Like many moms, I started praying for my children before they were ever born. I’ve since prayed for all aspects of their life: physical health and development, emotional growth and maturity, behavioral challenges and struggles, and most importantly, their spiritual life. I’ve prayed they would never know a day in their life that they did not know who God is and what he has done for them in Christ. I’ve prayed the Lord would ratify the covenant and bring them to saving faith. I’ve prayed they would grow to love God’s word more and more and desire to grow in their faith. I’ve prayed God would protect their minds and hearts from evil. I’ve also prayed that the Lord would prepare and equip them for how he will use them throughout their lives for his Kingdom purposes.
These are prayers I’ve prayed over and over. Perhaps you also have specific prayers you repeatedly pray for your children. Ones that bring you to your knees day in and day out. Ones where you quietly weep as you beseech the Lord on your child’s behalf. Ones where you continue to wait on the Lord’s response.
We are not alone in such persistent prayers. There is another mother, one who lived long ago, who also prayed the same prayers over and over for her child. She also longed for her beloved child to come to saving faith. She persisted in this prayer, and in time, she witnessed the Lord answer it.
A Mother’s Unceasing Prayer for Her Son
The early church father, St. Augustine, is known for his influence on the early church. One of his most famous writings, Confessions, is an autobiography where he looks back on his life before coming to faith. It reveals how the Lord worked in his life to bring him to himself. Confessions is a conversation, a prayer from Augustine to God, confessing his sinful and wayward heart. In this work, we get an inside look at how God worked in Augustine’s life, bringing him on a winding journey through false religion, idolatry, loss, and hardship to see his great need for the grace of Christ. We see him wrestle with the doctrines of the faith. We see him try to find life and hope outside of God. We see him brought to his knees and receive the gift of grace. It’s an amazing story, one which in many ways mirrors our own journey to faith.
One of the most influential people in Augustine’s life was his mother, Monica. She was a pious Christian woman, married to a pagan. In the ancient world, male children would follow the religion of their father, so Monica could not have him baptized. However, she did bring him to church and teach him about the faith. He was enrolled as a “catechumen,” what we would think of today as Sunday school. As a child, Augustine heard his mother sing hymns and pray for him to come to faith. Later in life, he would look back on her dedication to pray for him with gratitude and thanksgiving. He reflected on his mother’s prayers for his soul: “You sent your hand from above, and raised my soul out of that depth of darkness because of my mother, Your faithful one, wept to You for me more bitterly than mothers weep for the bodily deaths of their children.”
Augustine was entrenched in false religions and his mother longed for him to embrace the truth of Christianity. In desperation, she went to visit him in Italy where he worked and studied. He informed her he had left the religious group, but still did not embrace Christianity. Augustine recounts in Confessions his mother’s response to this news. With full confidence, she told him she knew that before she died, he would come to faith. During her visit, Monica sought the help of the local bishop, Ambrose, asking him to speak to Augustine and show him the truth of Christianity. Ambrose told her Augustine simply wasn’t ready yet to learn the truth and told her to wait, saying “as sure as you live, it is impossible that the son of these tears should perish.”
Despite Our Nearsighted Prayers
After years of searching and trying out different religions and beliefs, Augustine finally came to saving faith in Christ. He told his mother of his conversion and she rejoiced over this good news. Not long later, she came down with a fever and died. Monica died having seen the fruit of all her prayers for her son. But she didn’t see what God would do next with Augustine. She didn’t see him become the bishop of Hippo and hear the sermons he preached week in and week out for the rest of his life. She didn’t read all the tracts, treatises, and books he wrote. And of course, she did not know the lasting impact his work would have on the church, for his writings played an important role in the Reformation and continue to instruct and encourage believers today.
This testimony of one mother’s persistent prayers for her son reminds me that God does far more than I can imagine with my prayers. Monica’s prayer was for her son’s salvation; God answered that prayer but did far more than that in the life and legacy of Augustine. As a praying mom, this encourages me all the more to pray for my children’s hearts. It encourages me to persist in prayer. It encourages me to wait and watch and hope.
What an amazing thing to consider! God commands us to pray and uses those faithful prayers to carry out his will. He doesn’t need to, but he chooses to. However, our imaginations are limited. Our prayers are myopic. They aren’t creative. We put limitations on what we think God can do. I can’t help but think of the early church praying for Peter in prison (Acts 9). They prayed God would release him, but when Peter came knocking on the door where the church was gathered, still fervent in prayer, they did not believe it was him. Some thought it was his ghost, thinking he had died in prison. Yet, God answered their prayers and brought Peter safely to them. What a testimony of God’s grace through nearsighted prayer! Despite our nearsightedness, God uses our prayers in ways we cannot fathom.
Dear praying moms: Keep praying for the hearts of your children. Persist in prayer. Be creative in prayer. Know God can do far beyond what you can imagine. And while you may not see all the ways God uses your prayers in this life, trust and know you will see the ripple effects of those prayers in eternity.
Father in heaven, we bring our children before you. Thank you for the gift of motherhood and the important task you’ve given us to raise these eternal souls to know you. Ratify the covenant in their hearts and lives. Bring them to faith in Christ. Work in and through them for your glory. Forgive us for our nearsighted prayers and help us to pray big, bold, creative prayers. Help us to believe and trust that you can do far more than we can imagine. In Jesus’ name, amen.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms and A Holy Fear: Trading Lesser Fears for the Fear of the Lord. Christina serves on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.