As promised, here's my prayer from this morning for Billings' youth. This is the long version; I had to more than cut it in half for the actual event.
This was a neat opportunity for me -- not to be up in front of a few hundred people, but to think through the robustness of what God calls us to pray on behalf of our youth, the urgent needs that they have ... and to recall God's gracious promises to work in and through us, regardless of age. The poverty of my prayer life is evidenced in the fact that I sat down to write this thinking, "What on earth will I say to fill up 3 minutes?" As I mentioned, I ended up writing this prayer and then editing it down from about 8 minutes to 3. As usual, when God calls us to serve in some capacity, he plans to change us more than he plans to change or bless anybody else through us!
A Prayer for my City’s Youth
Heavenly Father, we praise you and we thank you today for the youth that you have placed in our lives. We praise you for the way that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made, even in the different phases that you’ve created of our earthly lives. Thank you that you remain the same yesterday, today and forever, even though we are constantly changing throughout the course of our lives. And thank you for your promise that you will work in us throughout our lives.
We thank you, Lord, for the examples that you have given to us in Scripture of young men and women - Joseph, Esther, David, Mary, Timothy - whose lives exemplified trusting in you and living for your glory. We pray today, Lord, that the same would be true for our youth in Billings.
We do confess, Lord, that we are often afraid of, offended by, or just confused by teenagers and their culture - it seems so foreign to us. We confess that we sometimes see teenagers - even those who are related to us - as more different to us than similar to us, even though we are all just sinners who need your grace. Lord, change our hearts to love our youth and to have your heart to see yourself glorified in their lives.
Father, there are so many temptations that face our youth today. Lord, just as you taught us to pray, we ask that you would not remove their temptations to drugs, alcohol, and sexual impurity, but teach them to be faithful through them. Even in the seemingly insignificant temptations - to disrespect their parents or to compromise in order to fit in - teach them to be faithful. Teach them to trust in you and to know you as a friend who sympathizes with their sufferings, and not as a distant or angry God to whom they cannot draw near in their time of ened. Lord, give them a hunger for your Word, since you teach us that the only way a young man can keep is way pure is by living according to your Word. Help them to root their identity only and fully in you, and to fear you more than they fear the people around them.
Father, give them friends, families, teachers, youth group leaders and mentors who will encourage them and build them up in the faith. Lord, even though they’re young, give them a sense of urgency and responsibility in their conversations with one another, to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouths, but only to speak what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”
We pray this, too, for our High School seniors who will soon be going off to college. We ask that you would be preparing them even now for the challenges that they will face, both in and outside of the classroom. Please prepare for them and guide them to good friends, churches and campus ministries to help them grow in this critical time in their lives.
Father, we pray also for the youth in our town who do not know you, either because they have never heard or because they have rejected you. Lord, you have created in each person’s heart a God-shaped vacuum, and we pray that these kids would develop a hunger for you, even if they don’t know what they’re hungering for. May they find godly friends - old or young - who will boldly proclaim their need for a savior and the hope of the gospel.
We ask the same for groups in Billings that minister to our youth -- for Young Life, for FCA and others, as well as for the many church youth groups in Billings. Thank you, Lord, for raising up so many people in our town who have a passion to see our youth become a generation that earnestly seeks your face. We ask, Father, that you would grant your love and wisdom to these youth leaders, that they would know how to reach into kids’ lives and effectively communicate your love to them.
We pray that the older people who have opportunity to speak into our youths’ lives - especially their parents - would not see this as an age to survive, but as an age of opportunity … opportunity to see you working powerfully in their kids’ lives. And we trust that you, who started a good work in so many of these kids when they were young, will carry it on to completion until the day that you return.
Finally, Lord, we pray for our schools - for the teachers and administrators who have such an opportunity to shape our youths’ minds. May the teachers be encouraged and have renewed enthusiasm for the task of education that you have entrusted to them. And may their students be eager to learn. May they find joy in exercising the minds that you have given to them, and may they delight in learning about the marvelous things that you have done in creating and sustaining this world. As they are taught things that are contrary to your Word, please give them discernment to embrace your truth and to reject lives that blaspheme you, that deny your power and your love, and that seek to diminish your glory.
Lord, we ask all of these things knowing that you delight to lavish good gifts on your children. We trust in your promises to grow and prosper those whom you call your own. We know, Lord, that you promise to answer prayers that are in accordance with your will, and we know that you desire lives that honor you. Do this, Lord, for the sake of your Son who died that we might live Do this, Lord, for our good and for your glory. And we pray all of this in the name of Christ who reigns at your right hand and who even now intercedes on our behalf. In his name we pray, Amen.