Praying for Prodigals
There is probably no greater heartache for a believing parent than to watch their child walk away from the faith in which they were raised. A book on prodigals says that most parents of prodigals say given the choice between losing their faith and death, they would rather their children die than walk away from God. This anguish is not limited to the likes of incompetent parents. Pastors, elders, and pillars of the church have all faced this sorrow. Very often these children were dedicated to the Lord, and the congregation pledged to surround and encourage the family as the little one grew. Now is the very time we need to surround and encourage these heart-broken parents with our prayers for their wandering child.
Holidays can be especially difficult times for families with prodigals. Sometimes there is an empty place around the table where that wandering one should be. Other times it is the tension their presence brings that causes the heartache. Often the contrast between the ideal Christmas we see in storybooks and the far different reality that many families face causes much grief and anguish. Some are very lonely and/or brokenhearted any time of year, because of distance from loved ones or broken homes. Whether this is our story, or the story of someone for whom we pray, we certainly want our prayers to be effective.
Pray magazine gave some pointers for praying for prodigals, which I have excerpted and rephrased:
1. Pray that God will do whatever is necessary to bring the prodigal back to Himself.
2. Ask God to strengthen the parents to surrender the child to Him and steel them for the “whatever” He must do to bring the child back—even difficult things.
3. Ask the Lord to give the parents wisdom to know when to speak, when to set boundaries, and what to pray.
4. Ask God to be at work in the lives of those who influence the child—especially those who have been negative influences.
5. Ask Him to surround these prodigals with believers and open their hearts to the truth these messengers bring.
6. Pray the prodigal will grow disgusted with their present life choices, “come to themselves” and long to “return home”.
7. Pray the parents will be able to differentiate between acceptance and approval—that they could unconditionally love and accept their child, while still disapproving of the behavior they may be exhibiting in their prodigal lifestyle.
Preparing to Pray:
1. Read through the story of the Prodigal Son and ask the Lord to speak a fresh revelation to your heart about some aspect of the story—something about the Prodigal, the Father or the elder brother, perhaps.
2. Spend some time praising God for the wonderful ways He demonstrates His Father-love to you.
3. If you are currently experiencing this sorrow on a personal level, consider seeking intercession for yourself—whether from a trusted friend, or from an intercessor in your church’s prayer ministry.
4. If you know of someone who is currently dealing with a prodigal, pray for that prodigal, and ask the Lord for some way you could encourage the parent.
5. If you have never experienced the heartache of a straying child, check your heart to see if there is the slightest evidence of judgment against parents or prodigals in this situation. Ask God to give you an open heart to those who suffer this anguish.
Additional Ways to Pray:
1. Pray our church will be a place of grace where prodigals can return without fear and condemnation.
2. Pray our church will be a place where people will react with the Father’s joy and welcome, not the brother’s judgment and jealousy.
3. Pray our congregation will be a place where the parents of prodigals will receive comfort, encouragement, and hope.
4. Pray these parents will overcome any shame they feel and reach out for the prayer and support they so desperately need.
5. Pray for Caring Ministry, Celebrate Recovery, and other ministries and helpers who reach out to the prodigals.
6. Pray for those in our congregation who may be so estranged from their prodigals that family gatherings are difficult or impossible.
7. Ask the Lord to help parents surrender their children to God, remembering that He created them and loves them even more than they do.
8. Ask the Lord to help the parent be persistent in their prayers for their children, never giving up hope.
9. Pray for those whose prodigals may be spouses or parents, instead of children. Ask the Lord to sustain them in these heart-breaking relationships.
10. Ask the Lord to bring conviction on prodigals, and not allow them to be comfortable in their sin.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries