Child who refuses to pray



I have received excellent words of advice under the single parenting thread so I am turning to the Forum on this matter.

Due to difficulties in our lives because of my divorce, my 15 year old son says that prayer makes no difference, so he will no longer pray. He will not join in evening prayers with the family, prayer at mealtime, etc. He does attend Mass, including daily Mass when I bring everyone, and receives communion, but will not pray with us. I have told him that even if he feels his prayers are not answered, he still at least owes God thanks for His gifts at mealtimes, but he refuses to join in. In our evening prayers, which include an Act of Contrition, he says it is a lie for him to pray with us.

What is the right response to this? I have spoken with him from several angles, including asking what specifically he has prayed for so that I can help him with anything I can (as, I said, a person can hardly expect to get an answer for prayers for physical healing if he won’t tell a doctor what is wrong). He won’t discuss it with me.

It makes me sad for many reasons, including that his father is one who does not pray. At one point in our divorce we heard “The family that prays together stays together” and my another of my children said “No they don’t.” I answered that their father used to pray with us but then he stopped as he decided he wanted a different life, so the part of the family that did pray together actually did stay together.

But divorce tears a family apart, and my children do in fact have two families now with their father’s remarriage and younger son, and if my son also stops praying… I don’t want him to become less a part of our original family. I am also concerned about the effect of the 15 yo not participating and the younger kids saying that if he doesn’t have to, neither do they.

So, knowing you can’t force a non-believer to pretend to believe, what do I do?


Ok. I’m really not that qualified to give advice since I don’t have a 15 year old son… yet. But I was 15 once. When I was a teenager, if something did not have meaning, I wouldn’t do it. Now I’m completely different from your son.

From what I read, it seems that your son needs to know what prayer really means. He needs to understand it reasonably. Then there might be a chance that he would take prayer into heart. Just simply doing things doesn’t cut it sometimes. He has to know it in his heart to make it meaningful.

The best you can do is really pray for him. Pray the Rosary and offer it to the souls in Purgatory. They can help too, you know.

That’s all I can suggest. Sorry if it’s not much.


**Please take my opinions with a grain of salt…I don’t have teenagers. My only daughter is only 7 months old so we don’t have any major power struggles yet;) **

If your son were to receive a gift and not say thank you, what would you do?

If you would insist that he thank “great aunt edna for the nice sweater”, then I think you should insist that he thank God at mealtimes with the rest of the family.

Just like he doesn’t have to know or like great aunt edna or even think that the sweater is nice, politeness requires a thank you.

Also, play up how he is a role model to his younger siblings. Tell him that you understand that he is struggling with his faith (maybe share with him some instance where you went through a similar thing) but that they look up to him. Tell him that just because he doesn’t know what to believe you’re sure he doesn’t want to destroy their faith. Be open to him talking about this with you, but be firm that he is to keep it private (not in front of siblings) because, as the mom, you are responsible for leading all of your children to heaven.

My next thought is that he needs a good role model. Is there another male family member who can mentor him? Someone from church? What about a “big brother”? Are there youth activities he could get involved with in your parish?

I’m so sorry that things are the way they are for you and your family right now. Your heart must be breaking to se your son turning away from God. Pray for him. Fast for him. Hopefully he will find his way back soon.



I do not have children but have been actively involved raising two boys and one girl for my brother. The oldest is 18 and the middle boy is 11.

There is a variety of things to take into consideration about the teenagers. Their bodies and minds are being bombarded with hormones and I think, personally, that one of those hormones is designed specifically to find something that is dear to the heart of their parent (or spiritual parent) and refuse to do it, make fun of it or otherwise resist its logic.

What I did with Ryan was give him a copy of the book by Jay McGraw that outlined successful life strategies for teens. I then told him that while he may not be happy with the way his life was going at that moment that he did not have the right to shower his resentments all over me or his siblings. I was as honest with him as I felt was appropriate for a 15 year old…I need your help to keep this family unit as strong as possible for the younger kids. I know you are hurting, and you can come rant to me any time you want and I promise not to try and solve your problem…I’ll just listen…but you cannot make life more difficult for your little brother and sister. If you do this, Ry, you will never forgive yourself later.

