Praying for our teenagers

From social pressures to pandemic-related stress to specific incidents such as the ongoing violence in Belfast, it seems the world’s teenagers have a lot to deal with these days. Each of us can play a part in supporting young people through prayer affirming everyone’s inherent grace, stability, and strength as God’s child.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Having worked with teenagers for a number of years a while back, they hold a special place in my heart. How often I witnessed their capacity to love and forgive; to persist and transform; to show me through their transparency and innocency where my thinking needed a real perk-up (and sometimes an overhaul).

Stress in the lives of teenagers appears to have increased during the pandemic due to a halt in normal activities and social isolation. When I heard a mother on the news talk about the suicide of her teenage son, I felt impelled to pray. I am convinced that our prayers can bring a healing impress not only to what we’re confronted with individually, but also to what’s going on more broadly.

One of my favorite ways to prayerfully think about young people – and all of us, for that matter – is with a description from the Psalmist in the Bible. “Vigorous and tall as growing plants,” and “graceful beauty like the pillars of a palace wall” are terms the Psalmist used to describe the children of God in “a truly happy land” (Psalms 144:12, The Living Bible).

This lovely poetic depiction is powerful. Understanding the identity of our teenagers as nurtured by God-given qualities like vigor, grace, stability, and balance is a solid foundation from which to pray.

I had attended the Christian Science Sunday School as a toddler, but circumstances interrupted my continuing. I returned at the age of 18 thinking that maybe Christian Science could help me with what seemed like very perplexing questions about life. And it did!

At the time I started going to Sunday School again, I was dealing with anxiety about social situations and feeling really out of step with my peers. I was smoking and drinking, thinking this would help. Well, it didn’t.

I will always remember that first time back to Sunday School when the very kind teacher told me with such love that I was perfect. Whoa – perfect? I hardly felt perfect. But somehow I felt as though I had come home.

As I began to study the teachings of Christian Science, I understood more of what she meant. It wasn’t about trying to make imperfect circumstances perfect. Nor did it include perfectionism where there is angst if everything doesn’t look perfect according to some human standard.

The Bible declares, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). In this spiritual creation described in the first book of the Bible, which includes not one single element of materiality, the truth of perfection is revealed with ever-unfolding vitality and an abundance of well-being.

In this spiritual creation, God created man – each of us – as “the compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God,” as stated in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science (p. 591). Therefore, being perfect means being the exact likeness of the one perfect God, Spirit, where no element of good is lacking, missing, lost, or irretrievable.

That this was my only permanent and true identity started to sink in and make sense. It enabled me to relinquish feelings of anxiety and alienation to a greater degree, because I understood that they weren’t from God.

I no longer felt the need to smoke and drink. Life became happier, even as it was necessary to keep striving to bring this deeper sense of perfection to all my activities.

The Amplified Bible delineates Christ Jesus’ divine standard so beautifully: “You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

What a hopeful promise for our teenagers, and for all of us to live by as we faithfully stand by each other in difficult moments.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.