All parents are looking for the silver bullet to parenting. We know we need to give our kids continual instruction on honor, truthfulness, integrity, kindness, patience and loving the unlovable. They need to be held accountable for their actions. Learn to restrain their impulses to throw temper tantrums. Be able to resist peer pressure to experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol. But the question remains, “What can we teach our kids that will prepare them for any crisis that is sure to impact them some time in their lives?”
Because there will be days, months even when everything seems lost. When they suffer the inevitable heartbreak. When they fail to make the team. When their friends have deserted them. When they’re rejected by their favorite college. When even God seems far away. And these are just the teen years.
We all know there will often be times in adulthood when money is tight. Jobs are lost. Marriages are rocky. Health is failing. Loved ones leave us. And loneliness collapses souls.
These are the days that truly try men’s souls. These are also the days when it helps to know the secret of life: praying for others. Not just praying for our family and friends though that’s wonderful. But praying for complete strangers. Even praying for our enemies. And doing this throughout the day.
This secret of life, explained so beautifully here http://nyti.ms/1e51tz4 has been known by the most spiritually advanced people down through the ages. Sages have known this. Jesus knew this. Devout Christians and Jews know this. But while some people know this, they don’t know why. Why it’s important to pray for others when nothing seems to be going right, when we face dead-end jobs or failed interviews or difficult relationships.
We can be so consumed with thoughts of our own misery that we are unable to think clearly, to take any action whatsoever. But when we earnestly pray for strangers on the street, the driver who just cut us off, the teenager getting off the bus, and we do this every time we want feel sad or discouraged something mystical and wonderful happens. Our souls are refreshed. Our minds are healed. Our hearts are open to the gifts of the Father. The more we pray for others, the more we receive. Praying for others is good for the world, it’s good for our souls and it inevitably in some unexplainable way is good for the person who we’re praying for.
As I was biking early today I prayed for the walkers I passed, the bikers that passed me, the drivers of the cars on the road. It was just a “God let your Holy Spirit shine upon them.” If nothing else, I felt the prayers were certainly keeping me close to God. When I was resting on my balcony and saw the valet parkers I prayed for them. That God would bless them for their hard work. Ok, a good prayer. An ambulance drove down the expressway, that was an easy prayer. “Whoever that ambulance is headed for, I pray for their health and their recovery. And their family. My wife and I went to the mall later and instead of just praying, I found myself really studying people. I was moved to pray for one couple’s finances. Another couple’s marriage. One lady’s health. The prayers were no longer random, but specific. I truly believe God was giving me guidance on whom and what to pray for.
Sound preposterous? I know for a fact when you ask God for guidance, especially about helping other people, He gives it.
I’ve also learned over the years to pray for my enemies, for God to grant them every fiscal, physical, mental, and emotional healing that I would want. This prayer is how I’ve learned to wash away anger and resentments. Because it’s simply impossible to earnestly pray for someone and continue to resent them.
But praying for others, randomly, secretly, continually, is totally different. Its randomness is what makes it extraordinary and is like ice cream for our soul. It’s a gift to ourselves all parents should teach their children. Imagine the gift to your family if parents and children agree to pray for five people every day. Kids on the soccer field. Mothers in the carpool lane. The men mowing yards. The Uber driver who picks you up. Your waitress Five strangers. Every day. Soon your family will inevitable be praying all day. Making contact with God all day.
Souls cannot help but be changed. Households cannot help but become more peaceful. People cannot help but become more productive. Our difficult day will seem a lot less difficult. Perplexing questions become easily answered. Our homes become more loving.
And our children will have learned a lesson that will take them through the difficult times . . . to a brighter day.
Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NYTIMES best selling parenting author with some 4 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over thirty-five countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East. For more information visit www.fearlessparenting.com.