A one-year vow

Faith & Inspiration | Pursuing a right and Biblical perspective
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Thursday, December 22, 2016, at 9:12 am

On Dec. 8 I decided on a one-year experiment. Some of us will not be here in a year, which I hasten to acknowledge, under advisement of Scripture that those who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” should rather say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

I have embarked on a one-year vow in hopes of God moving powerfully in the lives of my children. There is little else but prayer that one can do at this stage for adult children, but prayer is no mere consolation prize. Let those parents who have regrets take heart and pray. Can you imagine that there are children in the world who have never once been prayed for by anyone in their lives?

As I was contemplating these things, verses came to me quite spontaneously, conferring confidence that it was the Spirit and not the flesh endorsing the plan (the flesh and the devil don’t talk like that): “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), and, “Greater love hath no one than this …” (John 15:13).

Then there were the “who knows” passages, a number of sightings in the Bible that invite godly speculation about a powerful work of God based on His character as gracious and merciful. (See Joel 2:12-14 and Esther 4:14).

Especially germane is the King David “Who knows?” regarding the death of his newborn. He fasts and prays prostrate for days to appeal to God to change His mind about requiring the life of his son for his sin with Bathsheba. When the infant dies and David rises up and washes and changes his clothes and goes to the house of God and worships, David tells his baffled servants: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:15-23).

This is the right perspective in making a vow. Not a “Who knows?” about the power or love of God. But a “Who knows?” about whether God will answer my plea in exactly the way I am hoping.

My husband had struck the same note. When I asked him what he thought of the one-year plan—since it is a husband’s right to veto a wife’s rash vow (Numbers 30:8)—he got thoughtful and said, “The only danger will be to try to make it a quid pro quo.” That was a good word.

There is little else but prayer that one can do at this stage for adult children, but prayer is no mere consolation prize.

There was the question of whether a vow is even Biblical. This was not problematic for me. The Bible says, “Do not take an oath at all” (Matthew 5:34). But it also says, “I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:18).

“In the presence of all his people” settled the matter of whether a vow needs to be secret. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them,” says Matthew 6:1, and, “when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites … that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret” (16-18). But I will not look gloomy, and you will not see me in any case. Daniel’s Babylonian eunuch knew he was acting on a vow. Come February or March you will forget. And by December next I will have a report that, God willing, will glorify Him.

I decided to wait a few days lest resolve be proved impetuousness and I be put to shame like the builder who set out to build before he knew he had the resources to go through with it (Luke 14:28-29). As the king of Israel rightly said to Ben-hadad of Syria: “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11).

I will see you in a year, Lord willing.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.

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  • mel
    Posted: Thu, 12/22/2016 02:07 pm

    Indeed! Regarding our OWN adult children (2 sons, with their wives and 9 daughters), we have come to the same conclusion: God + Prayer + Time = ? - Only God Knows; but, then, He is our All-Wise, All-Powerful, Ever-Loving, Life-changing Abba Whom we can trust UTTERLY with our all [Proverbs 3:5-6] - INCLUDING our children! Praise His Name forever & ever - Amen!  ~Thomas Joseph De Raps, Hallowell ME

    Posted: Thu, 12/22/2016 10:46 pm

    Thank you. What an encouragement.

  • RC
    Posted: Thu, 12/22/2016 11:00 pm

    I will pray with you for a year for your children.  I have made the prayer card and will not forget.  God is good.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Tue, 01/03/2017 10:30 am

    Andrée asked me to thank you for your willingness to pray for her children.

  • BGB
    Posted: Fri, 12/23/2016 12:28 pm

    "Men ought always to pray and not to faint" (Luke 18:1) is my encouragement to carry on in prayer when God seems silent about my children. So, in March or April, when your landscape doesn't seem to be changing, take heart. There are those among us, your readers and unseen friends, that pray earnestly for you. We will support you in this.

    And to us who pray for you, Psalm 54:4 says, ...the Lord is with them that uphold (Andree's) soul." A extra blessing for us!

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Tue, 01/03/2017 10:30 am

    Andrée asked me to thank you for your willingness to pray for her children.

  •  bwsmith's picture
    Posted: Sat, 12/24/2016 07:49 am

    A a mom of  adult children, I appreciate you resolve, and am sharing this with dear friends who will be encouraged, 

    Merry, happy Holidays, and God grant you a blessed celebration of the Savior's birth! 

  • LJ
    Posted: Sun, 12/25/2016 04:08 pm

    Ah, thank you for another one of your meaningful columns, now entered into my journals. As for me, with this world's present groanings, and biblical signs rapidly converging pointing towards things to come, I moved to Kansas City to be part of a 24/7 house of prayer. Praying with others over the ends of the earth, my top prayer priorities are still my two adult children and their families. Thanks be to God Who hears and answers prayer. L. Jacobson


  • Rick O
    Posted: Mon, 12/26/2016 04:56 pm

    Thank you Andree for being so bold and transparent. I am reminded of my lack in this area. Two grown sons living apart from the Lord for the most part. Great intentions always beginning this time of year! Let me be found on my knees doing my part.

  • DB's picture
    Posted: Wed, 12/28/2016 09:16 am

    Thank you for your example Andree.... wow... what a picture... "children who have never been prayed over".  Thank you for the exhortation for praying for my own family as well as the "unprayed for".

  • SkyCreature
    Posted: Wed, 12/28/2016 04:00 pm

    My four adult children occupy an increasing portion of my prayer time. Yet, I've also come to asking the Lord, "What can I pray that you haven't already heard from me countless times?" He responds with some form of, "Keep on asking..." 

    Both giving up and rote repetition tempt, of course, but the course you've chosen offers a new option. Not that working harder will convince him to do something he's otherwise unwilling to do, but rather that in the process I'll get closer to him and his plan for them.

    Your sharing what most would have kept hidden encourages me. Thank you.



  • Sharon Gamble's picture
    Sharon Gamble
    Posted: Tue, 01/31/2017 08:06 pm

    Would it be in keeping with the vow to join a Moms in Prayer group for adult children? We have many and we roll up our sleeves together and cry out for our children who are far away and for those who walk with Him. We pray Scripture ... we pray boldly ... we pray in weakness and tears ... but we PRAY. Like the persistent widow, we keep knocking, together, for the lives of our children.  Check us out at www.momsinprayer.org  Or email me. I am the USA National Director: usand@momsinprayer.org ... In any case, by whatever means He chooses, may God reveal Himself to them. I have hanging in my office: "Pray that our children may have significant, repeated and unmistakable encounters with the Lord and they they will fulfill the Lord's calling on each of their lives."  With love and HOPE, Sharon Gamble