How to Pray for Your Prodigal
by Phil Waldrep
“I don’t know what to pray anymore! God knows my pain and I’ve pleaded for change, but nothing happens.”
The tears flowed as she buried her face in her hands. I sat quietly for a few moments as she sobbed, allowing my presence to be her comfort.
I was trying to hold my emotions in check. She wasn’t the first who spoke these words to me, nor would she be the last. Like thousands of others, she is the parent of a prodigal.
Her story doesn’t differ much from others I have heard. Her daughter enjoyed church as a child, stayed involved during her teen years and even joined a Bible study in college. Then, her daughter started dating a young man who slowly began influencing her daughter in a negative way.
Before long, this precious lady’s daughter quit college, starting drinking excessively, and moved into the apartment of her boyfriend. Her attitude changed from one of a loving, respectful young lady to an angry, rebellious woman.
“Sarah, may I share with you what I have learned about prodigals?” I asked as I gently took her hand.
“Please!” she replied as she continued to weep.
I shared some of my research into the thoughts and lives of rebellious people, especially those reared in church. Then I added, “I think I can help you with your praying. I discovered there are things that God often uses to bring prodigals to himself. Don’t you think this is what you should pray?”
“Of course,” Sarah replied.
Your story may be different from Sarah. For you, it might be your son, rather than a daughter. Their choices may resemble Sarah’s daughter or they are not like them at all.
One thing is clear: you have a prodigal and you want to know how you can pray.
First, ask God to remove the feelings of guilt you may have.
As parents of prodigals, we tend to blame ourselves for the sinfulness of our children. The guilt we feel, however, empowers the prodigal to manipulate us. We are unable to practice tough love and tell them “no.” Instead of helping our prodigal, our guilt causes us to try and “fix” them. Until the Holy Spirit reveals what you did wrong, you must assume that you did nothing wrong.
Second, ask God to bring friends into your prodigal’s life who love the Lord.
Sadly, most prodigals reject the comments of their parents regarding church and their Christian life. Friends, on the other hand, are different stories.
Friends who come into the life of your prodigal that have a heart for God can be the strongest positive influence in their lives. It is true that may not be how they pick their friends, but through an association a friendship begins to grow.
Think about the possibilities for these friendships. It could be a coworker, a neighbor or an individual on a committee with them in the community. Or it might be the coach on a sports team for the kids or a parent at the dance school. The list is endless.
Your prayer is to ask God to bring these people into your prodigal’s life. When he does, ask the Lord to give these new friends wisdom to talk with your prodigal.
Third, ask the Lord to help you avoid pushing your prodigal further away.
Parents often think they are encouraging their prodigal when they mention their sin or rebellious attitude. Time causes them to discover more damage than good is done.
Asking the Lord for wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent is vital in your relationship with your prodigal.
Finally, ask God to make you a willing vessel.
That is, lay your life before the Lord telling Him that you are willing to do what is necessary for Him to get the attention of your prodigal.
When I interviewed prodigals, I discovered it was often the sickness or death of a parent or grandparent that caused a prodigal to evaluate his or her life. Doesn’t that mean that you should be willing to suffer and die, if necessary, to get your prodigal to change?
The toughest prayer is asking the Lord to do whatever it takes to get to the heart of your prodigal. God may use something other than suffering. Our willingness, however, allows the Holy Spirit to control our actions. When He does, the Lord can work to bring your prodigal home!
Phil Waldrep leads Phil Waldrep Ministries based in Decatur, Alabama. He is the author of Reaching Your Prodigal: What Did I Do Wrong? What Do I Do Now? (Worthy Publishing, February 2016).
Publication date: February 22, 2016