A Prayer for Fathers Who Missed the Mark
By Lynette Kittle
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” - Colossians 3:21
Maybe you have a father who failed you? One who let you down wasn’t around or chased you away. Because God is our Father, He takes fatherhood seriously. It’s the role He created and lives out as our heavenly Father. Sadly, there are an estimated 24.7 million children under the age of 18 living without a father at home.
There are a variety of reasons for this national fatherlessness. Culture isn’t offering many incentives for men to step up to be fathers, instead finding ways to discourage, displace, and devalue a father’s role in a child’s life. Sadly, some fathers walk away and turn their back on their kids, thinking they don’t matter or will never make a difference in their children’s lives. Some children grow up without a father because their mothers have shut them out of their kids’ lives. There are also women choosing single parenting over marriage by having babies via donors, and others creating homes with two moms. God doesn’t take this void lightly but fills it, caring deeply for the fatherless and encouraging them to look to Him as their Father to fulfill this role. As Psalm 68:5 describes, He becomes a Father to the fatherless.
Adult children often struggle with unforgiveness, anger, and disappointment towards imperfect fathers, along with severe abandonment issues, abuse, and absentee fathers. Likewise, grown individuals often struggle to move past their dad’s failures, weaknesses, and life choices that deeply affected and wounded them growing up. Imperfections range from a father who didn’t show affection or offer verbal affirmation to a dad who missed his kids’ major life events like sporting events, graduations, and much more. Yet Matthew 6:14 encourages, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, Your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Fathers Afraid to Come Back
Television shows like “Long Lost Family” work to reunite estranged family members and reveal stories of fathers who are reluctant to reach out to their families, bound by shame and regret for their actions. As a result, many believe they don’t deserve a second chance or will be rejected if they try to reconnect. Although their lack of effort in contacting and restoring relationships is often seen as not caring about their families, the opposite is usually true. Many care very deeply.
Focus on the Family’s Director of Family Formation Studies, Glenn Stanton, explains, “It’s quite likely your father is aware of how he’s hurt you over the years. However, it’s likely he doesn’t know how to face it with you.” As adult children, Stanton encourages sons and daughters to bring things up, not as accusations but as issues to discuss and forgive. “It will be something he will likely appreciate, and deeply so. He will also respect your strength and leadership in bringing it to the surface.” Doing so, Stanton believes, will do a great deal in strengthening your relationship with your father and could lead to other healing conversations.
Millions of adult children have grown up fatherless, meaning millions of men have also failed as fathers. Lord, so many fall short of Your plan for fathers to walk in Your ways and teach their children to love You. Help me, Father, to forgive my father for his failures and shortcomings and how he hurt and disappointed me. I also ask You to help him to receive forgiveness for his falling short in my life. Soften his heart, Lord, to turn towards you and receive forgiveness.
Let us both walk in the forgiveness You give to us. Help me forgive him for his failures in my life, and help my father to find forgiveness for how he failed me. Pour out your love over us, O Lord, to bring healing and reconciliation into our relationship. Help me to recover from the wounds of the past and to be willing to open my heart to forgive my dad for the past. Strengthen both of us to move forward to restore our broken relationship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/WinnieVinzence
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.
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Originally published Saturday, 17 June 2023.