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Discovering Your Child Has Special Needs: 5 Prayers for the Journey

Discovering Your Child Has Special Needs: 5 Prayers for the Journey

Being told that your child might have special needs is a frightening and often disorienting experience. Whether that diagnosis comes in the early school years, at birth, or even before a child is born, this moment can represent a fundamental turning point in our lives. All the hopes and dreams we had for this child are now being challenged. We are being asked to see our child differently. And we wonder: will others see our child differently, too?

When we're faced with so much uncertainty and feel like we're trying to re-dream our future, here are five prayers to point us back to the One who holds our child ever close to His heart.

1. A Prayer for an Initial Diagnosis

O God, the Creator of everything, we are scared. We cannot see your plan right now, but we trust in your Word to guide us. Thank you that we live in a time when people are starting to understand difference, and thank you that through knowing this diagnosis, we are better equipped to meet the needs of your precious child. Walk with us, Lord, every step of this journey. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

A Diagnosis Is Not a Definition

When my son received his diagnosis, one of the hardest things for me to hold in my mind was that he hadn't changed. This new label he was carrying didn't alter who he was at all. A diagnosis does not change who our child is; our child is already, and will always be, a beloved, priceless child of God. Nothing about that truth has changed or will ever change.

Just as a diagnosis does not change our child, a diagnosis does not define our child. It is merely a tool we are given to access the supports that will help us meet our child's needs. This can be so hard to remember, especially when facing testing processes that tell us our child is or is not a label that can seem so totalizing. But our child is not that label. Our child is not that diagnosis. Our child is so much more.

2. A Prayer for Testing

Lord, as we look to begin the testing process with our child, we ask for mercy. We pray that this testing process be fair and accurate, and if a diagnosis is given, that it is fair and accurate too. Help us know that a diagnosis is not the sum of our child's identity but merely a tool that allows us access to further support. Help us use these tools wisely to better understand and care for the child you have given us. Be with us during this difficult time. Amen.

God Is Stronger than Our Fear

I was talking about an obstacle my son was facing with a friend one time, and I asked her, why has this racked me? I'm pretty resilient, or at least I like to think so. My friend's response was, "This isn't happening to you… it's happening to your child."

The fear we feel on behalf of our children is like no other, isn't it? We see all the myriad ways things can go wrong, the ways the world will be just that much harder due to having different needs. Sometimes it's hard to trust that God is big enough to hold even this fear - but He is. God doesn't promise to take the fear away, but He does promise to always be with us.

3. A Prayer in Times of Fear

O God, who calmed the turbulent seas, your words speak peace to trembling hearts. The future is so uncertain, and right now, we can't even figure out the present. Fear finds us in the night and steals our breath; fear robs us of our joy. Be with us in this place, Lord. Hold our fear as you hold our hearts. Amen.

In All Things, God Works for the Good

One of the wonders I found in becoming part of the special needs community was the gift of seeing all the care and effort put forth by advocates and innovators—people who have worked so tirelessly on behalf of those who have special needs. I didn't have to reinvent the wheel for my son; so many wheels were already in place for him, merrily rolling along.

We are the beneficiaries of the work of countless folks who have gone before us, advocating for our child's needs before that child was even born. We are the recipients of an amazing legacy. And I see God reflected in that legacy—His creativity, His compassion, His love for us all.

4. For Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Heavenly Father, we thank you for all those whose work paved the way for us to have the accommodations we need in our world today. Thank you for the trailblazers who went before us: Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Samuel Gridley Howe, Ann Greenberg, Timothy Nugent, and Joni Eareckson Tada. Thank you for the countless mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and friends who fought for the rights of children so very much like our own. Help us not forget, Lord, the sacrifices that were made for us to have accommodations today. And help us as we continue the charge so that every child, everywhere, can be fully and completely accepted. Amen.

God's Grace Is Sufficient

Parenting a child with special needs is a daily call to humility, a daily call to see the grace of God. Sometimes I see that grace in my child's special education team at school; sometimes, I see that grace in strangers we pass on the street. On the hardest days, I remember: I am surrounded by people who are choosing to be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth.

Sometimes, I see that grace in my child. In the way he sees the world, in his struggles, and in his successes. And it is beautiful: the grace of God poured out in and through his life.

5. A Prayer for Special Grace

Heavenly Father, before the foundation of the world, you chose our child to be a dearly beloved child of yours. We are honored by the privilege of being your hands and feet here on the earth. Thank you for the joys and for the sorrows. Thank you for the triumphs and the setbacks. Thank you for everything that makes this child a beautiful, priceless creation in your sight. Thank you for how you have stretched us and grown us, opening our eyes to see you ever more clearly. Thank you for all the ways you have given us special grace. Amen.

Watch a video trailer for Special Grace!

*Prayers were taken from Special Grace: Prayers and Reflections for Families with Special Needs, by Elrena Evans. InterVarsity Press, 2022. Used with permission.

Related articles:

How to Let Go of Guilt, Fear, and Shame While Parenting a Special-Needs Child

Homeschooling Special Needs Students

Special Needs, Special Love

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/olesiabilkei

Elrena Evans (MFA, Penn State) is executive editor of Paper and String, a digital care package celebrating faith, creativity, and beauty in its many forms. She is the author of a short story collection,This Crowded Night, and co-author of the essay collection Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life. She is passionate about disability advocacy, and enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, and making spreadsheets. Her latest book Special Grace: Prayers and Reflections for Families with Special Needs releases in April of 2022.