Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.

-Martin Luther

Wouldn’t it be great if at the end of each year we could trade-in the unresolved challenges we faced—especially at home—and get different ones (much more to our liking, of course?) Maybe that falls into the category of, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

We are strapped with diverse problems in our relationships. Often, the problems that hurt the most are the ones that drag on, drain our resolve, and even sometimes plunge us into hopelessness. It is easy to check-out emotionally and stop using the resources that God has given to overcome these problems. Prayer is one of those resources (“weapons” says Luther) that often gets shorted. Don’t let that happen!

Following are three reminders and three ideas to help reenergize your prayers for your family this year.

Reminder #1. God hears your prayers. Remembering that God hears and answers our prayers helps silence our own self-talk and the lies of the Evil One that lead us to doubt God. God is the one who has commanded us to pray. We are praying—to God!—and he promises to hear.

But I call to God, and the Lordwill save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

–Psalm 55:16-17

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

–1 John 5:14

Reminder #2.Prayer is powerful.Knowing that God tells us that our prayers are powerful gives us confidence that our prayers are effective.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

–James 5:16

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

–2 Corinthians 10:4-5

God’s answers of “No” or “Not yet” do not mean that our prayers have no power. We need a third reminder.

Reminder #3.God is still good, merciful, and sovereignly working in the situation according to his will. Sometimes it is not until much later that we see how God was working through his, “no” or “not yet” answer. A dear friend recently died of brain cancer after we had prayed for 18 months for healing. God said, “no”. I remember at times having a hard time actually praying the words, “Lord, your will be done” because I didn’t want anything but for her to be healed. I think that revealed to me how often my own prayers even for good are motivated by my own will rather than God’s.

In the face of suffering none of us will ever completely fathom, Jesus serves as our example.

Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

–Mark 14:36

Strong faith in God’s sovereign goodness and mercy allows us to submit to God’s will as Jesus did in the Garden. Praying this way is an acid test of our faith.

Now, several months after Nancie’s death, we are beginning to see how God had a different plan with his, “no.” He was using the ordeal to do work in other’s lives. The ripple effects have been extraordinary extending even as a witness to many unbelievers around the world in places like South Africa and Korea. At some point, we will fully know how God used her illness and death to work in many lives.

When we submit to God’s wisdom in his “no” or “not yet” answers we find the rest our souls need in order to carry on in faithful prayer and action.

Three Ideas to Energize Faithful Prayer for Your Family

Idea #1. Have your children write down two prayer requests on a 3x5 index card. One request for a specific area of spiritual growth such as “to have unconditional joy in God” and a second request for a practical matter such as “learning to complete school work on time.”

Idea #2.Write a prayer letter to your parents giving them specific prayer requests for each of your children.Include the requests in idea #1 if you want to. Grandparents are a wonderful prayer resource. Including them this way gets them involved in your children’s lives in another spiritually-meaningful way. This also provides something significant to talk about at get-togethers during the year.

Idea #3.Aim to pray with your spouse each day. Generally, my wife and I pray for one-two children each morning. Praying like this accomplishes a second benefit of keeping husband/wife communication about the children regular.

Persistence Pays Off

There is a young man from a Christian home who we know who has for several years been struggling mightily. He has been down all of the wrong roads: drugs, immorality, and crime. Even denying Christ at a few points. The tempestuous nature of his struggle and its impact on his family have been at times hellishly devastating. Yet, his parents and the families in ours and other churches have not ceased praying for this young man. It is hard to keep praying faithfully in those moments when things are going in the exact opposite direction—at ever increasing speed. The buckets of tears and anguish of betrayal were real but not the end.

It has taken years, but he has reached a more definitive point of life change that has been very hope-full and exciting! The story is still being written but there is great hope. This is the work of God’s Holy Spirit. To Him be the glory forever and ever.

Faithful prayer has been a means that God has honored not only to bring this young man back onto the right path but to keep a marriage and a family from disintegrating. I believe that there will be many redemptive ripple effects that will likely take heaven to see.

We all face challenges in our homes from last and previous years. Be encouraged that your prayers about these struggles are powerful. God hears them and is working to bring about his will for the good of all involved—even if it is taking longer than we’d like.