Battle for the Hearts of Our Children

Does your child respond to your household rules or personal instructions with indifference, resentment, or rebellion? Fearing something might happen to them, do you dread the sound of the phone or doorbell when they’re away?
The experience generates a tangled web of emotions – frustration, embarrassment, fear, distrust, despair…
It’s complex… It’s simple…

We have an enemy.
he stalks the earth as a roaring lion
seeking the weakest among us,
eager to consume their hearts, minds,
potentials, lives,
and souls.


​​​As a parent I've been there, and I’m here to encourage you.

When our youngest was very young, it was a continual battle to get her to complete school assignments. She would excuse herself, “I’ve got something in my eye,” but ten minutes later, I’d find her fixed in front of the television. She convinced me to buy a beautiful, expensive dress. When I pulled it from the closet for her one Sunday, she had cut up the skirt with a pair of scissors. When she was thirteen, she frequently entertained suicide. I was terrified to leave her alone at any time. 
Here’s what I learned and the basics of what you need to know. It’s not a battle of wills, but a battle against dark spiritual forces seeking to steal these special treasures God has appointed to our care.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ephesians 6:12 KJV

God cares more about our children than we can ever begin to comprehend. And so He provides us with Heavenly Authority, equips us with Spiritual Resources, and Christ has already waged the ultimate Battle for victory. So,

Put on the whole armor of God
so that you may be able to stand firm
against the devil's strategies.
Ephesians 6:11 ISV

One of satan’s key tactics is to divide and conquer. (I never capitalize his name or pronoun references as he’s a lower-case creature.) he and his minions cannot read our thoughts, but they can observe our actions and inaction. they can see what we read, write, entertainment we seek, how we interact with members of our family and others, what we devote our lives to...

they recognize the kinks in our armor.

It’s important to assess our lives in order to execute a successful strategy. I realized that I was giving my family the scraps of my time while I repaired and restored the old home we had moved into. New in town, eager to make friends and to serve well in our local church, I naively accepted a position no one else wanted – to lead the committee that filled ministry openings for the upcoming fiscal year. After calling everyone in the church directory, 40 positions remained open. Don’t do this - I tried to fill them all myself. I learned so much through my mistakes. Please learn from me.

Ministry will always fill a need whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational. And effective ministry comes from the overflow of our experience with God and the harmony within our relationships. But if we’re not meeting the needs in our own families, we’re only offering crumbs to everyone else. Let’s throw our time and attention into building strong families so that our unity will witness our victory to the world. ​
The New American Standard Version of the Bible emphasizes the importance of our God-given resources in Ephesians 6, by using all capital letters, Verse 14:

"Stand firm therefore,

When Jesus was tempted by satan in the wilderness, He simply spoke Truth from Deuteronomy 6 and 8, and the devil left him (Matt. 4, Luke 4). There’s no evidence that He shouted, but simply spoke what had already been written.
So, when the house is quiet, spend as much time reading the Bible as possible. It’s rich and wonderful and is drenched with power. Use colored pens and pencils to mark Verses that speak to your circumstances. This will give you a quick reference, provide encouragement as needed, and it will help you encourage others walking through such a season. One Truth we can glean from the same Book Jesus used for His battle against satan,

“Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.
He will be with you;
he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT

And from the New Testament,

             “For with God
                      shall be
Luke 1:37 KJV

  • Grab a notebook and make a list of each challenge you’re confronting – one topic for each page. Disrespect? Slothfulness? Recklessness? Depression? Rebellion? Drugs? Alcohol? Pornography? Sexual activity? Verbal aggression? Anger? Physical aggression? Self-harm? Threats of suicide? Fear? . . .
  • Now begin writing out Scriptures that address each topic. Cover the page front and back. When you run out of room, start a new page. God’s Word becomes an arsenal when we apply it.
  • ​For additional strategies, study the topics under The Sword. 

​Ephesians 6:14

Righteousness is living the way God desires and designed us to live. We can’t be perfect, but we are called to pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14), surrendering our way for God’s Way, using His Word as our guide and responding to the Holy Spirit, as these bring sensitivity to sin that might hinder our prayers. While reading through the Bible, mark His instructions carefully with a colored pen. And let’s obey. It may require purging the “entertainment cabinet” of music and movies that contain immorality – Paul even warned the Ephesians against “coarse jesting” (Eph. 5:4). And do you have a movie that irreverently abuses the holy Name of our Father to Whom we pray or Jesus, through Whom we pray as we seek to move the mountains of human hearts? Let me put it another way.
If your child died trying to save my family and I attached your child’s name to a string of words that reflect my lack of appreciation, even revulsion for your child and your family’s sacrifice, how would you respond if I showed up at your door asking to borrow a cup of sugar? We must remove the offensive, as these infect our prayers.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
so that He will not hear.”
Isaiah 59:1-2 NKJV

Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other
so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person
is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 NIV

This Verse is far more powerful in context, within the scope of the entire letter. James is five brief chapters filled with power for healing our families. As you read it, add it to your arsenal.

        "But seek first the kingdom of God
                   and His righteousness,
               and all these things
shall be added to you."
                                    Matthew 6:33 NKJV

"And having shod YOUR FEET
Ephesians 6:15

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Romans 10:15 NKJV

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9 NKJV

Love in Action
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9-21 NIV

              “In addition to all,
                 taking up the shield of faith
                        with which you will be able to extinguish
                                   all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Ephesians 6:16

the enemy attacks relentlessly, seeking to wear us down, moving us to despair. Ask God to increase your faith. Study through the Bible, marking verses and stories that demonstrate faith in action. God also puts people in our lives with experiences that encourage us to continue lifting our shield of faith with fresh strength each day, until the enemy is finally exhausted and relents. But even then, be vigilant! That coward is always seeking another opportunity… But,

“We walk by faith,
      not by sight.”
       2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV

                    stand fast in the faith,
         be brave,
be strong.
Let all that you do be done with love.”
1 Corinthians 16:13 & 14 NKJV

“And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.”
Ephesians 6:17

During this battle, satan sometimes moves us to feel responsible for the darkness that grips our family. These thoughts of despair are crippling. And while it may be true that we are responsible for some of our circumstances, God longs to use our surrendered hearts and lives to repair any relational or circumstantial breach, and then use it to help others find hope and victory in Christ Jesus. 

You are called.
You are chosen.
And this is a key assignment of your lifetime.
Fight for your family.
Fight on your knees.
Fight on your face.
Hurl all the love possible into your situation.
Let your fierce determination cause the enemy to tremble.

And this strategy demands that we maintain terrible memories. We must. For if we delight in how God has forgiven us, yet cling to how others have hurt us, we cannot reflect the Love of Christ to the world. And we place ourselves and our families in danger as we lose our authority in prayer. Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray:  
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:9-15 HCSB

So let’s do this! Forgiveness is one of our greatest weapons against our enemy.    
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:12-13 HCSB

It [love] keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:5-8 NIV

Father God,
please saturate our hearts
with this quality of sacred love.
This helmet is sized perfectly for all. So let’s share it as we wear it. Let’s forget every grievance and press on. We have been saved and commissioned for this great battle. When circumstances or emotions assail us, let's open God’s Word and let His Thoughts transform our thoughts. And as God’s Word is described as a Sword, let’s wield it obediently, effectively, victoriously.

“For the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and of spirit,
of joints and of marrow, and discerning
the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 ESV

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.”
Psalm 119:105 ESV

“With all prayer and petition
pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view,
be on the alert with all perseverance and petition
for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:18

Mark prayers in your Bible, or use the stories to inspire your prayers. For example, when Jesus calms the storm in the sea (Mark 4:35-41), write in the margin,
Jesus, please calm the storms in our hearts.
Let there be peace within us and among us.   
With the best of your passionate energies, pray for every family fighting this same battle throughout the earth. As your heart cries out for others, God is deeply moved, and the forces of Hell tremble as our attentions shift from ourselves into the realm of his demonic activity executed on a global scale.
Fasting is highly effective. This form of “shock and awe” warfare can be executed many ways – water fast, juice fast, fasting food for a day or a number of days, eating only one meal per day, Daniel (“yucky food”) fast... Ask others to fast with you. When a friend’s husband left her, she asked seven friends/intercessors to fast and pray for her family one day a week, each taking a different day. It took months, but their family was restored.    
Worship is also “shock and awe” warfare prayer. Sing with the voice God gave you. Dance in victorious celebration, crushing the enemy under your feet (Luke 10:19). Play worship music in your children's rooms whenever they’re away. Anoint their windows and doors with oil. Pull back the curtains, asking God to flood their hearts with holy Light. Daily, touch their pillows and pray that as they rise up and as they lie down, they pursue wisdom and the mind of Christ.
O God, draw them and speak to them
day and night,
even as they sleep.
When doing laundry, pray that they’ll desire to put on the full armor of God and to wear it all times, day and night – even as they sleep. When moving their shoes or putting on your shoes, ask God that each step they take draw them from the fields of darkness and deep into the chambers of God's Heart and His Will for their lives.
I sleep with a small stuffed sheep. Each time I shift positions or get up, I’m prompted to pray John 10, that my family hear God’s Voice, that they not listen to the enemy of all souls who seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy. This is a good inspiration to pray for all people, a key in fulfilling The Great Commission.    

Click on sheep for Just 18 Summers
article on this topic.
Place ornamental stars throughout your home. We have them on bathroom mirrors, a reminder during the night watches. Whenever you see any star, speak these Verses as prayers from deep within your heart:

“Do everything
without grumbling and arguing
so that you may be
blameless and pure, children of God
who are faultless in a
crooked and perverted generation
among whom you shine
like stars in the world."
Philippians 2:14-15 HCSB

“But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness
will be like the stars forever and ever."
​Daniel 12:3 NET

Place photographs of your children throughout your home, next to your bed, in your Bible, and where you spend most of your time each day. Write a Scripture on the back of each one. Whenever you see them, train your heart to faithfully proclaim God’s promises over him or her.
I decorated our kitchen, hanging grapes from the window valances and ladder-back chairs, a prompt to pray that my family abide in Christ with a passionate desire to bear fruit that will honor God, fruit that cannot be humanly measured. 
Ask God to sever any alliance that currently infects your loved one or prevents them from connecting with God and with you. This can be bullies, drug addicts, anyone living an immoral lifestyle… In our situation, bonds with Christian children were severed.
When Melissa Ann’s friends had cell phones, wore makeup… – things we had not released her to do, her friends commented, as I would have at that age, “I’m glad I don’t have your mom!” These were great kids with awesome parents. But Melissa Ann chose to resent me and rebel against my authority. And so I prayed. 
God clearly orchestrated painful heartbreaks from these friends. She was devastated and lonely. She had frequently threatened suicide or to run away before this so that guarding her spiritually, physically, and emotionally became my full-time obsession. But it gave me an open door to more effectively pursue her heart. 
I surprised her with an opportunity to become a cheerleader for a Christian football team. We enjoyed this activity together until I took a leadership role the second year. Two girls insisted they be on the front line and consistently sought to control every aspect of the squad to the point they and their mothers kept the squad coach and me in tears. Melissa Ann learned many lessons.
She observed how ugly disrespect is and saw the fruit of it play out in the lives of these girls. She saw how God exalts those who are humble as He exalted her in significant public roles. She was asked to lead the pledge on national television at a presidential forum. He frequently brings her before many people of great authority and influence on a national level – not so that she can be seen, but that she can share Jesus. But our journey has taught her another valuable lesson. 
She learned that I’m the one who will always be there for her, that I always have her best interests at heart, and that I’ve only attempted to protect her from emotions and circumstances I knew she wasn’t mature enough to handle successfully. And while maneuvering through this dark season, God melted our hearts together. We began to enjoy the fruit of our relationship.
We began reading the Bible together. It remains the first thing we do every morning and have done so many cover-to-cover studies that we’ve lost count, though we’ve read the entire Bible together over a dozen times. God’s Word transformed both of us and generated more activities for us to share.
In tender opportunities, we read social media posts of friends who dated at such tender ages. We discussed the drama and crises they openly shared. Now in her early twenties, she and these friends have matured and are close again. And Melissa Ann is saving her first kiss for her wedding day. We are very close because relentless prayer with a strategy is very powerful.
Write out Bible Verses on attractive papers and post them throughout Your home. They will encourage you, help thwart the efforts of the enemy, and serve as powerful seeds for anyone who reads them.    

