But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
In my daily prayers I begin by offering (rededicating) my body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and my mind, to be renewed by Him. (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8) I also give Him my heart (Ezekiel 36:26), asking Him to make my heart more like His.
Lately I have come to realize that this is a dangerous thing to ask, because if my heart is like His, that means my heart will be broken by the same things that break the Father’s heart. And that can be painful!
I believe one of the things that breaks our Father’s heart the most is when one of His children go astray. As a parent I know that what hurts my child hurts me – and sometimes hurts me more than it seems to be hurting the child at the time.
The heart of an adult prodigal’s parent is especially prone to breakage. Though a mother would willingly lay down her life for her child, and though she may know what is best for him, she also knows that she can no longer make life decisions for him. Every human being – even the child of loving, godly parents – has the power to choose evil over good, and children often don’t anticipate the future consequences of their choices. But parents can, and when their warnings are ignored, all they can do is watch him make bad choices and pray for him.
But that “last resort” is highly underrated!
I think one reason prayer is so underestimated is that answers seldom come instantly, and in our age of microwaves, ATMs, and drive-up windows, we expect them to. But Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”
Recently I was praying for one such prodigal, and I found myself praying some verses I knew. I love praying Scripture. It reinforces truth in my mind and heart and gives me assurance that I am praying God’s will.
The verses were from Psalm 139, about the God who sees and knows everything about me, and how I am never out of His reach. I have prayed that Psalm over myself, but when I prayed it over this prodigal, it took on new meaning. I was applying these truths to someone who may not be aware of them at the moment, but that doesn’t matter to God. Nor does it matter that I don’t know where that person is or what she’s doing; God does.
Realizing these things, I prayed the whole psalm, committing the prodigal to the One who knows and loves her:
“Oh Lord, You have searched her, and You know her.
You know when she sits and when she rises; You perceive her thoughts from afar.
You discern her going out and her lying down; You are familiar with all her ways.
Before a word is on her tongue [or cell phone or social media page] You know it completely, O Lord.
You hem her in, behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon her.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for her, too lofty for her to attain.
Where can she go from Your spirit? Where can she flee from Your presence?
If she goes up to the heavens, You are there; if she makes her bed in the depths, You are there.
If she rises on the wings of the dawn, if she settles on the far side of the sea,
Even there Your hand will guide her; Your right hand will hold her fast.
If she says, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to You: the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.
For You created her inmost being; you knit her together in her mother’s womb.
I praise You, because she is fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Her frame was not hidden from You when she was made in the secret place.
When she was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw her unformed body.
All the days ordained for her were written in Your book before one of them came to be.
How precious concerning her are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were she to count them, they would, outnumber the grain of sand. When she awakes, she is still with You.
If only You would slay the wicked, O God! Away from her, you bloodthirsty men!
They speak of You with evil intent; Your adversaries misuse Your name.
Does she not hate those who hate You, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against You?
She has nothing but hatred for them; she counts them her enemies.
Search her, O God, and know her heart; test her and know her anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in her, and lead her in the way everlasting.”
For the most part, this psalm fits what I am praying for this “prodigal.” But I’d like to clarify the lines about “bloodthirsty men” and God’s adversaries, because centuries after David wrote this psalm, Jesus gave His followers the shocking command to love their enemies.
As one who loves a prodigal, as much as I want to wish ill on those who are a bad influence, I know they, too, are possibly stray sheep who need prayer, as well. Hard as it is, we should also be praying for them, that they too will be brought to repentance and brought (back) into the loving arms of the Father.
When I read in Scripture about God’s adversaries, I don’t see humans, but rather “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Those fallen angels are at work to destroy us and our children – and the ones they work through to mislead our prodigal.
So, let us commit to God both the prodigal and his/her friends to be brought to repentance and home to their Father, where they belong.
Prayer: Lord, give us hearts that don’t give up. We entrust our prodigals to You, knowing they are in good hands. In Jesus’ name, amen.