Prayer for my college son

This is one of my favorite things ever written. Gen. Douglas MacArthur wrote this prayer for his son.

A Prayer For My Son

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, give him, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

An absolute classic. I get a lot of comments on this, and if you enjoy it, then chances are good you’ll also appreciate this piece, called “Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier.”

prayer for my college son

They move in to the dorm this weekend and will bring their bags filled with clothes and their boxes filled with books. But you see what they bring in their hearts – anticipation, adventure, love, regret, anxiety, motivation, and hope.

They are a mix of excited, ready, terrified, and wide-eyed freedom.

As he looks for a fresh start, remind him of your faithfulness every morning no matter where he calls home.

As she looks for community, remind her you are always with her no matter where she may go.

As he looks for adventure, remind him how you walk on water, turn water to wine, feed thousands from just a few pieces of bread. Remind him how you bring life straight up out of death, beauty straight out of ashes.

May she have the patience to believe even when she doesn’t see results.

May he know the greatest adventures are found in your presence, the greatest love comes from your heart, the greatest hope is that you’ve made his heart your home.

When insecurity, comparison, disappointment and failure knock on her dorm room door, may she turn to you with her questions rather than run the other way.

Weave your wisdom into the fibers of his soul, bearing the fruit of confidence, clarity, contentment and a light heart.

May he not despise his humanity, rather may he embrace it.

May she not despise her body, rather may she learn to receive and respect her shape as a gift.

May he not despise his weakness, rather may he see how weakness brings a daily reminder to trust.

May they not fear failure, rather may they thrive in the midst of it.

May they not be quick to judge, rather may they be patient and curious.

Help them to find true friends and be a true friend in turn.

Help them find their voice and to use it to be an advocate for themselves and for others.

Replace her shame with courage.

Replace his confusion with peace.

Replace her fear with a love that moves within her beyond her ability to understand.

May your grace surprise them kindly.


This sending prayer for students inspired a second post for mamas: A Staying Prayer for Mothers of College Freshmen. May you find peace and joy in this season of transition.

prayer for my college son

prayer for my college son

Lord have mercy—it’s the night before we take our son to college.

This is his last night in the bed that he’s slept in for the past 18 years.

Release me from lurking around his bedroom, but I just need to tuck him in one last time. (And release me from my urge to crawl into bed with him because that would be super-weird.)

The car is packed, and the gas tank is full. Everything seems to be ready for a smooth departure tomorrow.

Release me from frantically running around the house in the morning like a crazed lunatic, looking for something I will be certain I’ve lost—because it’ll probably just be my mind. (Right now “leaving” and “losing” feels like the same thing.)

Our  parking permit is in hand and the residence hall move-in time is confirmed.

Release me from feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and chaos of a thousand parents and students  lugging around box fans and crates of bedding. (And please release the elevator from it’s ridiculous crawl, because I’m NOT walking up eight flights of stairs with a mini-fridge.)

We’ll get him all moved in and unpacked.

Release me from being an over-controlling, over-bearing “nester” who obsesses about storage space and knick-knack placement. (But Lord let me make his bed, I NEED TO MAKE THAT BED!)

We’ll probably wander the campus a bit, maybe grab a bite to eat and stop by the bookstore.

Release me from the urge in a moment of weakness from buying every coffee mug, bumper sticker, and clothing garments that say “MSU Mom.”

And then it will be time for me to leave. Without him, because he is staying there.

Oh Lord, release me from the overwhelming grief I’m feeling right now, and replace it with hope and excitement for his new life.

Help me put one foot in front of the other and release my tears AFTER I make it to the car so I can ugly-cry on my steering wheel instead of making a scene in public.

Release me from being heartbroken if I don’t hear from him as often as I’d like. (And help me  figure out Snapchat so I can stalk him on social media.)

Release me from worrying about things beyond my control—like falling off his loft bed, fraternity hazing, contracting meningitis, his refusal to use an umbrella, natural disasters, cult abduction and poor choices—and remind me that despite the inevitable challenges he’ll face that you’re directing his path.

Release me from feeling like motherhood is over and help me to find meaningful ways to stay connected and deepen my relationship with my son in this new season.

Release my grip when I hug him one last time and I don’t want to let go, and remind me I’ve raised a young man who’s ready to spread his wings.

Oh…and one more thing, Lord:  

Hold me tightly in your peace and comfort tomorrow, as I release him to you.

…even though he’s always been yours.

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Written by Kami Gilmour, mom of 5 teen and young adult kids. (releasing her grip on her son at college drop-off day in the photo.) She’s the author of a best-selling devotional book for parents of college students that offers helpful encouragement and faith-filled perspectives for surviving and thriving in this season:  Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly.

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