I watched my teenage daughter leave the gym, her shoulders slumped and head down. As she walked toward the car, I swallowed the lump in my throat. She was surrounded by her peers, yet obviously felt alone. She opened the car door and climbed in without a word. The silence was heavy as we pulled out of the parking lot. Her head stayed down all the way home. "I love you," I said. No response.
At home, my daughter headed straight to her room and shut the door. I wanted to follow her, but I knew my daughter wasn't usually a verbal processor. The more I pushed in, the more she might push away. Later, she would talk about the hurtful words she’d heard from teammates at cheer practice, but I knew that in that moment, offering her space to sort through her feelings was more important than sharing mine. Conversation could come later.
Words that do matter
But there was one conversation I could have right then. I whispered a plea to God for His wisdom and grace. I began to write down prayers for my daughter, my tears blurring the words on the page.
This wasn't the first time my daughter had experienced the pain of rejection, and it wouldn't be the last. But I knew God was working in her heart and in her life. And I remembered again that prayer really is the battleground where we align our hearts with God's on behalf of our daughters.
But what do we pray about? Over the years, I've found myself praying for five key areas of my daughter's life.
In a world that wants our girls to believe that they are defined by appearance and accomplishments, we can pray with boldness for them to know they are made in the image of God. I love the words of Isaiah 43:1-4, "I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you."
As we pray for our girls to know these truths, we must also be diligent to reinforce them. When my daughter felt rejected by peers, I would leave her encouraging reminders of her identity written on sticky notes or with dry-erase marker on her mirror. One morning I wrote James 4:8: "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you." As I prayed for my daughter to find her identity in Christ, these little notes helped her shift her focus back to what God declares is true about her.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). Every day our girls are bombarded with media, toxic comments at school and other influences designed to deceive and destroy their hearts. One of the most important conversations we can have with God about our children is asking Him to equip them to guard their hearts against sin.
We must also talk to our daughters about the value of being cautious with what they watch and listen to, as well as who they hang out with. These conversations may not be pleasant, but our girls desperately need us to point them to truth, to help them understand the influences that seek to destroy their heart.
We need to be aware of what voices are bombarding our daughters. I discovered many natural opportunities to talk to my daughter as I watched television or listened to music with her. I’d ask, "What do you like about this show (or song)?" From there, we talked about the underlying meaning of words and phrases and compared them to what Scripture says.
What is your daughter replaying in her mind time and again? Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." We can pray that God will keep our daughters' minds stayed on Christ and that He will be the focus of their lives.
On several occasions, my daughter has dealt with anxiety and fear. During these times, it’s important to share our own struggles, to talk about our own storms in life and how God and His Word have been an anchor. We can also lead them through mind-protecting Scripture. Since she was little, my husband and I have taught our daughter that God is there with us as we face times of fear and anxiety: As David says in Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."
We should also pray that God gives our daughter wisdom through challenging relationships, and that our girls reflect the character of Christ in every relationship. In a world where relationships are too often defined by competition and comparison, our daughters can be bright lights of hope and grace as they interact with others.
One of the ways I have done this is by making a list of characteristics I observe in Christ's interactions with others, and then praying for those qualities to be evident in my daughter's life. Jesus showed compassion to the hurting; I pray that my daughter also reaches out with care to those in pain. Jesus was a humble servant; I pray my daughter also looks to meet the needs of others. Jesus spoke the truth in love; I pray my daughter stands for truth but also shows the love of God to those around her.
We can pray that our girls know and walk in the purpose that God has for them. Our culture so often declares that our purpose is to be in the spotlight, but God says we are made to bring glory to Him. Living with the mission of pointing others to God is certainly countercultural, but it is the path God intends for us to have a truly fulfilling life.
We never did talk in detail about what happened at cheer practice that day. When I asked, she simply said, "It's just hard, that's all." Before she went to bed that night, I told her that I was praying for her and was thankful to be her mom.
The next morning, after I dropped off my daughter at school, I sat down with my Bible and my prayer journal. Lying there on my desk was a note from my sweet girl that simply said, "Thank you for praying for me. I love you." It was a poignant reminder to me that, as a mom, I don't need to have the perfect answers. I can love her and pray for her, trusting our heavenly Father, who loves us both perfectly.Teri Lynne Underwood is a Bible teacher, a cheerleader for girl moms, and the author of Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most.