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How to Pray for Your Children Away at College

  • Deborah Haddix Contributing Writer
  • Updated Oct 01, 2019
How to Pray for Your Children Away at College

My Facebook feed is full of them. Pictures of wide-eyed teens sitting in their new dorm room or standing by the sign that declares the name of their new college home.

For the most part, these pictures are shared by mom and filled with exuberant declarations of excitement over this child’s new adventure. Sometimes, though, other emotions churning deep in mom’s heart seep to the surface.

I scan the pictures, read the posts, celebrate with them, and remember.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 20 years since we moved our first child into her college dorm, but the drive home will never be forgotten. Dad, mom, sister, brother, each one dealing with their own raw emotions. Ten hours of heavy silence.

Yes, I was excited for her and her new adventure. But…

Had we done enough to prepare her for living on her own?

How would she do with handling finances?

Would there be friends? Good friends?

What about if she got into trouble? Any kind of trouble? She was ten hours away. We couldn’t just hop in the car and be there.

She knew no one, except her roommate.

And there was a hole, the size of which I’d never felt before, in my heart.

Silence. Tears. Ugly cries.

Then God reminded me. I could worry, or I could give my child, my loneliness, my fears, and my hurt to Him.

Whether it’s your first child or your last, here are 6 ways to pray for your children away at college:

1. Pray for Life Transition

Pray for this new season in the life of your child. It’s a huge transition for them as well as for you.

This “move” to college, whether you are settling them into a dorm room across the country or around the corner, marks the passage from teen to adult.

Pray for your child as they transition to living on their own and grow in areas of personal responsibility.

Things to pray:

Exercise discernment in making good choices (Philippians 1:9-11)

Employ biblical wisdom in shaping their views and opinions (Colossians 1:9-10)

Identify some accountability partners and learn to accept advice (Proverbs 19:20)

Manage time, money, talents, and gifts in a way that pleases God (1 Peter 4:10)

Experience God’s comfort when fearful or lonely (2 Timothy 1:7; John 14:27)

Content, free from the comparison game because their identity is found in Christ (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 John 3:1-2)

2. Pray for Protection

It can be so hard to let go. Afterall, we’ve been protecting them as best we could for eighteen years. Whether car seats; bicycle helmets; sunscreen; hats, gloves, and mittens; seatbelts; or curfews, we’ve guided our children through life’s daily moments.

Now, they are living in a new season – on their own, away from us.

Rather than fretting and being anxious about things over which we have no control, we can pray.

Things to pray:

Kept from the evil one (John 17:15)

Resist Satan (1 Peter 5:8-10)

Resist temptation (Galatians 5:16-17)

Kept from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

Guarded eyes (Matthew 5:29, 6:22-24)

Guarded tongue (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6)

Guarded footsteps (Ephesians 5:15)

Guarded thoughts (Philippians 4:8-9)

Guarded heart and mind (Romans 12:2)

3. Pray for Christlikeness

It’s quite natural, isn’t it, to want to protect your children? Truly, the impulse manifests itself in many ways. One of them is prayer. I know that I have spent much of my prayer life asking God to watch over my children and keep them from any harm.

But is this in the best interest of my children – that they never experience hurt or feel pain?

Personally, I know that God does some of His best “growth” work, right there, in those places of discomfort, pain, and suffering.

Yes, pray for protection for your children away at college but also pray for their growth in Christlikeness for the day-in-and-day-out and the tough times.

Things to pray:

Hope (Hebrews 6:18-20; Romans 15:13)

Heart of gratitude and thanksgiving regardless of the circumstance (Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 13:15)

Generosity (Acts 20:35; 1 John 3:17)

Exhibit discipline and self-control (Proverbs 16:32; Titus 2:11-12)

Responsibility (Galatians 6:5)

Diligence (Hebrews 6:11), Endurance (Hebrews 12:1), Perseverance (Galatians 6:9)

Integrity (Proverbs 11:3; 1 Peter 3:16)

Humility (Philippians 2:3-4)

Offer forgiveness (Colossians 3:13)

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22)

4. Pray for Their Earthly Relationships

Our children away at college are navigating so many new waters, all while their support system is being shaken to its core. High school friendships once held firm will cease to exist and family relationship dynamics will shift.

Many are entering a place where they feel lost and alone. We need to pray faithfully and fervently for our children as they meet new people and work through family relationship changes.

Things to pray:

Amid the changes, continue to respect and honor parents (Ephesians 6:1-4)

Healthy family relationships (1 Timothy 5:8)

Meet new people and develop God-honoring friendships (Proverbs 13:20)

Bring pure-hearted adults who are full of integrity and sound judgment into their life (Psalm 1:1)

Discernment in choosing who to spend time with, confide in, and trust with the deepest parts of themselves (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Do their part to cultivate friendships that nourish their soul (Ephesians 4:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 27:17)

Wisdom in dating those who honor God with their lives and hold a biblical view of marriage (Deuteronomy 5:29; Ephesians 5:22-23)

5. Pray for Their Academic Wellness

It’s easy to fall into the habit of praying a blanket statement over our college-age children when it comes to their academics. Phrases such as “Help her get good grades” or “Please help him pass this test” roll easily off the tongue. Let’s not, however, forget all the mental and emotional work that goes into being a student.

Things to pray:

Motivation and discipline in applying themselves to study (Colossians 3:23)

Freedom from anxiety and fear (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 34:3)

Wisdom in using time well and developing good study skills (Proverbs 3:13)

Concentration and focus, ability to grasp, and retention of material (Proverbs 4:6-7; James 1:5)

Capacity to communicate thoughts, questions, and explanations clearly (Proverbs 29:20; James 1:19)

6. Pray for Their Spiritual Condition          

This time of major transition is also reportedly the time when most young adults drop out of church for at least a year. A recent LifeWay Research study found that nearly all who dropped out gave a change in their life situation as the reason, and of those changes, the most frequently cited was the move to college.

As we pray for our children away at college, it is crucial that we pray for their relationship with God and their spiritual condition.

Things to pray:

Salvation of any unsaved child and thanks for the salvation of those who are saved (John 3:16)

Love for God (Luke 10:27) and a deep relationship with Him (John 17:3)

Strengthened faith (Philippians 1:6)

Abide in Christ (John 15:4-5)

A church home (Hebrews 10:24-25; Ephesians 4:11-13)

Hunger for God’s Word (Matthew 4:4; Acts 17:11)

Persistent in prayer( James 5:16)

A witness for God (Matthew 28:19-20)

Trust in God (Psalm 9:10; Jeremiah 17:5-8)

Celebrate their journey. Grieve over your loss. Above all pray. Trust your Father with it all.

Deborah Haddix serves as co-director of Education & Resources for the Prayer Ministry of Christian Grandparenting Network and is the author of Biblical Portrait of Grandparenthood: Discovering and Living Out God’s Design for Our Role. She is also a blogger, speaker, and Christian Life Coach. Connect with Deborah at her website.

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