A Prayer For My Son

This is one of my favorite things ever written. Gen. Douglas MacArthur wrote this prayer for his son.

A Prayer For My Son

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, give him, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

An absolute classic. I get a lot of comments on this, and if you enjoy it, then chances are good you’ll also appreciate this piece, called “Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier.”

About Jim Cota

Jim lives in Indianapolis with his wife and four kids and feels lucky to work with the fine folks at Rare Bird. An occasional writer, tweeter, and shooter. If you need to know anything else about me, this should do it...
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34 Responses to A Prayer For My Son

  1. divya says:

    that is a great poem..beautiful…

  2. fitzsailing@gmail.com says:

    My mother had typed out this poem and mounted it on the wall in our hallway. I passed it each day. The prayer is amplified by MacArthur in the speech that he gave accepting the Thayer award at West Point. See http://www.west-point.org/real/macarthur_address.htmlVery emotional

  3. gerri says:

    a very wonderful poem and prayer that i pray for all 4 of my sons!!

  4. mye says:

    perfect prayer/poem…

  5. Stephen says:

    Wow.. i just sent this prayer to my buddy Pete. We have just recently been blessed with Sons, Alexander and Harry. I will be saying this prayer for my son daily.

  6. annmarie says:

    I said the prayer for my son (only child)and my grandson,God bless you and yours Thank you.

  7. pete says:

    Jimmy, thank you. Children are the GREATEST gift.


    It touch my heart very close to me I have a son too

  9. Gary says:

    Thanks you Jim.. If you dont mind Im going to post on my facebook

  10. Sandra Lucia Vailant Uliana says:

    Esta é a oração que eu precisava rezar neste momento,e ofereci aos meus dois maravilhosos filhos.obrigada meu Deus!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Ed. note: Google translates as: “This is the prayer that I needed to pray right now, and I offered to my two wonderful children. thank my God!”]

  11. joan Gray says:

    what a wonderful poem, was thinking of my son one who is in Afganistan. , I have 4 sons and each one has lived their lives doing for others. . and making each day , better for the people in it. There is no other words that could explain them. It is how I feel about them and what more can a Mother ask for….

  12. HanTin says:

    My favorite poem at all time.

  13. Edmea McCarty says:

    I like to print this precious prayer with pretty font on handsome paper stock for new fathers. Tomorrow I am presenting it to a friend’s son-in-law at his baby boy’s shower. It is a true blessing to have people like the General who composed such a beautiful prayer to inspire us all.

  14. Jim Cota says:

    Thank you for your kind words. While I didn’t write this prayer, it certainly meant a lot to me while I was growing up and means even more to me now that I have a son of my own.

  15. Adeline Khoo says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful prayer. My son is only 7 but wrote it down to him. God bless.

  16. jane reynolds says:

    It’s a very nice prayers, I would pray these to my son, whose addicted to heroin!

  17. Dalila Moreno says:

    Beautiful prayer and our children need us to pray for them on a daily basis. My son is 17 he has been through so much but he doesn’t seem to understand how to stay out of trouble. I pray God would lead him to the right path and protect him on the way!

  18. Susan o'Kelly says:

    My son is making his confirmation later this month. All the parent were asked to write a prayer for their child to help in their preparation for their confirmation. This prayer contains all the values,goals and aspirations that I hope my child will someday fulfil. A man for all men and a faith that inspires a just life.

  19. Leo says:

    Brought me down to my tears, the most radiant of human nature absolutely shone from this piece of short work. The final touch is especially dramatic that it made everything that preceded bathed in its glory, it is no different to Kennedy’s words at the end of his Inaugural Address which reads “but knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truely be our own”.

  20. Leo says:

    I wonder if anyone could provide me with some background information on this prayer, like when was it written and its context. preferably point me to a holistic resources on this piece of work.

  21. Jim Cota says:

    Leo, as I understand it, MacArthur wrote this for his son sometime in 1952. His family made it public following his death in 1964. It is also interesting to note that he was named Father of the Year in 1942 by the National Father’s Day Committee. He sent the committee a note that read:

    By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact, but I am prouder, infinitely prouder to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentialities of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son when I am gone will remember me, not from battle, but in the home, repeating with him our simple daily prayer, “Our father, Who art in Heaven.”

  22. Leo says:

    Thank you Jim, if you have further information, please let me know.

  23. Janet Cota says:

    Such a beautiful prayer. In our son, we feel our prayers have been answered as we are so proud of him. Also very proud of all of his sisters. Thanks, Jim, for being part of our lives. Love, Mom

  24. Sue says:

    I am blessed and comforted with these prayers, especially in times of struggles with my own son.

  25. LUISA says:


  26. Francis Rodrigues says:

    very powerful, rich in meaning and strong in purpose – I have 2 sons and I mean this for both of them and have made it known to them.

  27. LouAnna says:

    I have a son that is 17 he gave us trouble today and left the house we just want him back to live with us. He is hurting us big time we want to give it another try I can not sleep at night I missed him when he is not here with us. I really do need prayers.

  28. Jim Cota says:

    LouAnna, I’m very sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your son. They can be the best thing that ever happens to us; and they can break our hearts. I will keep you in my prayers. /Jim

  29. Hugo Wiberg says:

    I have read this for 12 years, since the birth of my only child, a son. I have never been able to read it with dry eyes.
    I, too, have printed it up with a sript-style graphic font & give it to new fathers I know.

  30. Kyaw Win Hein (Pakokku ) Myanmar says:

    This is also my favorite poem and I share it with my friends and my students .

    They also enjoy it . Thanks .

  31. Christy T says:

    Thanks for posting this beautiful prayer. God bless you and your family.

  32. Herman says:

    What a beautiful prayer!

  33. ulfa says:

    If you dont mind Im going to post on my twitter

  34. A Beautiful and powerful Prayer that every good parent can wish for his/her child.

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