Barrett L. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
O blessed Father, the great God of spiritual Israel, of Thine elect over the whole world; we, raise this prayer especially on behalf of the youth of the church, who are Thy chosen, on whom Thou dost look with loving eyes of favor, for those in the strength of their youth—the covenant young people.
Their needs are great, Father—sometimes greater than the needs of others. And if not greater, yet the position and experience of the young people in the battle of faith make their needs different and unique. We raise a special prayer for them that they might receive a unique blessing from Thy hand.
Grant to them, Lord, the grace to know Thee as Father, as the Father Who has written their names in the palm of Thy hand. May they know Thee as the Father Who has adopted them in everlasting love, and now made them alive again by the powerful Spirit of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Grant them faith to call Thee their Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ their Lord. Oh, so much would take that trust away from them. Bind on their hearts the knowledge and trust in Thee that will pulsate in their hearts daily.
Grant, Father, that their fathers would reflect Thy great Fatherhood, so that through them, our young people might come to know Thee as a gracious and merciful God. Grant that their fathers might not be stern, unforgiving, aloof, and violent, under whose rage they cower in fear, but fathers who have patience and understanding toward them, forgive them, walk with them, speak to them, love them. Then, Father, we are confident of Thy blessing on their hearts and minds as regards their view of Thee, the most blessed, merciful, speaking, loving, Father.
O, blessed Father, may they know Thee as a heavenly Father, not only One to be revered, but One able to supply their needs. May they never become flippant in their prayers, even when many in the church today commune with Thee in language we would be ashamed to use in our prayer now. May they know Thee as a Friend, a Father, the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. May Thy name be set apart in their heart as a holy name.
Father, our heart’s desire and prayer for them is that they be saved. Our hearts burn within us with a hope that they be assured of their salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and confess that faith with a good confession before Thee and before men. In the strength of their youth, may they not trust in their own works, or will, or worth, for their standing in Thine eyes. And yet, we confess, that is a fault of us all because we become overly confident in our ability and worth. When all is well, we think we are sufficient in ourselves. Help them submit, rather, to Thy righteousness through Thy Beloved Son.
So work faith in their hearts mightily by Thy Spirit and Word—confidence that Thou canst wash their hearts clean; faith that Thou wilt not remember the sins of long ago . . . . Ah, Lord, our sins rise up against us, prevailing day by day; but Thou wilt show us mercy, and take our guilt away. O, teach them to sing victoriously from Thy wonderful songbook, from
“Remember not, O God, The sins of long ago;
In tender mercy visit us, Distressed and humbled low.
O Lord, our Saviour, help, And glorify Thy name;
Deliver us from all our sins And take away our shame. . .
Then safe within Thy fold, We will exalt Thy Name;
Our thankful hearts with songs of joy Thy goodness will proclaim.”
And then, washing their hearts clean, Father, kindle in them an unquenchable fire of zeal for Thee and Thy great kingdom, so that the strength of their youth may be for Thy glory.
May Thy kingdom come in their lives more and more. Rule them so by Thy Word and Spirit that their lives more and more be transformed by Thee and then conformed to Thee. May they know Thy law, and know it not as a list of rules that constantly hinder them, but as ‘a wonderful guide for showing their thanks to Thee. O, may they be thankful for their covenant’ privileges, for their blessings, for their salvation. And, thankful for them, may they submit in gratitude to Thy will. Destroy in them all the works of the devil; break to shivers all violence in them that exalts itself against Thy kingdom. Father, be their all.
There are many cares in their lives. For these we pray too. Hear every cry. Answer every request for strength. Receive with favor each petition they raise, especially from those with special struggles. Bind up the broken hearts. Heal the wounds they receive in the battle of faith. Apply the balm of Gilead to their wounded souls.
