Our Father Who art in heaven, at the beginning of a new year we approach Thy throne of grace in behalf of the youth of Thy Church. At the end of the old year, its weeks and days and moments having sped by, and as we stand at the threshold of another year, impress our young people with the vanity of earthly existence. Apart from Thee, life is vain. No matter how great the riches, how glorious the fame, how thrilling the pleasures, it all ends in death. Oh, teach us to number our days, to live in the consciousness of the brevity of our earthly existence, so that we set our hearts on wisdom’s way.
Deliver our young people from the fool’s heart. Deliver them from the notion, the foolish notion of the young people of the world, that the good life is the life of doing what they please. The world in which we live, and especially, the youth of the world, is lawless. On every hand God-ordained authority is disdained. Deliver our young people from this spirit of the age in which we live. Work in their hearts love for Thee and the desire to live in obedience to Thee. Give them the grace to be obedient to all authority in their life. May they honor and obey their parents and teachers. May they receive the instruction and admonition of their pastor and elders. In all their obedience give them the eye to see that by obeying those in authority over them, they are in very truth obeying Thee.
Keep our young people, we pray, from the temptations of the ungodly world in which we live. We know the severity of these temptations. And we know the weakness of the young people themselves, the same weak and sinful nature which we possess. Keep them from the Devil, who goes about to destroy them. With particular severity he tempts them. They especially are the objects of his unrelenting assaults. For Satan knows that if he can lead astray the young people, he has destroyed the church of tomorrow. Give them the strength to resist the Devil and to stand steadfast in the face of his opposition.
In the days of their youth, may the young people remember their Creator. May they not forget Him or ignore Him at a time in life when so many other things demand their attention. May they not forget their Creator by forgetting His Word. Give them diligence, and the needed self-discipline, for regular study and reading of Thy Word this year. May they be faithful to receive instruction from Thy Word in the preaching services and catechism classes of the church. May they not be embarrassed about Thy Word, but may they be ready and eager to discuss the Word with one another, especially in Young People’s Society.
Lord, teach them to pray. May they be more and more impressed with the important place that prayer occupies in the Christian life. Through prayer may they live the coming year close to Thee, in conscious dependence upon Thee. The temptations are great, the struggles well-nigh overwhelming. But through prayer Thou wilt give them the needed strength and grace. For it is through prayer that God is pleased to give us His grace and Holy Spirit. May they be young men and young women of prayer, then, who in prayer bring their problems and troubles to God. May they experience God’s answer to their prayers.
Give our young people this year the grace to be witnesses for Thee in the midst of the world. May they be unashamed of the Christ and of their discipleship of Christ. In whatever place Thou hast set them, whether they work at a job, or whether they attend school, may it be plain to those about them that they are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. May it be plain not only by what they do, but by what they refuse to do, not only by what they say, but by what they do not say, that they are the children of God.
May they confess their faith openly and publicly. May they give a testimony of the faith that lives in their hearts. Impress upon them their calling before Thee to make this good confession. May they give serious thought this year to their responsibility to make public confession of faith in the church and to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Be especially with the young people in their dating. May they have serious thoughts about dating and marriage. Keep them from the filthy use that the young people of this world make of dating. May their lives be characterized by holiness and chastity. In their dating may they have an eye on marriage and their calling from God to marry in the Lord. May they not become entangled with an unbeliever, the consequences of which entanglement they will have to bear the rest of their life. But for the glory of God, the joy of their own married life, and the welfare of the children which God may given them, may they marry a young man or young woman who is one with them in the faith. May they, even in their dating and marriage, put God and God’s kingdom first. May they not, for the sake of a husband or wife, leave the church and turn their back on God.
Be with those young people who struggle with the question of their calling in life. May they give this question careful and prayerful consideration. Cause them to know the particular place in Thy kingdom to which Thou dost call them. As they consider their life’s calling may the overriding consideration not be where the most money is to be had or the most honor obtained. But may their consideration be first of all, “How can I best serve the cause of God’s Church in the world?” May employment and promising job opportunities, as well as the pursuit of higher education, never become with the young people a reason to leave the church and the truth of God’s Word.
We are mindful of those young people who have special burdens to bear. We think of those whose physical health and strength have been taken away from them. There are those who must spend their days in a wheelchair, those who are handicapped, those who are confined to a bed. Give them, and their loved ones who must care for them, a special measure of Thy grace. In their times of despondency and questioning grant them the strength of faith to confess that our life is in Thy hands and Thou knowest what is best for us.
We offer up a special petition, heavenly Father, on behalf of those young people who have strayed from the path of righteousness and who are walking in sin. They have broken the hearts of their parents and pastor, they have grieved the members of the church, but most of all they have offended Thee. Some of them simply have no interest in spiritual things. They have become irregular in their church attendance, or have stopped coming to church altogether. Others have fallen into a particular sin from which they will not turn. Still others have made friends with the world and are running with the young people of the world.
Oh God, our hearts and our prayers go out for them. We have exhorted, and admonished, and brought the Word of God. But we are powerless to touch the heart. We depend upon Thee.
Work repentance! Restore! Break their hard hearts and subdue their stubborn wills! May they see the error of their way, the foolishness of their life. Work in them sorrow over their sins and a turning from sin unto Thee. Thou, Oh God, art a God able to bring the prodigal back from the filth of the pig pen, to restore the wayward to the favor of Father. Work Thy work in their hearts. Give them no rest, until they find rest in Thee.
May we all together live this new year in anticipation of the day when time shall be no more, when the last moment shall have passed, and when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come again on the clouds of heaven. Then we shall all appear before Him with Whom we have to do, to give account of the deeds which we have done in the body. Then each one shall stand before the great Judge of heaven and earth. God grant that we may appear before Him unafraid, without terror. May we have the certainty of hearing the, Word of our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”