Home » Whack-a-Mole Parenting

Whack-a-Mole Parenting

Jodie BerndtBy Jodie Berndt

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”John 15:7

When I was working on the original edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, the folks at Zondervan let me know they were meeting to discuss the cover design. “Do you,” they asked, “have any specific ideas or input to contribute?”

“Well,” I said, “if you were to poll my friends who are raising teens right now, they’d probably tell you to just go ahead and make the cover black.”


“Yes, but you could put a ray of light cutting across the darkness to symbolize God’s intervention in our desperate lives.”

I was kidding—sort of. Ty Saltzgiver, who spent more than 40 years hanging out with adolescents in his work with Young Life, taught me that you are never “just kidding.” There’s always a kernel of truth in there somewhere. And in this case, Ty was right: My friends and I knew that God loved our kids and that he was at work in their lives, but there were plenty of days when our hearts just felt … dark. Our spirits were heavy. The list of what-ifs and worries—safety on the road, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, sexual purity, spiritual doubt—seemed limitless. No sooner would we finish praying about one thing than another would, like a crazed whack-a-mole, pop its head out of the hole.

Robbie and I had four kids in six years (which translated, I think, to four teens over 13 consecutive years), and during the time it took to write and publish Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, we prayed our way through almost every topic you’ll find in it. I even found myself wondering whether God—in that Godlike way of his—allowed some specific challenges to manifest themselves in our family just to remove any lingering threads of self-sufficiency, pride, or judgmental attitudes I might have tried to hang on to had I not found myself in the parenting gutter so many times.

Case in point: As I was working on the chapter about praying for our teens’ attire and thinking about the importance of modesty, God reminded me of the time that our daughter and two of her friends went to a rock concert dressed—unbeknownst to us—in skimpy shirts they had made themselves. Lest you think I should have been proud of a teen who could sew, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that the girls used staples, not thread. And the shimmery gold fabric they thought looked so fetching? They had ransacked it from a neighbor’s nativity set.

Wrong, on so many levels.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How and Why to Pray the Scriptures for Your Children: An Interview with Jodie Berndt]

Our kids’ fashion choices are but one of an untold number of things we may find ourselves praying about. There are other topics—so many topics—that you won’t find in the book’s table of contents, not because I didn’t think they were important or because we didn’t walk down those roads, but simply because—to borrow an explanation from the apostle John as he wrote about the mighty works Jesus did—“If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Academic struggles, sibling relationships, teen pregnancy, parental divorce, the loss of a loved one … if you find yourself—if you find your teen—coming up against one of these challenging places, know this: There is no need we will face that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his Word. He understands. He’s been there. He is there with you still. And he invites you—he invites us—to anchor our trust in his promises.

If you read Praying the Scriptures for Your Children—better yet, if you prayed your way through that book—you know that God’s Word is powerful and effective. You know that it does not return empty but always accomplishes God’s purposes and desires. And perhaps more than anything else, you know that it holds the key to endurance and hope.

Which, in a nutshell, is what Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens is all about.

As a mom, I’ve always considered prayer to be a vital part of my job description (as someone once said, “If you’re not praying for your child, who is?”), but when I began using Scripture as the basis for my prayers—taking the actual words in the Bible and using them to shape my requests—I found that prayer became less of a “duty” and more of an adventure. When I read my Bible, I would discover phrases and promises that I could pray over my kids. My conversations with God began to take on a whole new dimension. Gone were the repetitive and sometimes—dare I say it?—boring petitions for generic blessings and protection; my prayers became interesting and creative and infused with a fresh kind of power. I shouldn’t have been surprised—God’s word is, after all, active and alive—but I wasn’t prepared for the depth of connection that came with speaking to God in the language he first spoke to me, nor could I have anticipated the fulfillment, joy, and confidence that came with tapping into words that had been conceived and shaped in God’s heart!

My desire in writing Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens is to give you that same sense of connection, fulfillment, and joy. I want you to pray with confidence, knowing that when you come before God, you will receive mercy and find grace for your every need—for your teen’s every need.

“The true purpose in prayer,” wrote R. A. Torrey, “is that God may be glorified in the answer.” I believe that—but I also know how easy it can be for contemporary parents (well, this parent at least) to glorify or idolize our children. Not overtly, of course, but when we center our thoughts on our kids—either because they have made us so proud or because they have made us so anxious—we inadvertently elbow God out of the picture.

So let’s not. Let’s release our teens to God and pray with thanksgiving—no matter what the present circumstances are or the future what-ifs might look like—knowing that God has everything under control. Let’s pray with a heart that desires, above anything else, to bring honor and glory to God.

Will there be times when our hearts feel dark and our spirits are heavy? Of course. But from where I sit now, praying four all-grown-up children through the whack-a-mole issues in their young adult lives, I will tell you that I am glad the original edition of this book was not covered in black. And I’m even more glad, as I look back over my kids’ teen years and see the fingerprints of God’s faithfulness, that the new cover looks like it does. To me, it speaks of hope, light, and the power of God’s Word to open doors in our teens’ lives.


Praying the Scriptures for Your TeensAdapted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens: Opening the Door for God’s Provision in Their Lives updated and expanded edition by Jodie Berndt. Click here to learn more about this book.

Prayer can be your greatest asset and source of wisdom in raising teenagers in today’s world. Now expanded, this book features updated content on issues like pornography, addiction, self-harm, anxiety, rebellion, technology use, dealing with disappointment, and more.

It’s never been tougher to be a teen—or the parent of one. Thankfully, from your teen’s first date to the next time they borrow the car keys, you can take your concerns to God through prayer.

Drawing on the power of God’s Word, this updated and expanded edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens equips you to pray about the difficult issues your teen may face:

  • Relationship challenges
  • Doubts about their faith
  • Depression
  • Rejection
  • Sexual purity
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • . . . and much more

This book also guides you in praying about everything from your teen’s character and safety to the purposes and plans that God has for his or her future.

Filled with engaging illustrations, biblical insights, and compelling prayer principles, Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens shows how to make the Bible your source for prayers that can powerfully influence your teen’s life. With a grace-filled approach and a warm, personal style, author Jodie Berndt encourages you that there is not a need your teen will face that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his Word—and that, no matter how far away our kids may be, they are never out of his reach.

Jodie Berndt has written nine books, including the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series for children, teens, and adult children. A speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie has been featured on programs like Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and a host of popular podcasts, and she has written articles for Fox News, Club31Women, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband, Robbie, have four adult children, and they live in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Find Jodie’s blogs, videos, and printable prayer resources at jodieberndt.com or follow her on Instagram @jodie_berndt.

Leave a Reply