Monica never stopped praying for her son. She had raised Augustine in the Christian faith in their small town in Algeria, but when he was a teenager the family moved to Carthage in North Africa. Possessed of a brilliant intellect and an even stronger will, Augustine rejected his mother’s faith and instead chose a life in pursuit of immorality. In his autobiographical book Confessions, Augustine spoke of his years of debauchery: “Years passed, in which I wallowed in the mire of that deep pit, and the darkness of falsehood . . . All which time that chaste, godly and sober widow . . . ceased not at all hours of her devotions to bewail my case unto You. And her prayers entered into Your presence.”
Three hundred years before the birth of Augustine, we can only imagine how another mother labored in prayer for her children. In addition to Jesus, her firstborn, Mary of Nazareth had several other children. And yet their family was spiritually divided. John’s Gospel clearly tells us that “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). The skepticism of her younger sons toward their elder half brother must have pierced Mary’s heart.
The black Friday when her oldest son hung on a Roman cross had to be the worst day of Mary’s life. And the Sunday when he rose again was the very best. Among those to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection was his brother James. We don’t need to know the words that passed between them. It’s enough to know that when the disciples and the women gathered to pray in the upper room following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Mary was among them. And her other sons were with her! Praying. The One they had rejected in life was the One in whom they now placed their faith for eternity.
Monica’s prodigal son Augustine became one of the most famously devout fourth-century Christians: the Bishop of Hippo. The Confessions of St. Augustine is a classic of the Christian faith. Mary’s son James became leader of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the New Testament book that bears his name.
Do you have children, grandchildren or children whom you love—related to you or not—who have turned away from God? Years may pass without any apparent external change. But heaven hears your loving intercession on their behalf. Take heart! God hears your prayers for your children.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.