How Prayer Brought an Unexpected Answer

Recently, a friend of mine – let’s call her Donna – told me about her battle. Not a battle with her weight. Or with her husband; or even with her terrible-two daughter. She fights the good fight of teens and screens, because Donna’s teenage son constantly uses his device. One hand forever clutches his tablet. Does this sound familiar?

Click Here to listen to me talk about Teens and Screens on Hobart’s  ultra106five

The number of warnings, limits and failed incentives Donna dishes out, almost daily, made her mad. Why so intent on disobeying her? Tension rose between them as the fight over control of the tablet raged. Donna can see her son is becoming addicted to his beloved tablet, but nothing she does seems to have any effect. The worst part is, her relationship with him is now at an all-time low. All because of that blasted piece of hardware!

The other night she said, “Sam, put that tablet away!” First, she’d told him off while friends were over. Then while watching TV. And now over the dinner table.

Then came his sing-song protest. “Oh, but M-um! I’m just watching this video!”

“No! Too late! Enough warnings.” She put reached over the table. “Hand it over. You get it back in the morning.”

“But I’ve got homework to do!”

“Well next time, think about that before watching your video at the dinner table,” she said, gesturing at the hungry onlookers. “You’ll have to work out another way to do your homework.”

Grumbling, 13-year-old Sam handed over the device. “No fair!” His face looked like thunder. “I’ll never sleep now.”

This “teens and screens” incident caused Donna to act

She decided to pray. Not just a “Please God can you help me with this” sort of prayer. It was more like, “I’m desperate and I’m praying until I get an answer!” In fact, she stayed up most of the night calling on God to show her what to do. She felt weak, lost, and out of control. But mostly she felt so sad at the rift this was causing in her special relationship with Sam-the-Man, as she affectionately called him.

So She Prayed . . .

Donna prayed into the wee small hours of the morning about teens and screens. What happened next surprised her. She got the distinct feeling what she should do was quite different to what she expected. As time went by, she felt led to look at her own motivations, desires and pressures.

It occurred to her that not only did she want to be a good mother, she also wanted others to know she was good at it. Stunned, she realised how much unhealthy pride was sitting there, just under the surface.

Then she thought about how badly she wanted her children to do well at school – because that would also reflect well on her. That was a wake-up call. Her motivation to keep Sam away from his tablet had a lot to do with fearing his grades would drop. Thankfully, so far, they hadn’t.

And Prayed . . .

She thought of Jesus. What would his response be? Jesus is compassionate and loving. Slow to anger and quick to forgive. Sam clearly enjoyed using his tablet so much. As a very precious object, he couldn’t even sleep very well without it! While that was a worrying warning sign, removing the tablet was not helping. Donna suddenly saw that Sam needed more love and compassion than she was giving him, not less.

And Prayed!

Her praying session turned from Sam and his failings, to her own disappointments, struggles and desire to control the situation. Tears of confession and repentance fell as she came to grips with the problem. While Sam clearly had work to do to reign in his near-addiction, it wasn’t going to happen unless she sorted out her own motivations, hopes and dreams for her children – and especially for Sam-the-man.

The Day After the Night Before

As Donna related her story to me, she suddenly smiled.

“You know what happened?” she said.

I shook my head. Surely her prayers helped, I hoped.

“We had the loveliest afternoon, the day after I prayed into the whole issue.

“Sam snuggled up next to me on the couch and we talked about things. The best talk I remember having for a long time!”

She explained how she realised the way to help Sam with his problem was not to rule over him, but to come alongside. Instead of trying to gain control of the situation, she had to let go of her own perspective, and see it from Sam’s point of view. The unexpected answer to her prayer session was to mentor, to train, to explain and to care. To operate with love, empathy and compassion, just like Jesus. She finally understood that the tablet was Sam’s precious item, and taking it away only made the him draw up the battle lines!

Every child is different, and so is every parent. Solutions to problems with teens rarely have textbook answers, and setting rules is effective only some of the time. Really, it’s more about keeping the lines of communication open. Sometimes, that means taking the path of prayer and humility.

Here is what Donna learnt from her battle with Sam:

  1. Prayer is really important.
  2. God always answers prayer, but often in ways we do not expect!
  3. Little problems grow into big problems very quickly.
  4. A relational issue can be like a tangled piece of fishing line. There is only one way to unravel it, and God is the one who knows which bit to pull so it comes undone easily.
  5. Modelling behaviour is an important aspect of living with teens. If Donna didn’t get so cross with Sam, then he probably wouldn’t get so cross with her.
  6. Taking the time to listen, talk with, and understand Sam was only possible once she had got her own disappointments out of the way.
  7. Teaching discipline to children, teenagers – anyone! – often requires coming alongside, understanding and mentoring. Teens and screens are a fiery mix, requiring patience, wisdom and understanding.

What about you? When have you prayed for your children, and been surprised with the answer? Were you humbled too?