He is, today, about to turn 18 and is a good man. He prays now before every wrestling match and recently told his coach that he always takes (his) guardian angel into the match with him - he gets good grades and wants to go into law enforcement. More importantly, I recently overhead him tell his younger brother “Sometimes, Stephen, even if we don’t feel like doing something we do it because it is best for the family. It’s just the way it is”.
So hang in there, Mom of 8…15 will pass…you will think it is lasting forever but it will pass…


As someone who’s not too far past 15, there is not much you can do. Just remeber that actions speak lounder than words. Lay off him and I’m sure he’ll come back to praying.


He is angry–at you, his dad, himself. He can’t take out that anger on you or his dad or anyone else, so God is his target. It’s not uncommon when a young person has gone through a traumatic experience, such as the divorce of his parents. Not in order to force him to start praying again, but for his mental health I would suggest you all go to family counseling to deal with the feelings everyone is having because of the divorce. Once he knows how to direct his anger properly, he will be able to let go of it and no longer have his irrational attitude towards God. Not that that will drive him automatically to prayer, but it will be a step in the right direction. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.


Della - that was perfect. :thumbsup:

I am a child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was 10, I’m now 42. The pain still lingers and colors how I see the world and my life still every day.

He is in pain, his life has been changed for him and he has been made totally powerless. I’m sure he feels as I did, that no one ever cared about what he thought should happen, or what he wanted in the deal. I’m assuming a lot, but I’m sure I’m not too far off target.

Give him time. Lead by example, which is what you are already doing. God knows his heart and will be there for him when he is ready. Tell your son this, and just reassure him that God is waiting for him for when ever he’s ready for a chat.

Your family will be in my prayers.



As others have said I don’t have teens yet as I am still one myself. But I have friends who have been through divorce and know the problems that occur from it.

If he was praying with you before the divorce and has stopped since then I wouldn’t make him. Praying together now might be too much of a reminder of praying as a family prior to the divorce. Give him time to adjust to the changes but you yourself keep praying even if you are doing it alone that way you keep the door open for when he is ready to join you again. Children feel the pain of divorce too and it manifests differently in each person. As long as you keep the door open for him, he will most likely come back. Maybe not soon but some day. I hope he joins you again soon.


I don’t blame him. In fact, coming from a disfunctiuonal divorced family I would have done the same thing. My family never prayed together and I think I did refuse the few times they did since I thought they were pretending to be something they are not. It just seemed so hypocritical to me. In my family’s defense, my dad unlike my mom did and still does go to church regularily and made sure we all went and he might be part of the reason I still go regularily.

However, perhaps your son, who still does go to church, needs to refocus his prayers to what he dsires for himself. Perhaps he already does this and you don’t even know. Perhaps praying for your family is the wrong thing to do at this point. Convince him that he should pray for his future and that when he one day gets married and has a family it won’t end up the same way as his did. Tell him how mistakes were made in your situation but that if he has a good prayer life God will guide him so that he one day has the family he always thought his should have been like growing up. The most important thing is to convince him that God is important. I think he might already know this but I also would guess he needs his space right now. I totally agree with him not wanting to pray with his family. I mean, what is the point? You guys aren’t getting back together probably for good reason so he needs to focus on praying for other things and perhaps he needs to do this alone or with others he trusts. Then in time he might be more willing to once again pray with you for other things.


He is a teenager in turmoil, and rebelling -which is normal for his age especially considering your family has experienced some difficulties. I would not make him pray - I think that is counter productive. Continue to give good example. If the foundation is there when he has resolved some of his anger and rebellion he will return to it. God knows where he is at. Being forced to pray may leave negative memories about prayer and faith -you don’t want to do that. He goes to Mass which is excellant, for now I would leave it at that.


Remember St. Monica, who prayed for her son’s conversion for many years and finally it happened. The best thing you can do is pray for your son.


Give him purpose. Do you have a sick relative or neighbor to visit and pray for? Show him he makes a difference with prayer. Just an idea, Tim


Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and ideas. I know that he can’t be forced to pray. I am glad that he still goes to Mass, but is it ok to receive Communioin if you flatout refuse to pray? I even said to him, as Feanaro’s Wife pointed out, that at least he could recognize that he should thank God for his food, but he refuses. I hope it is still ok for him to go to Communion. His brother said that if he is rejecting God then he shouldn’t be going to Communion, but I don’t feel that is something that we can judge. Some things are obvious mortal sins, others are based on what is in the person’s heart, and I am hoping that going to Communion shows that his rejection of his faith isn’t as complete as it seems to be. I am also afraid that if I handle this wrong, I’ll be the final straw that will push him away.

I will look up the book by Jay McGraw.

