GRrrrrrRRRRRaar!! I lept out of bed as Max, our German Shepherd, went berserk in the middle of the night. Stumbling to the window, I watched three boys, silhouetted by moonlight, pedal furiously out of our driveway.
My heart sank.
These kids had slashed our tires. We didn’t know exactly who the offenders were, but we had a pretty good idea. They belonged to a gang of ninth-graders who were tormenting our son.
Jesse had taken an unpopular stand at his high school. The language teacher implemented a lesson plan that consisted entirely of showing the kids rental movies with Spanish subtitles in lieu of actually teaching. Our boy raised a stink for a couple of reasons: these R-rated films showed more skin than Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break, and he really wanted to learn Spanish. The blowback came when this teacher, Mr. Movie Buff, handed worksheets to each student in class the next day with the following explanation:
“Well, I’m afraid we’re done with movies. Jesse complained, so now you’ll have written work to do.”
And so it began. Taunts in the hallways. Food missiles in the cafeteria. Threats, insults, and cruelty. I knew there was more, but he wouldn’t tell us. Our appeals to school authorities only made matters worse.
I felt sick. And powerless. And furious. And terrified. I wanted to fix it, but my son insisted he could handle it. After dropping him off every morning, I had to practically reach down my throat to squash the fear that rose in my chest. I’d drive home, fall to my knees, and plead with God to protect my son. My memory might not be spot-on, but I’m pretty sure I also called down some fire and brimstone on Mr. Movie Buff and those nasty little twerps. While I knew that God heard my prayers and understood my pain, I probably could have been a little more . . .
Positive . . .
Courageous . . .
Encouraging . . .
Merciful . . .
Understanding . . .
Farsighted . . .
Hopeful . . .
Empathetic . . .
Peaceful . . .
Yeah, those things. And if this were happening today, you can bet I’d be standing in line for help with better words, a lighter load, and Scripture-based hope in everyday English I could pour out to God.
Kayla Craig, a writer, podcast producer, former journalist, and mother of four is the author of To Light Their Way- A Collection of Prayers & Liturgies for Parents. While I prayed earnestly, passionately, faithfully, and honestly for my children, a resource like this would have been tucked into my purse, dog-eared, well-worn, and used on a daily basis. In the fatigue of parenting, I could have used this gentle guide to ease the burden of trying to find the right words.
To be honest, I was skeptical of yet another prayer guide. I received an advance copy, and while I looked forward to reading it, I’m 65. I’ve read a lot of books. When I was a young mother, friends and relatives gifted me similar resources. While some were certainly worthy of my extremely limited reading time, I generally fell back on my go-to prayer: “Lord Jesus, please help!” The prayer that never fails.
We have precious promises from the Bible that we are loved, we are heard, and that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). So what difference might another book make?
Would different words in our petitions change His answers? Have times changed so much since I was a young mother? What’s so different about the here and now? How is Kayla Craig’s script different from prayer guides of the past?
More than beautifully formatted words on a page, I see To Light Their Way becoming a loving member of our support community. Prayer may or may not change God’s mind, but I know prayer changes me. When I can better express my fear, my pain, my joy, and my longings, I feel a deeper peace come over my soul. Giving it all to God, in the best way I know how, helps me relax and trust that somehow, God has everything under control.
For those worried about their kids in these days of active shooter drills and other unsettling events, Kayla Craig fearlessly opens doors into frightening scenarios. How do we pray about gun violence in schools? How do we talk to our kids about racism? Frightening headlines? Media consumption? Adoption? Divorce? Job Loss? Self-worth? Being bullied?
What if our child is the bully?
One of my personal favorites is “A Prayer for Learning to Drive.” I probably could have saved considerable shoe leather, not to mention wear and tear on my passenger-side brake pedal, if I’d had this resource.
Clearly, the author has done her homework. There’s no way one parent could possibly have the wisdom and perspective imparted on each of the circumstances addressed. In her Acknowledgments, she recognizes the loving contributions from a community of experience, suffering, and pain.
“I’m grateful to every mother and father who shared their deepest joys and sorrows with me—their fingerprints and heartbeats are woven into every prayer in this book.”
I am grateful, too. There are times that sorrow is too deep for words. When Jesse’s sister, Catherine, died on her church’s youth group snowmobile trip, we survived because the saints were interceding for us. “A Prayer for the Death of a Child” rings true because someone else has lived this nightmare, survived it, and shared their experience with Kayla.
Lastly, there are prayers for parents. For you saints who are still deep in the forest of day-to-day, hands-on parenting, God bless you. I know you’re too tired to pray for yourselves and so does the author. The last chapter is “Breath Prayers.” If you can still breathe and can focus through 2-4 lines, you can inhale hope and exhale rest. You deserve it.
I’m a grandmother now. From this distance, I can see that the Lord did intervene in Jesse’s high school situation in a wonderful way none of us could have imagined. Fifteen years down the road and far from the pizza projectiles of yesteryear’s cafeteria, now he’s challenged by two children under the age of five. He and Brooke are lucky if they get to read cereal box labels. Buying them another book will probably be met with a wan and weary, “Thanks, Mom.”
I’m sending it anyway. I’m keeping mine. There’s never been a time my child needed prayer more than he does now, and I’m privileged to include my daughter-in-law and the grands. In this world that is not our home, my serenity depends on casting my cares upon the Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Our God is the God that never fails.