I have been struggling the past few weeks with something my mother and sister both said to me in response to my request for prayer over my younger daughter Sarah. We all agree that she needs her mother.
A bit of background:
She’s 14 now, and last school year she lived with her dad 10 hours away from me and her older sister Lindsey. I had very little contact with her because he had had his phone disconnected before he came to get her. He asked if she could keep her cell phone, and assured me that I would hear from her regularly. I let her take the phone so that we could talk daily, but he would take it from her to keep her in line. When she did have it in her possession, she used it to call her friends and send text messages, doubling my bill. He would let her go out of town with friends on the weekends and keep the phone with him for his own use. When I called, he wouldn’t answer, and I had no way of knowing where she was or with whom, or how she was doing.
Lindsey and I made trips as often as we could to visit, and their dad and I would trade kids for the weekend. The time I had with Sarah was difficult, to say the least. She had no respect for my authority, and discussions with her were usually one-sided. I tried to get her to talk with me, but she’d tune me out and shrug when I asked questions. I prayed for God to give me wisdom, to show me how to reach her, pleading with Him to restore our relationship.
On one visit, I took her to a bookstore to let her pick out a devotional that we could do together over the phone. She wasn’t as excited as I was, but she was willing. As soon as we got back to the car, she wanted to get the devotional over with so she could play when we got back to Grandma’s. I asked her if she’d ever heard the verse “Be still, and know that I am God.” She wasn’t sure, so I asked her if she had any idea what it meant. “Not really.” said she, so I explained that we are so easily distracted by the things of the world, by our friends, by work or play that we forget to take time to listen to God. He wants us to spend time with Him in His word, in prayer, in our daily activities, and if we will be still long enough, He will reveal things to us that we might have missed otherwise.
Later that evening, as we were getting ready for bed, I told her that I wanted her to read the devotional, then we would discuss it. Snuggled up together, we opened the book to that day’s passage, and she read “Be still, and know that I am God.” I explained that God had just confirmed that we were doing the right thing.
We continued our devotions over the phone for about a week. Then her dad took the phone from her and told me how much she hates doing them, how I have sent more people to hell than the devil himself, and how he’ll be waiting at the flaming gates when I arrive. I swear he was hissing when he spoke. He said he doesn’t want me telling her how to pray because he told her she can pray for anything she wants. Not long after that, her phone quit working altogether.
Fast forward to Memorial Day Weekend. Lindsey had gone to spend the summer with her dad two weeks earlier, and both girls were to be at my mom’s house that weekend so I could visit with them. My mom shared with me the uneasy feeling she got when he dropped them off at her house and told her (in front of them) “Sarah and I get along real well. I’ve got her. I know I can depend on her. Lindsey’s not that easy. She brought a Georgia (UGA) blanket to put on her bed. I don’t want it in my house.” She said he was kinda laughing when he said that, but she wasn’t sure he was joking.
My mom and I discussed the potential damage to Sarah that he could do with that kind of manipulation. Lindsey isn’t immune to it, but she’s more aware of it, and seems to be a little less affected by it. We again were in agreement that Sarah needs a healthier environment. Yes, we should pray about it. Yes, we need God to handle this. All agree.
So toward the end of our visit, before their dad came to pick them up, I wanted to pray a hedge of protection around my girls. I asked my mom if she would pray with us, and she looked at me funny. The girls and I went upstairs to pray together, and I prayed that God would keep them safe and guard their hearts and minds against evil. I prayed that He would filter everything they see and hear and allow only the truth to get through.
After they left, I told my mom why I had wanted her to pray with us. (Matthew 18: 19-20 says “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”) I didn’t quote her the scripture, but I tried to explain it. She told me that I’m worrying about it too much, and that I should just pray for God’s will to be done and forget it.
Later, I was talking with my sister about it, and asked her to pray for them as well. I told her that I’m praying specifically that the girls won’t be separated again, and that they would return to me willingly, with a desire to be obedient to Him. She said, “Well, you should pray for God’s will and leave it at that. That’s what we did when we were trying to adopt Mary Ann. We prayed that she would be placed where it was His will for her to be, even if it wasn’t with us.”
Now here’s what I’m wondering. Is there a doubt in their minds that my children should be with me? Do they not understand that this is not a custody battle between warring ex-spouses, but that the very souls of my children could be at stake? Their dad is not the enemy, but neither is he encouraging them to turn from the world and seek after righteousness.
Isn’t praying according to scripture in essence praying for God’s will to be done? I’m deeply troubled by their responses to my request. My desire is not to turn my children against their dad. My desire is to strengthen their foundation of faith, to give them guidance, to teach them by example how to fully rely on God. Is it crazy to think that if I pray specifically for these things then God would give me the desires of my heart?
I don’t think so. What do you think?