It was Abraham Lincoln who was quoted as saying, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
He was probably speaking about the burdens of his presidency and of the Civil War, but he could well have been talking about parenting.
How often do parents feel at their wits' end and wonder how they are going to cope with the confusion, the contention, the competition and the conundrums that are part of the parenting process?
And it is a simple fact that many of us find ourselves on our knees praying for a child in trouble or in pain, or simply praying for ourselves as parents — for wisdom, for patience, for ideas, for relief from the exhausting duties of raising kids.
Sometimes in these humble moments, we find real help and real strength, and even real peace from a source higher than ourselves.
One thing we have learned — as we travel the globe meeting and speaking with parents about their families, about their kids, about their life balance — is that most parents of all religions (and parents of no religion) pray for their children of all ages. There are few who don’t.
The old saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” might have a family corollary that goes something like this: “There are few parents who don’t feel the need for some kind of higher help.”
So many parents throughout the world perceive God as some kind of heavenly or spiritual father, and thus a parental prayer can often be a very natural form of communication. Essentially, the parental prayer is an earthly parent asking a heavenly parent for help with a child who belongs to both of them. “God, since you are this child’s real and eternal parent, please help me — a new, inadequate and inexperienced parent — to do right by this child of ours.”
From our experience, this is not only a natural and somewhat universal parental prayer but also an effective and oft-answered kind of prayer.
Parenthood teaches us patience, sacrifice and responsibility. It also teaches us a very profound type of humility as we realize, as most all parents do, that we are not equal to the task, that we often just do not know what to do, that we need help.
Parents often ask us about how to cope with the stress, strain, inadequacy and guilt that seem to be an inevitable part of parenting.
And the best answer to that question is this: Pray about it.
Pray as an individual for an individual child. If you are a two-parent family, pray together for your children and for unity with each other. Remember that the classic parental prayer is a simple prayer: “Heavenly parent, help me to be a better earthly parent. Help me to know a little more of what you know of this child of yours.”
When we give that advice to groups of strangers, we may get some who come up and say things like, “I didn’t think I was going to church (or synagogue or mosque), and I came here for parenting advice, not for spiritual advice.” But for every comment like that, we get 10 along the lines of, “That was where you really reached me. That was where you really helped me.”
So as parents, we say, with Lincoln, sometimes we are driven to our knees.
And that is a good thing.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda’s blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com.