Grant that help especially when all seems lost, when the temptations are too great (and the flesh so weak), when friends forsake, when mockery stings and ridicule cuts deep, when they sink in deep mire where there is no standing; when the deep waters overflow them; when they are weary of their crying, their throat is dried and their eyes fail. Let them wait for their God. O, that they know Thee as a refuge and their strength, a helper ever near them. Then they will not fear though earth be moved, for Thou art nigh to cheer them. Their mighty God will hear them.
Nor are their lives easy, Father. And we confess that we are not always sympathetic to that. For what occupation shall they study? To what church shall they join themselves? To what school shall they go? With what leisure shall they entertain themselves? To what acquaintances shall they join themselves? What about marriage? What about dating? What about drinking and smoking? These are the questions they struggle with, Lord. Give them grace to seek Thee for answers; then show them the good way.
Give the young men direction in their lives regarding occupation. Grant that their work might be fully in the service of Thy kingdom, whatever work it be. Train men to work with the gifts given in Thy wise providence. Make each know that their divine calling and station in life is a place divinely ordained. And then, in their labor for bread, may they withdraw their trust from their own care and industry, and place it alone in Thee, the Giver of all good things.
Raise up among them those with the desire to serve Thee in the ministry of Thy Word. Prepare them from their youth for that great work, so that Thy church will always have pastors who feed the flock purchased with Thine own blood.
Influence young men for good so that they will grow up not only with a desire to serve in the other offices in the church (although that too), but with qualities necessary for that service. Raise up young men who are spiritually minded. Train them for faithful service in the kingdom. And use every experience for their good. An awesome calling awaits them—to be responsible for the ongoing of the church in a few years. Provide for the needs of Thy church.
Give the young women direction as to their future beyond their required schooling. Many face the question of college or work. And what work? Others are perplexed because Thou hast not yet led them into permanent friendships that would lead to marriage. It is a time of worry, Lord. Thy will be done, here, too. Strengthen against the temptation to date and marry contrary to Thy will. Always may they marry “in the Lord.”
Raise up young men and young women with a desire to teach in the schools. Oh, Father, Thy covenant is a blessed covenant, Thy children precious children. And we need teachers committed to covenant education, Christian education, Reformed education, for our youth. May it ever be that the young people see that great need. May it ever be that some train well and give their lives for it.
We pray for their parents and teachers and pastors and elders as well, that we would not only see the weaknesses and sins of the young people, but their struggles and hopes and strengths as well. May we encourage them in their confession, motivate them in their work, love them in their good works.
We desire to help the young people, Father, We desire to give them guidance, to encourage and support them. Our prayer is that we may be used mightily for that great work among them.
So this, too, we pray: Grant the young people the willingness and freedom to come to us as pastors for counsel. Continue to give to us pastors the grace truly to be concerned for them in their needs; that we may so show our love in our actions that it hardly need be spoken aloud. May the young people find in us a friend and counselor at any time, who is not surprised at their sins, nor hasty in criticism, but one who is able to exhibit the wisdom, love, the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
May we then be a help. Use us. Please, Father, use us.
But we also know, Father, that we cannot direct them in every decision, cannot counsel them in every problem. They will, in the strength of their youth, make many decisions on their own. Then bestow them with a sanctified heart.
Bless them in Bible study, catechism, sermon listening . . . . Attend these means with the indwelling of Thy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.
May they know Thy Word, able to make them wise to salvation.
Teach them to pray.
Grant, Highest Majesty, that these Thy young people may learn to know Thy voice. Oh, that they might live so near to Thee as to be familiar with Thy voice. Oh, that amid so many other voices today, so many alluring sirens, the voices of all the other gods crying to be worshiped might be voices strange and hideous.
The day, oh, the day is evil. Shorten the days for their sake. Hasten the day when our faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend—Oh, so make it well with their soul.
May these Thy sheep rejoice in the strength of their youth!
The young people of the church we commit to Thy care, Father, with the confidence that Thou wilt hear and answer our prayers.
In the name of our (and their) blessed Savior we pray, AMEN.