Thank you so much to those who offered prayers.


I have raised 3 teens and have a 13 year old – yikes! One minute he’s so obnoxious, the next he’s sweet and thoughtful.

I would not force your son to pray, as many have already said, but insist that he sit quietly in the room while the rest of you pray, out of respect. Point out to him that what he chooses will affect the younger ones much more than he thinks. Insist that he remain quiet, without eating, until grace is finished, even if he doesn’t join in. He owes his own family at least the respect that he would give another family if he were a guest, and didn’t want to join in their prayers.
If he started eating before grace was finished, I think I would quietly remove his plate and start over. Children respect their parents more when they take a strong stand, as long as we stay calm (as possible) and courteous.
If I had it to do over, I’d be much more firm with my two oldest.

It may be that in taking communion, he’s reaching out to God in silence. He doesn’t want to pray in front of others, but he hasn’t turned his back on God, apparently. The Eucharist can work miracles.
God bless.


Helping Your Kids Win the Battle in Their Mind
by Joyce Meyer

I have taught the truths of God’s Word for over thirty years. After all that time, I am convinced that one of the greatest areas in which we need help is our thinking.

I believe the key to victory in our lives, as well as in the lives of our children, is being renewed in our minds daily by the power of God’s Word. This means learning to think about the things God wants us to think about, instead of just thinking about
whatever comes into our heads. As parents, you and I need to realize what we do—and what our children do—is the result of what we are thinking. So, in order to deal with wrong behaviors, we need to deal with wrong thinking.

Our thoughts have the power to either help or hurt us, and the same is true for our kids. What they think about will affect their health, their moods, their relationships—everything.

When I first began to study the Word, I had problems in many areas of my life. But a major transition took place in my soul and spirit when I received a revelation about my thought life. I discovered that the primary reason my life was messed up was because my thinking was messed up.

What Goes In Must Come Out

The Lord showed me that all of us have an inner life and an outer life. The inner life—the part that only God and we see—includes our thoughts, attitudes and motives.

1 So the mind is a primary part of the inner life, and it’s like a computer—we can only get out of it what we put into it. The brain is the hard drive. It runs everything. If it gets corrupted or crashes, it doesn’t matter how good any other part
of the computer is—it won’t work. In Proverbs 23:7 it says that as a person thinks in his heart so is he. In other words, our thoughts are the building blocks of our behavior—they determine our actions.

The enemy is actively creating opportunity after opportunity for our kids to put garbage into their minds. From TV and movies, the Internet and video games, to music and the friends they choose, the opportunities for planting the wrong things in
their minds are endless. As parents we need to fight against this negative influence by being aware of what our kids are taking in and providing godly alternatives for them to feed their spirits. We need to be aware of what they are doing with their
time and who they are spending their time with. One good idea is to keep computers and TVs in a family room where they can be easily seen. You could also invest in a
good filter system for the Internet and TV if you have cable.
Most importantly, make time to develop a relationship with your children.

This will make them more open to your instruction. Encourage godly friendships and activities so that the influences in their lives will be good ones. You may not be able to avoid
every bit of garbage out there, but you can use your influence and authority in their lives to guide them in the right direction.

The Message version of the Bible says this in Deuteronomy 6:6,7: Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are,
sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.

When we meet Christ as adults, our minds often need major reprogramming. One of the benefits of raising our children in a Christian home is that we can help program their minds with right thinking from the beginning.

continued below…

  1. I cannot emphasize enough that the battle for our children’s souls is won or lost in the mind before we ever see
    wrong behavior.

Building On the Right Foundation

I believe that if we expect our children to receive instruction from us concerning the importance of God’s Word and right thinking, they must see that we are living what we teach and that we love them unconditionally. I heard a good quote from Josh McDowell that says, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” A good relationship with our kids is the foundation for teaching them anything.

It is not always easy for you and me to love our kids as they go through the process of growing up. But if they feel sure of our unconditional love, then they are going to be more open to accepting our instruction and discipline. This will help them feel free to make the changes that growing up requires.
Unconditional love thinks long-range. It sees what our children can become and believes that they will become all that God has planned for them to be. It was definitely the love of God that overcame evil in my life—it changed me and drew me
into a deep relationship with Him. Because Dave loved me unconditionally, he was willing to suffer with me while God was changing me. And because I felt his love, I
was able to make the changes in my thinking that I needed to make in order to be in agreement with God’s Word.

