3 words that changed my prayers (and can change yours also)

Kara Powell Image Kara Powell | Jan 5, 2023

30 seconds.

That’s how long it took me to figure out the primary words I wanted to pray for my three adulting kids.

One Sunday, inspired by Shauna Niequist’s recommendation to pray a few specific words for those closest to you, I sat on our brown couch—my journal open and pen ready to capture the few prayer themes I hoped to sense from the Holy Spirit for our 16, 20, and 22 year-old kids.

The Holy Spirit, and maybe our latest batch of FYI research, spoke to me pretty quickly that morning. The three words I wanted to pray for our kids were the same three words I’ve been sharing with ministry leaders and parents for the last year: Enough, With, and Story.

3 questions and 3 impactful words

According to the research that pulses beneath 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager and our latest teen devotional called 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future, the young people closest to you are wrestling with three questions:

Who am I? = a question of identity.

Where do I fit? = an exploration of belonging.

What difference can I make? = a wondering about purpose.

As our team of researchers, youth leaders, and parents reflected on the Jesus-centered answers we hoped young people would lean into, we landed on three short answers:

Enough. Ultimately, we want young people wrestling with identity questions to know that Jesus makes them enough.

With. When teenagers and young adults wonder where they fit, we want them to rest in the truth that they belong with God’s people.

Story. As young people seek to find their vocational place in our world, we hope they lean into the powerful truth that they are part of God’s story.

How praying these 3 words lately has helped my prayer life

1. They expand my prayers to cover lots of adolescent territory. 

For a decade I’ve been praying for our kids holistically, asking God to work in the emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, and relational aspects of their lives. Continuing to pray for these aspects through the lenses of enough, with, and story expands my conversation with God and gives it new dimension.

2. I have a great framework to pray for me and my husband too.

Among the eight ways I’ve been praying for myself this last year, one of which is that I would know that Jesus makes me enough. This promise is a daily truth to which I cling, especially as a mom and a wife.

But as I started praying these three words for our kids, they’ve also become a way to pray for myself and Dave. All eight prayers can be clustered in enough, with, and story. Pretty much all of my daily prayers for my husband can too.

3. It’s easier for me to pray on the go.

Every once in a while life gets busy, one of our kids needs me, something consumes my focus at work, or it takes me longer to figure out what I’m going to wear than expected…and my prayer time gets truncated. When that happens, focusing on enough, with, and story help me pray in the shower, or in the car, or between meetings.

As we say every time we share our 3 Big Questions research, enough, with, and story are a springboard you can use to come up with your own Jesus-centered answers to the questions teenagers in your life are asking. Maybe God is doing something different in your family or ministry. Perhaps there are particular Scripture passages you feel led to pray for teenagers and young adults.

But if you’re not sure what to pray for the young people closest to you, try praying enough, with, and story. You’ll be glad you did. And more importantly, so will they.

3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future


Every teenager wants to know: Who am I? How will my life matter? Where do I fit? Based on FYI’s landmark research in 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, this all-new student devotional will help teenagers find Jesus’ best answers to their three biggest questions.

Buy Now

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Photo By: Ümit Bulu

Kara Powell Image
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the chief of leadership formation and executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women to Watch," Kara serves as a youth and family strategist for Orange and speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara has authored or coauthored numerous books, including Faith Beyond Youth Group, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future, 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Growing With, Growing Young, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family and the entire Sticky Faith series. Kara and her husband, Dave, are regularly inspired by the learning and laughter that comes from their three teenage and young adult children.

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