We are doing a book give away of Jodie's new book, Praying the Scriptures for your Adult Children! Email us your name and mailing address by midnight, Friday, January 12th and we'll announce the winners early next week!
I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer: I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.
Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.
God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps:
The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow. Hillary had a great roommate and her life swirled with classes and social activities, but she had not yet discovered “her people.” There was friendship space that had yet to be filled.
Our kids need good friends. We can’t make them for them, but we can certainly ask God to provide. And as we pray for this need—as we partner with God to accomplish his good purposes in our kids’ lives—let’s look to the Scriptures for insight on what matters most. There are, obviously, all sorts of ways we might pray; here are three of my top friendship requests:
Constancy. The Bible offers several portraits of friendships marked by loyalty, dependability, and faithfulness: Jonathan and David. Ruth and Naomi. And of course Jesus, the one who promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let’s ask God to give our kids faithful friends and to draw them into a life-giving relationship with Jesus, the one who gave up his life “for his friends” (John 15:13).
Next, Transparency. When I was a student at U.Va., I had two roommates (Susan and Barbie), and we gave each other permission to be what we called “brutally honest.” It didn’t matter if we were critiquing an iffy outfit or confronting each other about a questionable behavior; we spoke the truth. We tried to do so with love, but even the gentlest rebukes sometimes hurt. “Faithful,” Proverbs 27:6 says, “are the wound of a friend.” Let’s ask God to give our college kids friends like that—friends with whom they can admit their mistakes and find restoration, forgiveness, and genuine love.
And finally, let’s pray that our kids will enjoy friendship with other believers, the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 13:14, the kind that fosters connection, not just on the natural level, but also in the deepest recesses of the soul. Friendships forged around common interests (sports teams, Greek life, good books) are wonderful, but when the common ground of eternity comes into play, the most satisfying relationships—the kind that transcend things like race, age, and socioeconomic background—can take root. Let’s ask God to surround our children with friends who will “spur them on toward love and good deeds” and run alongside them as they “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (Hebrews 10:24, 2 Timothy 2:22)
If you like praying this way—taking the words we find in the Bible, and using them to give shape to our prayers—you’ll find hundreds of prayer prompts in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. In addition to the prayers about friendship, the book covers grown-up needs like getting a job, resisting the party culture, and making the transition to adulthood with wisdom, purpose, and grace.
It doesn’t matter how old our kids are, or how far away they may go. We never stop loving them. We never stop wanting God’s best for their lives. We might not be able to pick their friends (or anything else they might choose), but we can pray. We can slip our hand into God’s—the One who loves them enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ask or imagine—and trust him to do what he promised.
It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
Jodie Berndt is a 1984 graduate of The University of Virginia and a former co-chair of the U.Va. Parents Fund Committee. The author of nine books (including the popular Praying the Scriptures series), Jodie is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher. Find her writing at JodieBerndt.com, or connect with her on Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes), Instagram (@jodie_berndt), and Twitter (@jodieberndt).
Jodie and her husband, Robbie (Class of 1985), have four Wahoo children and two Hokie sons-in-law. Which, except during football season, is not such a bad thing.