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Praying for Our Young People

Dr. Bryan Smith

I’m a firm believer in Christian education. It’s made a huge difference in my life, and I’ve seen it do great things for my children. But it would be foolish for me to think that Christian education is enough, by itself, to transform our young people into godly adults. Ask the most experienced, skilled Christian teachers, and they will tell you that unless God chooses to work in the hearts of our young people, student transformation will not take place.

It’s like the story of the Israelites fighting the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-16). Joshua led God’s people into battle and fought bravely. But the Israelites prevailed only as Moses lifted up his hands toward heaven. We need Christian education. We need a biblical worldview. But without prayer, the transformation we seek will not happen.

But what are we supposed to pray? That our young people will be respectful of authority? That they will make wise choices? That they will not waste their lives? All of these are good requests. But are they the best things to pray for?

Thankfully, God’s Word teaches us how to pray. Repeatedly, in the New Testament, Paul records his prayers for believers. These prayers are meant to serve as models for our own praying. Would you like to be able to intercede for your children (or students) with the wisdom and insight of the Apostle Paul? You can. We all can if we will follow his models.

With the remainder of this article, I want to walk us through one of Paul’s prayers, his prayer for believers in Ephesians 3:14-21. If we will pray through this prayer regularly for our young people, I am sure that God will do significant work in their hearts and lives.

The Almighty Father

Paul begins by reminding himself who he’s praying to: “The Father . . . of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named” (vv. 14-15 KJV). Naming in the Bible demonstrates authority. Here, Paul states that God is the Father who has named the whole creation and is therefore in control of all that happens.

This is an excellent way to begin a prayer for our young people. We know that we are powerless to bring about change in their lives. But we are speaking to the One who has all power. There is nothing He cannot do. The resources at His disposal are infinite. We often find ourselves frustrated by our inability to persuade or give wise counsel. But we must remember that God can do more in five seconds than we can do in fifty years of our own effort.

Strengthened with Might

Paul goes on to ask that believers would be “strengthened with might by [God’s] Spirit in the inner man” (v. 16). He prays that God would take from His vast storehouse of power and pour it out—through the work of His Holy Spirit—into the hearts of these Christians. Paul wants this power to serve a specific purpose: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (v. 17). The word dwell refers to a specific kind of dwelling. It means “to make oneself at home” somewhere. So Paul is praying that Christ would come to make Himself at home in these believers’ lives. And he wants them to do this “by faith.” Not out of fear, not out of guilt, but out of confident trust in the character and promises of God. And if that happens, those believers will be “rooted and grounded in love” (v. 17). They will realize that when they surrender their hearts to Christ, He doesn’t ruin their lives. He stabilizes their lives with His own love and compassion.

It is a difficult thing to let Christ be at home in your heart. This is true especially for a young person whose heart is full of its own desires. How can such people hand their hearts over to Christ? It will take strength from Almighty God. But if He chooses to give the strength, it will happen. And if it happens, our young people will not regret it. Instead of being insecure and emotionally unstable, they will be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love for them.

Knowing the Unknowable

Most of us would be satisfied with that. But this is not the end of Paul’s prayer. The best is yet to come. He asks that believers be able to comprehend “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (v. 18). “Of what?” we naturally ask. That’s what comes next: “the love of Christ, that passeth knowledge” (v. 19). Paul prays that God would open their eyes to see just how much Christ loves them. It is a prayer that cannot be fully answered because Christ’s love is too great for complete comprehension. Believers can search out this love day after day, but they will never reach the end of their search.

Oh, that our young people would come to know what cannot be fully known—the love of Christ! Let us pray every day that God would reveal to them the breadth of the love of Christ: He loves all people everywhere. Let’s pray that God shows them the length of the love of Christ: He loves for all eternity. Let’s pray that God opens their hearts to the depth of the love of Christ: He delivers those who are trapped in the deepest mire of sin and corruption. Let’s pray that God opens their eyes to see the height of the love of Christ: He exalts sinners to live in the heavenlies with God. This is perfect love indeed, and it casts out all fear. How fearful our young people are. They fear the future. They fear their friends. They fear themselves. They fear failure. They fear success. Only one thing can cast out all this fear—the love of Christ, which is so vast it can never be fully known.

Filled to All Fullness

Paul’s final request reveals where he believes all the previous requests will lead: “filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19). What is the “fullness of God”? I believe this phrase refers to the fullness of redemption. It’s shorthand for being made whole so that once again, the believer loves God with his entire being and loves his neighbor as he loves himself.

What a beautiful thing to pray for our young people! We pray that they would come to know just how much Christ loves them, and we pray this so that through this knowledge, they would come to love as they should. It is love that sets them free to love.

The magnitude of this prayer is staggering. It is a Mount Everest of petition and intercession. Dare we expect these requests to be answered? Paul knows the weakness of our faith. So at the end, he reminds us of the kind of God we serve: “Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (v. 20).


Dr. Bryan Smith has worked in Christian education for nearly thirty years. He has been a classroom teacher as well as a textbook author. Currently, he serves at BJU Press as the Senior Manager for Biblical Worldview Formation. He and his wife, Becky, have six children.


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