Engaged in a Battle

One of the things that we must help our children understand is that they need to choose their thoughts on purpose. In other words, they can’t just sit around emptyheaded and expect the right thoughts to just drop into their heads. They need to
learn to guard their thoughts, making sure they line up with God’s Word.

3 As parents, we are in a unique position to help them by prayer, instruction, guidance, correction, and especially by example.

I believe it’s very helpful and important to know the types of wrong thoughts that our kids are being bombarded with so we can counter them with prayer. Some of the lies that youth today are dealing with are:
• You don’t need to listen to your parents, pastor or other leaders. Look at their flaws and inconsistencies. This is your life…live it your way.
• Drinking, drugs and sex won’t really hurt you. Adults don’t want you to have any fun—they just want to control you.
• There is no devil; he is a myth. No intelligent person would believe that. There is no God in heaven either. Right now is all there is—so if it feels good, do it.
• If there really is a God who cares, would you be feeling lonely, overwhelmed and depressed?
You and I can’t just assume that our children will be okay because we know the Lord.

They must have a firsthand experience with God. And by God’s grace, we can help them establish their own relationship with Him.

continued below


Strategies for Victory

Years ago I was an extremely negative person. It was one of the weakest areas of my life. I used to say, “If I thought two positive thoughts in a row, my brain would cramp up!” My life’s philosophy was, “If you don’t expect anything good to happen,
then you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t.” My thoughts and words were so negative, that it was no wonder negative things happened to me all the time. In the same way, Satan will look for your child’s weakest area and attack at that
point. He will attempt to fill your child with worry, reasoning, fear, depression and discouraging negative thoughts. Negative, hopeless thinking and depression have become a serious problem for many young people today. In order for this to change, we need to teach our kids how to line up their thinking with God’s Word.

One of the practical ways God showed me to help our kids do this is to make a list of all the positive points about a situation or person that they are struggling with. In other words, help them look for the good in every situation they face. Along with
this, show them how to look up scriptures that relate to the problem and write them down. When I first did this years ago, I carried these verses around and read them out loud whenever I was tempted to give in to wrong thinking. God has used this method to renew my mind in many areas. The more we and our children learn to meditate on what’s good and true, the smaller our problems will become.

As we begin to renew our thinking according to God’s Word, we are becoming equipped to help our children renew their minds and walk in the truth too. When I came to the understanding that if I wanted to have a better life I needed to think differently, God began to reveal to me areas where I had accepted Satan’s lies. Once I identified the lies the enemy had planted in my mind, I asked God for grace to
uproot them with the truth of His Word. Regardless of our age, the only way to overcome the lies of the enemy is with the Truth.

I encourage you to do all you can to help the next generation win the battle in their minds. Do your best to set an example of loving and obeying God’s Word in your life. Let your kids know God has a wonderful future ahead of them.4 As they set their minds in agreement with God’s Word, He will help them meet any challenge that comes their way and lead them into the destiny He has prepared for them.

(1) See Hebrews 4:12,13; Revelation 2:23. (2) See Romans 12:2. (3) See 2 Corinthians 10:4,5; Proverbs
4:23. (4) See Jeremiah 29:11


I pretty much stopped praying around that age, and did not really start again until i was looking down the barrel of a loaded, cocked handgun held by a tweaked out meth-head.

you just cannot force someone to pray, ESPECIALLY a teenager. My ex-mother in law was a very strong Catholic, and it annoyed me to no end that she was just sweet and nice and understanding, and always would say “i’ll pray FOR you”. She just kept being so nice, and so understanding, and always telling my ex that she was praying for me.

eventually he might come around. he might not. you wont get ANYWHERE by forcing him. you have the chance to get everywhere if you live by example.



Thank you for the quotes from Joyce Meyers. I have two of her books and a lot of what she says is very good. I will have to take time to process this all.


Wow, that was a good time to start praying again!! I am glad you are back to praying. It is hard when someone is a bad example of Christianity, when their promises of prayer sound like they’re making a dig at you.

I know this is not what has been advised, but I have finally decided that this is a Catholic home, and we pray here - as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

As my mom put it, it’s not about my ds, it’s about God, and about what we owe to God, and I cannot tolerate a child of mine behaving as though he can be disrespectful to God. It is Lent, and my child is slapping my Savior and his Savior in the face. So without being angry, I told my son just that, that as a member of a Catholic household, he will pray family prayers.

And I will pray and pray for him! (And I will pray that I did the right thing! I will let you know how it goes.)

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