I just finished reading Katherine James’ A Prayer for Orion. She shares they story of her son’s addiction to heroin and its impact on their family. James description of her own struggles as a parent trying to understand a child’s addiction is vulnerable and honest. She shares her faith in God in the midst of unbearable pain. The book is heart-breakingly beautiful.
The thing with addiction is that your love and your will power cannot help another person overcome it. They need to want it for themselves. But we aren’t helpless, for God is present in our pain and present with our children in their pain.
A few years ago, a worshipping community I was a part of was struggling with our role as parents and children’s addictions. We gathered for a prayer service to pray for our children and the children of others. While the focus was on addiction, we know that our children often struggle with so much in their physical, emotional, and mental welI-being. I offer these prayers to you, whether you pray them yourself or join with others to call out to God.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)
Lord, this is where it begins. A child is born – innocent and beautiful. We love and care for our children – and those in our families and in our communities – hoping for the best, doing our best. Hoping our best is good enough.
My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:20-27 (NIV)
We watch them grow: protecting them from falls, from choking hazards, from strangers, from hurt. When they are with us all the time, we believe we can control the influences and danger around them. We convince ourselves that our best is good enough.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
We watch the growing independence of our children, seeing them make new friends. We enjoy the people they are becoming, looking forward to each new insight of who are children are. We nurture, we teach, we counsel, we discipline – all in love. But as they grow, we learn that we cannot control every influence in their lives. And this scares us. Our best may not be good enough.
The LORD God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” – Genesis 2:16-17 (CEB)
We begin to realize that children do not come with guarantees. We cannot control them. We learn, just as you did, that to be fully human, our children must have choices. We learn, just as you did, that the choices are children make are not always in their best interests. We learn, just as you did, that in this world, our love and our best is never good enough.
And pain fills our heart.
And hurtful words fill our homes.
And relationships rip apart.
And we know our child is still beautiful, even if not innocent.
And we love even when we don’t know how.
Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.
When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” – Mark 9:24-29 (NRSV)
The demons in this world threaten to steal our children from us. The temptations of this world and the weaknesses of our bodies cause so much pain. Depression, anxiety, addiction, and other suffering within and outside their control separate our children from us – and we fear, separate them even from you. Like this father, we do all that we can. Jesus, we bring our children to you.
O, God, we believe, help our unbelief! Like the disciples, we wonder why we can’t cast the demons out of our children’s lives. And we pray – so we don’t understand why this is your response to the disciples. What kind of prayer is required? What are we doing wrong?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7-10 (NIV)
Of all things we entrust to you, O Lord, our children must be the most difficult. What parent wouldn’t suffer in the place of their child? What wouldn’t a parent give up in order to protect them from violence, illness, addiction or death? What wouldn’t we sacrifice to see them be whole? We can’t believe that you love them more than we do.
Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. – Hebrews 11:1 (CEB)
It is so difficult to give our children to you physically and spiritually when we can’t see you. You made us of flesh and blood and so it is almost too hard to accept that despite damage to their bodies, you guard their hearts. Lord, we know it is not our lack of faith, our lack of love, or our lack of doing our best that cause our children to suffer from mental illness and addiction. If it were, it would be in our power to protect them. But the truth is, is that evil exists in the world.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)
But now, says the LORD—
the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel:
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
when through the rivers,
they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you won’t be scorched
and flame won’t burn you.
Don’t fear, I am with you.
From the east I’ll bring your children;
from the west I’ll gather you.
I’ll say to the north, “Give them back!”
and to the south, “Don’t detain them.”
Bring my sons from far away,
and my daughters
from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name
and whom I created for my glory,
whom I have formed and made. – Isaiah 32:1-2, 5-7 (CEB)
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39 (NRSV)
Faithful and merciful God, we go in peace, not because life’s problems are solved or all fear removed or all faith restored. We go in peace, because in Christ, all things are possible. Amen and amen.