Back-to-School Prayer

Today was Backpack Blessing Sunday at our church. The youngest kids brought their new backpacks with them for the children’s message, and then our pastor prayed a special blessing over them before they head off to school this week.

I remember the old Staples commercial playing the song lyrics, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” as Mom and Dad gleefully pushed their shopping cart down the aisles, tossing in pencils and notebooks as they went. The kids shuffled along miserably behind them, clearly not sharing their parents’ enthusiasm. All kidding aside, children, parents and teachers all have mixed feelings about the start of the school year. The free-spirited, spontaneous days of summer will quickly be replaced by a new bedtime, wake-up time and daily routine.

Thankfully, those days are behind me now, but I will always remember what a special time of year it was as we purchased school supplies, packed their backpacks, and visited their new classrooms. There were lunches to prepare, forms to be signed, schedules to be memorized, and locker combinations to be learned.

In addition to the classroom learning, there was a steady flow of homework, tests and projects . . . not to mention the many extracurricular activities! My children didn’t have their own computers until college, or their own cell phones until high school. (Those were still the days of flip phones!) Tablets and ipads had not been invented yet, and Promethean boards were just being introduced into our high schools.

Many young children today have their own laptops and smart phones, creating distractions and dangers that my kids never faced. Parents have to be extra vigilant in an age of growing dangers, including online predators, human trafficking, drug abuse, and viral “challenges” that tempt kids to accept and record various dares, all in an attempt to have it go viral. And it hurts my heart to add to this list — school shootings and suicide.

Oh, we have so much to pray for!

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:11-14

With all this in mind, here is my Back-to-School Prayer:

Lord, I pray that you will lovingly watch over each child, and that they will . . .

  • be protected and feel safe in their learning environments
  • be filled with a desire to learn new things each day
  • be open to ideas, opinions and cultures that sometimes differ from their own
  • be a friend to the friendless and those who are bullied
  • be free to explore their creative ideas and express them in a meaningful way
  • be able to resist peer pressure that might cause them to act in ways that are harmful to themselves or others
  • be respectful, courteous, and helpful to their teachers and school staff
  • be proactive and seek wise counsel if  they, or one of their peers, ever feels anxious, depressed or confused

I invite you to use this list as a starting point for your Back-to-School prayers this week, and add to it throughout the year. Ask your children what you might add to this list, and encourage them to pray with you.

Rest assured, the Lord is listening, and He loves all His children unconditionally and guards them safely throughout their day. Have a wonderful school year!

Fear Not

Life sure is full of changes.

Two weeks ago my brother moved our mom into a permanent nursing home. This happened while we were overseas in Israel. A bed became available, so he had to move quickly. I felt badly that I was not there to help with the transition, but the timing was beyond my control.

Our family knew we were heading in that direction ever since Mom’s second fall right after Christmas. Unlike her first broken hip, this was not a simple replacement. This surgery required rods and pins, followed by a 7-week stay in a rehab facility. Her dementia seemed to fast track after her return home, and it was apparent she had forgotten how to complete the most basic self-care tasks.

This story may hit home for some of you. I have friends and other family members who are only too familiar with Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to the physical deterioration, the disease steals precious memories. That has been the hardest thing for my brother and I to witness. When that recognition and connection disappears, you suddenly feel as though a stranger has replaced your loved one.

As I seek ways to cope with this change, I have discovered something that brings me comfort. My mom has forgotten how to worry. The things that once caused her to fret are no longer important. She enjoys living and has no idea that she is no longer her former self. Her nurses tell us that she is so much fun to be around, that she makes them laugh. She tries to dance through her physical therapy, and loves joining in the daily games and activities. She still lights up when my brother or I walk in the room. There is still that brief glimmer of recognition followed by joy that we treasure so much.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-27‬

Seeing our mom so content has also helped us to shed our own worries. Caring for her had been a huge challenge — particularly for my brother — for the past 8-10 years as Mom’s disease has progressed. I realized that this move, regardless of the timing, was truly an answer to prayer. As I stood with my forehead pressed against the Western Wall in Jerusalem back on July 7th, I asked God to help us care for our mother and to guide our decisions. When I returned home, my brother and I realized that our greatest prayer had been answered within days of that visit. Simply amazing.

Whatever trial you may be facing in life, please do not give up. Place your worries before throne of the Lord. Allow Him to care for you, even as he cares for every tiny sparrow.