Rachel Austin praying over her son, Cole.
This week, I received a note from a very dear friend asking that I pray for her and her son. Her beautiful, brilliant firstborn is grieving the loss of his absentee father. She has asked that I pray for God to replace her child’s heartache with joy, and that God helps him to see himself as the awesome man he was created to be. She also asked that I pray for God to open her eyes, so that she can always see how to be the best champion for her son.
I was honored by her request. I love praying for mothers and their children. It was something I started doing regularly when I lost my nephew Cole to suicide in 2015. There is something terrifying about praying for children. They are so small and helpless, and it is brutal to regularly lay out your fear and frustration and anger. Begging for things that cannot always be fixed or changed, pleading with a God that sometimes sounds so very silent.
There is also something wonderful about praying for them. For me, it serves as a reminder about perspective. Children often have a singular focus – to love and be loved. It is our job to meet that need in the very best way that we can, every day. That isn’t always easy or pretty. As a mother, some days are more challenging than others. I have to swallow anger and reprimands and raised voices. I am not always successful, and I have to ask my children to forgive me. Praying for children helps me to be a better mother, especially if I do it in the morning rush before we are looking for coats and water bottles. I find that if I remember to love first, anger is a much slower second. Nothing matters more than children.
Prayer doesn’t always turn out the way we want, though. In the case of my nephew, thousands of people prayed for his complete and miraculous healing. He did not wake. But I know that he is in heaven now, healed completely of his emotional injuries as well as his physical ones. We got what we prayed for, but not in the way we wanted. We believe in a merciful God, a God that can make miracles. So why not one for us? It is hard to digest the undigestable. And then sometimes, our prayers are answered in exactly the ways we have asked for. I have been praying for my sweet little friend Ceely for at least two years. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was just a baby. She has endured so much, chemotherapy and even a stem cell transplant. She is such an amazing survivor! I have prayed for Ceely’s momma almost as much! You need a special kind of strength to fight with everything you have.
Cole’s Grace provides free counseling services to people coping with a traumatic loss. You can learn more at ColesGrace.org.
Losing Cole let me see the true power of a mother. His beautiful “birthgiver” Rachel has more strength, love and determination than anyone should ever have to have. God has helped her find beauty in the ashes, rebuilding a life for herself and her two sons, and then founding Cole’s Grace, a non-profit counseling service that helps survivors of traumatic death. Mothers know the power of prayer.
With the devastating news of the Florida shootings this week, I feel compelled to continue to pray for these children and their families, for the teachers and helpers and first responders. I pray, too, that our politicians will wake up and fund mental healthcare programs for those in crisis. I pray that our politicians will fix gun control laws to prevent the sale of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons to children.
Seventeen-year-old Ostyn Jacob Williams could face up to 10 years in prison for bringing a handgun to his high school.
And now, what seemed so far away has hit a lot closer to home. Ostyn Jacob Williams, 17, was arrested for bringing a .40-caliber Taurus semi-automatic handgun into his classroom at Midland High School last week. I don’t know Ostyn or his family, I don’t know why he brought a gun to school. But his actions could have had horrific consequences. He could have hurt so many people, or maybe he intended only to hurt himself. I will be praying for Ostyn, too. What he did was wrong and scary, I am not trying to minimize or make light of that. But he is still a child, someone’s baby boy. I pray that his story turns into one of redemption, I pray that the people who love him to be his champions as well, that they have the strength and ability to help him. Too many parents have lost their babies this week, enough is enough.