Praying for Your Child’s Will

In Sharon Jaynes’s book Praying for Your Child from Head to Toe, she tells a story about her grand-niece Lillian.

My niece Anna dropped her kids off at school and then went home to clean up a bit. She removed a hairbrush, school papers, and yesterday’s jewelry from her dresser. And there it was. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

A nail.

And a name.

L-i-l-l-i-a-n … carved into the top of her dresser’s walnut surface.

Seven-year-old L-i-l-l-i-a-n didn’t even bother to hide the weapon used to commit the crime. The nail lay just where she found it. Right on the dresser by her name.

It was a tough six hours as Anna waited for her forty-four-inch, forty-nine-pound lump of love to get off the school bus. This was not a good day. “Come with me,” Anna said to little Lillian. “I want to show you something.”

“What’s this about?” Anna asked, pointing to L-i-l-l-i-a-n carved into the wood.

Lillian’s rosy lower lip quivered, her green eyes filled with tears, and her porcelain face turned autumn red.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered with bowed head.

“What were you thinking?” Anna asked sternly.

“Well,” she began, “last night I was waiting for the boys to finish their shower so I could take my turn. I saw the nail and picked it up. At first, when I thought about carving my name on the dresser, my mind said, No, no, no, don’t do it. But the longer I waited and the longer I thought about it, the no, no, no, don’t do it turned into yes, yes, yes, do it. And I did. I knew it was wrong, but I just had to do it.”

Anna got down on her knees and held Lillian’s cherubic but very guilty face in her hands. “That’s how the devil works,” Anna said. “He creeps in when we don’t expect it and tells us to do bad things—wrong things; but it is up to us to say no.”

“I’m sorry, Mommy,” Lillian cried. “I’ll never listen to the devil again.”

Don’t you wish we could all just decide, I’ll never listen to the devil again, and be done with making bad decisions! Don’t you wish our kids could.

I’ve found that raising kids and praying for them is a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of thing. Sometimes they’ll “listen to the devil,” and we mothers usually see the telltale signs of those decisions. But how can we influence our children to develop spiritual discernment? Read on to find out.

Pray that Your Children Make Wise Decisions

Sharon Jaynes recommends that after praying for our children’s minds, we should pray for their “necks,” which swivel with each decision they make. In the fall, our sweet youngsters must make a bunch of choices.

After I dropped off my boys at the curb on day number one of the school year, I knew I’d have about eight weeks till parent-teacher conferences. At those meetings, I’d find out about all the poor decisions they’d made. Their shortcomings were legion; so were their missing assignments. One of their kindergarten teachers asked me point blank what I fed my son for breakfast because he was so, well, uninhibited. It was as if she suspected I’d loaded him up with Coca-Cola and Skittles before ushering him inside her door.

Emotional immaturity shrouds even the best elementary- or middle-school student. My boys weren’t the worst, but they certainly weren’t the best. For most of their elementary school years, my phone number was on the principal’s speed-dial list. We were kicked out of karate (no pun intended), VBS, and swimming lessons. One teacher was so spurred to anger by one of my son’s behavior that on the last day of elementary school, she benched him so he couldn’t participate in the celebrations. During those growing years, my goal was to keep them out of prison.

I share this not to shame them, but to encourage you, because by the time they were in high school, their decision-making skills (using their stronger neck muscles!) improved in both practical and godly ways.


  • dropped relationships when those friends started bringing pot to school;
  • contributed as players on the JV sports team, accepting not making varsity;
  • treated girls with respect while some of their male peers didn’t;
  • regularly made time to spend with Christian mentors;
  • supported friends whose parents were divorcing;
  • found areas of interest to pursue in college;
  • graduated with a B average;
  • were NOT kicked out of anything.

My life changed too. My hope in God’s goodness prevented my sons’ poor behavior from keeping me trapped in “bad-mom” status. I prayed consistently and fervently, and even when I was so discouraged and fighting waves of shame because my kids’ choices missed the mark (often by a wide margin), I knew that God was in the background helping them and me grow.

Sharon summarizes this holy struggle well:

One of the weightiest gifts and responsibilities God gave humankind at creation was the gift of choice—or free will. While God is sovereign over all the earth, including time and history, He still allows mere humans to make decisions that affect destinies. When it comes to parenting, watching our children make choices will bring us to our knees quicker than any other aspect of being a mom or dad. Whether it’s a toddler choosing a toy or a teen selecting a college, making decisions is part of every child’s life. Those choices start off small and seemingly insignificant and grow in complexity and consequence. Decisions determine destinies; choices create histories.

What will turn your child’s head? Will Jesus be the North Star of their moral compass? Or will they be swayed by the ever-changing mores of a culture that takes what is wrong today and, with a majority vote, makes it right tomorrow? Will they choose to make honoring God the highest priority or default to pleasing self?

As you pray for your child’s neck, you’ll be praying for the choices they make throughout the day, throughout life, asking God to turn their head toward God-honoring decisions and away from godless desires.

The first “neck” decision we moms need to make every morning is to turn our hearts to the Lord in prayer on behalf of our children.

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Marianne Hering is an editorial Jane-of-all-trades: ghost blogger, children’s book author, content writer, picture-book coach, developmental editor, magazine article writer, and copyeditor. While on the staff with Focus on the Family, she helped launch the popular Clubhouse and Club Jr. magazines in 1987 and edited their children’s books for more than a decade. She is the fiction acquisitions editor for Brio magazine and manages the parenting column “Hacks & Facts” for Focus on the Family magazine. She recently joined David C Cook as a developmental editor for Esther Press books. Perhaps the “chapter” in her career she’s enjoyed the most is writing The Imagination Station book series for children ages seven to ten, which has more than one million cumulative sales. 

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Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible