The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 8 of 13)
Preserve and keep the youth of our Church from falling way and joining the world, and keep them from the many sins of youth. O Lord, you know how difficult it is to lead the young on the right paths and to divide the Word of Truth with respect to them; therefore, I pray, give me particular wisdom and skill to be stern without estranging their hearts, and mild and charitable without strengthening them in frivolity and unruliness.
I find myself praying this petition in various forms more often and more fervently. Perhaps it is because my own children are at this age. But I also think it has something to do with looking at the photos of old confirmation classes on the wall of our church and recognizing just how few of these youth--now young adults--are still going to church.
High school and college years are prime time for the devil to seduce people away from Christ. Their world opens up, and the friends they make may be appalled that the young people from church have not given themselves over to sex, binge drinking, drugs, and other forms of wickedness. I suspect that we have many young people who feel like they have to apologize for having lived a chaste and decent life. At the very least, they are emboldened to sin, and they are celebrated when they do. They need prayers.
It is not helpful to overlook sins. That only encourages people to continue in them. At the same time, the young people may be living with guilt and shame that is crushing them. They fear coming to their pastor because they expect him to disown them or to make their guilt worse. For the pastor, he tries to determine who needs a call to repent and who needs the soothing words of mercy and forgiveness. What deeds should be addressed, and what deeds can be chalked up to young, ambitious, creative minds who are engaging in harmless fun? It is not always so easy to tell. And no pastor wants his words to be the ones which drive people away from the church.
As much as I try, I want to give the young people the benefit of the doubt and encourage them as dear Christians. When I recognize trends, I will address them accordingly. And if I have to expose excuses for what they are (e.g., "I can't go to church because I am so busy" -- We are ALL busy), I will for the sake of their spiritual well-being.
But whether they know it or not, whether they are saying their own prayers or not, I am praying for these young people. And if they do drift away, I hope they also understand that our doors are always open to them, and that we welcome back people no matter how prodigal they have been.