Evangelist Billy Graham has offered some Biblical advice on how Christians should pray for young people who have turned away from the truth of the Gospel and encouraged parents to remember that God can soften even the most hardened of hearts.
The 98-year-old evangelist shared his thoughts in response to a reader whose daughter dropped out of church once she left home: "Do most people like this come back to church once they have families? We hope so," the reader said.
The founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association began by lamenting the great number of young people who abandon their childhood faith once they're out on their own.
"Some become openly rebellious -- but many simply become too busy or too preoccupied with life, and they don't feel any need for God or church," he wrote.
Thankfully, many children to come back to the church with a deep and sincere commitment to Christ - especially when they have children of their own, the pastor said.
"Over the years, for example, I've received many letters from new parents who wanted to give their children a moral and spiritual foundation in life, and were beginning to realize their own need for God. Parenting is a serious responsibility, and they realized they needed God's wisdom and guidance to do it well," he said.
Graham contended that the meantime, it's important for parents to pray for their children and remember that God will give wisdom to those who ask for it.
"First, pray for your daughter and her husband, that God will work in their hearts and lives to help them realize that they need Him," he advised. "They need His wisdom, and they also need the hope and peace that can only come from Christ. In addition, ask God to help you know how you can encourage them to build their lives on Christ. If you failed to teach this to your daughter when she was young, be honest in confessing it to her."
It's also important for parents to provide children with a solid foundation, so that they are able to withstand the wiles of the devil once they leave home, the evangelist said.
"I believe we need to do more today to bring our young people to Christ, and to strengthen their spiritual lives so they can resist the pressures they'll face later on," he wrote. "The Bible says, 'Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it' (Proverbs 22:6)."
Graham's advice is based on personal experience: his son, evangelist Franklin Graham, has referred to himself as a "prodigal son" and shared how, growing up, he rejected the faith of his famous father and embraced a life of rebellion.
As a troubled teen, Franklin was sent to an alternative school in New York and was later kicked out. He soon resorted to smoking, drinking and defying authority.
"I took pride in my individuality and tried to see how far I could stretch rules before getting reprimanded," he wrote in his autobiography, Rebel with a Cause. "Instead of getting my esteem from achieving within the system, I got my thrills and identity from challenging the system."
Eventually, Franklin got tired of running from God and gave his life to Christ at age 22. In his book, he wrote about his conversion experience:
"I realized for the first time that sin had control over my life. Franklin Graham was not in charge, but sin was. And there was absolutely nothing I could do in my own power to overcome it. ...I felt I was a Christian. I was the son of Billy Graham, I went to church and I memorized Scripture. What more did it take?
"Suddenly, I had an overpowering conviction that I needed to get my life right with God ... I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My years of running and rebellion had ended. ... It was finished. The rebel had found the cause."