, not, you know, marry this person, not. But we want to look at and pray with the ultimate destination in mind, that God would be glorified and that our children would have a saving relationship with Him. Third John and I think verse four says, I have no greater joy than that my children are walking in the truth. And as parents, if we wrap our joy up in an earthly success or a temporal victory, that's okay, but it's not going to give us the peace and the lasting satisfaction as if we know our children are walking in the truth. So if we keep that destination in mind, I think we can pray. And like you said, our kids sometimes learn just like we do in the valleys. That can allow us to watch them go through a hard time and say, all right, maybe God is using this season to bring them to that ultimate destination, that saving relationship with Him, that place where God really is glorified in their life. And it might not be a fun walk the whole way, but destination keeps us able to trust, I think, and keeps us able to have joy even when things aren't looking exactly like we would design or desire. I think what I've heard from you today is you'll be amazed at what it does to your heart as mom and dad, not just for the kids' benefit.

Yes. And that is really good. It's a beautiful thing that God invites us to partner with Him in this parenting journey. I love when the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, yeah, we were, you know, all these bad things happened to our shipwrecks and beatings.

We despaired beyond life itself. But in the message translation, he says to the Corinthians, but your prayers are part of the rescue operation. And I feel like that with our kids, too, when God says, you know, your prayers make a difference.

They really matter. And the other thing I love and I would love for your listeners to take hold of is that God sees, you know, He is a Father. I love Hosea 11 in Scripture where we see His Father heart so deeply where He says, when you were a child, Israel, He's talking to Israel, but He might as well be talking to us. He says, I bent down to feed you. I lifted you up.

I carried you. And you just see that tender Father heart. And then He says, but you walked away. You went after other gods.

You rejected Me. And as parents, we know what that feels like. And yet that tenderness of God saying, I did that, and you left.

And God says, if you read Hosea 11, that His anger is aroused. He realizes that's not the best plan for these people, but so is His compassion. He says, I will have compassion on them. I will roar, and I will draw them home.

I will settle them. And I think we can know that He'll do the same thing for us. He sees. He knows what we're going through. And yet He's never going to stop pursuing our kids.

I love that Hannah Whittall Smith, she says, they're not lost. They're simply not yet found. And what a beautiful way of looking at that, to just say God is pursuing them. He's reaching out to them. They're never out of His reach. That's so true.

And we don't want to become the barrier to them finding Him. And that's so critical. Absolutely. You've done a great job praying the Scriptures for your adult children. Jodie, this has been great. Thanks for being with us. Thank you, Vince.

Such a treat to be here. Lord bless you all. Thank you. Thank you. Another wonderful conversation with Jodie Berndt about the importance of prayer on today's Focus on the Family with Jim Daly.

I'm John Fuller. And Jim, you and I are both kind of living in this space with adult kids, watching them become their own people as they try to figure out school and careers and faith and adulthood and so much more. That's so true. I mean, Trent's finishing pre-med. He's going to study for the MCAT. We'll see where all that goes. But he's really enjoying it and finds it intriguing and challenging and rewarding. Troy is out of the house.

He's doing an internship now and finding his wings that way. So, it's an exciting phase of life. And we're proud of our adult kids and even the challenges that they have. I mean, we're hopeful for their futures. Obviously, spiritually, we want them rooted in Christ and following the Lord. And the 20s are full of big decisions that face them.

But it's all good. And I really appreciate Jodie's bottom-line message today about entrusting our adult children into God's hands because, ultimately, they're His children. We're just stewards. And then pray and pray and pray and pray that His will will be evident in their lives. And, of course, a great tool to help you with that is Jodie's book, which is the gift of any amount to focus on the family.

And we'll get it out to you right away. And that's our way of saying thank you for partnering with us to encourage and strengthen other families. It is a great way to do ministry together. And I know you'll benefit from this wonderful resource, too. Yeah, donate when you call, 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459. You can make that donation and request your copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children by clicking the link in the show notes. And while you're online, be sure to download our free mobile app, which allows you to listen anytime, anywhere.

And we've got so many great programs there for you. Check it out. And coming up tomorrow, we'll be examining how and why Christians need to live out our pro-life convictions. But then Jimmy did something that fundamentally changed my life. He showed a short video depicting abortion. I had never seen abortion, and I sat there and wept. And I thought, I am no different than the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side.

I say I care about this, but I don't act like it. Thanks for listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. and how unique people like you can better come together. To get started on your marriage assessment, visit That's
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