“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Christ provides the clearest and greatest picture of what it looks like to be someone’s friend. He gives all of himself for others—that's true friendship. But friendship is not a one-way road....
Her prayer rattled me.
I had met a few Christian women for coffee. As our conversation progressed, one sister shared that her father had deeply wounded her. After a few minutes, one of the older saints suggested that we pray and asked the woman for her dad’s name. We bowed our heads, and I was surprised to hear her spend the entire time praying for the woman’s father. She showed such care for his soul—asking God to be near to him in his loneliness and praying that he would find his hope in Christ alone.
I wouldn’t have even thought to pray for the woman’s dad—let alone pray like that. As she prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me. How often do I pray for my own parents? I thought. The answer: not often enough.
In Ephesians, God commands us to honor our parents (Ephesians 6:2). The word “honor” in this verse means “to give weight.” We honor our parents, then, when we give them weight in our hearts and lives. One tangible way we do this as grown children is by giving them weight in our prayers.
How should we pray for them? One of the best ways to be assured that our prayers for our parents align with God’s will is by praying Scripture. To get us started, here are three biblical prayers for our parents based on Psalm 71:
1. Pray that your parents would find refuge in Christ alone.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress. (Psalm 71:3)
We may look at our parents and think that their lives are relatively settled. In actuality, the “final quarter” can be filled with uncertainty. Our parents might be anxious about their health, financial investments, or their ability to care for aging loved ones.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, they may be tempted to look too much to temporary refuge—turning to doctors, financial advisers, or assisted living homes for peace of mind. But we know that true, lasting peace only comes from placing our hope in the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 10:4).
Pray that your parents would be quick to look to Jesus and remember his steadfast love. If they’re not yet believers, then boldly pray that God would open their eyes to the truth of the gospel so that they might find true rest in Christ (Matthew 11:28).
2. Pray that your parents would continually praise God and proclaim his mighty works.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge. (Psalm 71:14-15)
Many of our parents have worked hard in their careers, at home, in their communities, and in the church. Earthly wisdom says they’ve earned a life of rest and relaxation. But godly wisdom tells us that our lives are not our own—that God made us to praise him and tell of his righteous acts for all of our days (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
At our church, we have a ministry called “Age of Opportunity” for those who are 55 and older. I love what that name communicates. It’s as though they’re collectively saying, “We’re not done doing God’s work. In fact, we’re just getting started.” Pray that this would be the cry of your parents’ hearts as well. Ask God to help them discern how they might best serve him during this season. Pray that they would continue to hope in him and praise him even as their minds and bodies fade.
If your mom or dad have yet to experience God’s salvation personally, then pray that God would rescue them from their sin so that they might worship him and proclaim his glorious works for the rest of their days.
3. Pray that God would not forsake your parents in their old age.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)
This third prayer pairs well with the second. The psalmist asks God not to forsake him—to uphold him in his old age. Why? So that he can continue to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds as he has from his youth. He wants to make God’s name known to another generation.
It’s natural to pray for our parents to have good health and long lives, but God wants us to think bigger. Instead of just asking God not to forsake your parents, ask instead that he would sustain them so that they can make his power known to others. Pray that if God chooses not to heal them here on earth, your parents would proclaim Christ even in their death.
If your mother and father do not yet know of his wondrous deeds, pray that God would call them out of darkness and into marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Ask him to preserve their lives until they confess Christ as their Lord. Pray that God would do this for the sake of his holy name.
Who will pray?
I once attended a parenting class where the teacher said, “You are your child’s biggest prayer advocate this side of Heaven. If you don’t pray for your children, who will?”
It’s a humbling question. Imagine if we asked it in reverse:
“If you don’t pray for your parents, who will?”
You’re in a position to be one of your parents’ biggest prayer advocates. Praying for our mothers and fathers is a great way to honor them, so let’s commit to interceding for our parents before the throne of grace.
Heavenly Father, be a source of refuge to our parents. As they grow older, do not forsake them so that they might proclaim your works and glorify you. In Jesus’s name, Amen.