              “For as the rain comes down,
                     and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there, but water the earth,
                             And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah 55:10-13 NKJV
Emphasis Added

Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything,
to stand.
Ephesians 6:13 NIV

If living at home, do what it takes to ensure they receive the best spiritual nourishment possible. This may require moving from a church you’ve attended twenty years – are your children thriving there? Fortunately, our kids loved church. But we had a family rule - as long as they lived under our roof or were supported by us in any way, they would attend church - this was non-negotiable. And athletic or other activities were never allowed to replace celebration and worship opportunities on Sundays, Wednesdays, or other special church events. Our children are His children. We are simply stewards.

Father God,
please grant these children You've assigned me
a passion for You,
Your Word,
Your Will,
Your Wisdom,
those who are lost within Your World,
and a passion for holiness...

He will...

Ensuring their spiritual nourishment may require altering your lifestyle – trading material glitter for true relational treasures – purest gold. If they live away from home, ask God to surround them with intercessors and individuals who will draw them into an intimate experience with their holy Heavenly Father.     
A former prodigal shared that her mother kept a journal when she left home. When ready to return, she called, hearing her mother’s voice on the answering machine, “If this is Donna, I’m at…” She was deeply moved that her mother changed the message each time she left the house. A journal might be encouraging whether your treasure is living at home or away.    
Eliminate any connection with the occult – horoscopes, palmistry, Ouija boards, books, television programs, video games – anything dark. These open a gate into the chambers of our children’s hearts that may be difficult to close and clean. Melissa Ann once spent time with someone who allowed her to watch a popular television network with shows about witches and a girl with psychic powers. Our lives became a nightmare. Our best family decision was to disconnect with satellite or cable television. Gate closed.       

“There shall not be found among you anyone who
makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire,
or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer,
or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist,
or one who calls up the dead.”
Deuteronomy 18:10 & 11 NKJV

But Jesus provided an example of a man’s son...
When the disciples asked why they were unable to deal with his demon, Jesus explained,

“Because of your little faith.
For truly, I say to you, if
you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’
and it will move,
and nothing will be impossible for you.
However, this kind does not go out
except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20 & 21 NKJV

Be available when they need you or want you. If they live in the home, carve out quality time for them every day. If possible, be available when they come in from school; this is the best time for them to detox from the day’s experience. If you aren’t there, their heart will be molded by the individual or technology device that is available. Melissa Ann doesn’t date, but I was always waiting for Kristina when she came in from an evening with her friends. Above all, listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Hear their pain, even in their silence.
If your prodigal doesn’t live in your home or if you don’t know where they are, use the time you would spend with them on your knees, on your face, crying out to God on their behalf. Keep your Bible open before you – reading the Verses you’ve already marked, and mark more.    
When hurt, frustrated, or angry, avoid (like the plague) doing anything that would generate a repulsed response – shouting Bible Verses or prayers, sermonizing, holding up crosses… I’ve known people who did this. I’m unaware of anyone who’s found this effective. Sometimes a simple hug can work miracles - love is power.     
If we want good fruit from our prayers, words, and actions, we must sow seeds of Light and Love. Always remember:

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

Love your child fiercely, faithfully, and unconditionally. Don’t just tell them you love them; show them. This does not mean supporting their sin. We must be very careful about this. Ask God for wisdom (James 1); He will teach you. And if you don’t know where they are, show them love through the energetic passion of your prayers. Books that may encourage you:  
  • Girl in the Song: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Lost Her Way - and the Miracle That Led Her Home
    The author, Chrissy Cymbala Toledo is the daughter of Pastor Jim Cymbala who leads Brooklyn Tabernacle and Carol Cymbala who leads their choir that has produced many powerful songs that are changing people’s lives. They fought on their knees for their daughter and others joined them. Chrissy and her husband now lead Chicago Tabernacle.

  • Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:What Happens When God's Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People by Jim Cymbala
    This is among my top ten favorite books as it led me to a new level of understanding the power and potential of prayer – life-changing, world-influencing prayer.
  • The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories… by Jim Cymbala 
    This book shares the true experiences of seven individuals who were rescued from darkness who now use their testimonies to rescue others.

Speak life over them – words that inspire and lead them into a sense of God-honoring destiny. I made Melissa Ann a series of videos, using photographs with special memories and music inspiring her to be all God desires her to be. It was an arrow that struck her heart. It moved her, but only one step. But it’s a season, a process – one step at a time.  
If you get up during the night, get on your knees before climbing back into bed. Remember, pray for all prodigals, their parents, their brothers, sisters, grandparents…   

      Arise, cry out in the night,
          as the watches of the night begin;
                 pour out your heart like water
                      in the presence of the Lord.
                              Lift up your hands to him
                          for the lives of your children...
                                  Lamentations 2:19

   Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NLT

Tattoo, embroidery, or paint all of Romans 8 on your heart, for you are called for this purpose, to stand in the gap for His beloved lost children.    

And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God, to those who are the called
according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

       Therefore, my beloved brethren,
            be steadfast,
 always abounding in the work of the Lord,
       knowing that your labor
            is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

Whenever you see a visual depiction of an angel, pray for and eagerly anticipate the day your treasure returns home, returns to God, setting off explosive celebrations in the heavenly realm. For Jesus said,    

“…there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner
who repents and returns to God
than over ninety-nine others who are righteous
and haven't strayed away!
Luke 15:7 NLT

Faith anticipates their return. Don’t make them walk to the door and knock, pleading to return into your heart and home. When you see them on their way, run to them, embrace them and celebrate (Luke 15:11-32). Give them the best of your life, your heart, as this will lay the foundational stone for a relationship that draws them deeper into the Light and Love of Christ.      
Once your loved ones are free, use your experience to equip and encourage others. Continue to pour out your heart like water for God's children who are trapped in darkness throughout the earth, for now you are trained for this call.    

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them
the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT

Don’t worry about anything;
pray about everything.         
                                      Tell God what you need,
             and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace,
 which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Keep putting into practice all you learned…
Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:6-9 NLT

In closing, never forget the power of prayer. Be encouraged, as Jesus said,

“Simon, Simon,
                                Satan has asked to sift all of you
     as wheat.
                    But I have prayed for you, Simon,
       that your faith may not fail.
       And when you have turned back,
       strengthen your brothers.”
           Luke 22:31-32 NIV

And when he returned to God, Peter rocked the world. And your loved one can too.

And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 ESV
(Emphasis added)

Dear ones, satan has desired to sift you and your family as wheat, but God and I are praying with you and for you…  Stand firm!
PS ~ Whenever you see watercolors, join me in praying for all prodigals.
By Connie Norris
My Home, a House of Prayer for All Nations
for our
Family Prayer