Sadly, some do. Some waste this trial. Because a parent of a prodigal feels an excruciating fear mixed with guilt and regret, and we want our anguish gone. Yet this worst kind of pain can become the best kind of joy, if we don’t seek to escape being pressed into the cross. This sorrow is meant to draw us into a holy bond, to a unique and privileged place where we grasp the Father’s heart as He gasped in pain and gathered Himself into a fetal position just the way we do when we pray for our lost sons and daughters when we know the danger they are in and we would do anything, go anywhere, oh, we would die in their place if we could, if we could only save them from the world of hurt they are facing if they continue in the way they are going. The way that we know will ultimately lead to eternal death and unending torment.
I prayed fervently like this for a prodigal once, when they were suicidally depressed and without God, and despairing, without any hope in this world. Oh, it was a terrible place but it was still filled with a special intimacy with the Father, and I am thankful to say that God reached out and grasped my own prodigal’s hand and snatched them like a brand from the fire. I am so thankful this one is eternally safe, but I so miss that intense time of fellowship with the Father when I prayed this way.
This ex-prodigal is no longer languishing in the fire, but I would still invite prayer for them, because sadly they are still a bit of a ” flickering flame He will not snuff out.” Oh, how we wait for Him to “lead justice to victory”, in this child’s life now, as this one still fights some very ugly thoughts, battles demonic strongholds — and the greatest hindrance to their victory is the magical thinking of Charismania that formed their spirituality. They were brought up to think that if they prayed the right Prayer Formula (or had some SuperApostle pray it for them!) every hurt would be instantly healed, and all their terrible suffering would go away. And we taught them these answers to prayers are owed them by the rules — all those Scriptures that guarantee blessings for those who are good and righteous and give it all away, and are utterly abandoned to God.
But it is presumption for us to pray this way and to assume the prerogatives of God — to ‘call out things that are not, as though
they were’. The arrogance of this kind of prayer is rebuked by the Scriptures, “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (Isaiah 45:11) This kind of repetitive and demanding,’naming and claiming’ prayer is praying as the Shamans and the pagans pray, it is not prayer in the name of Jesus, which is prayer in all things consumed and subsumed by the Holy will of God, the only wise God, who sovereignly does as He pleases.
And our answer to the mysteries of the sovereign will of God does not rest in us raising ourselves to the level of God, and arrogating powers of creation and redemption that belong to Him alone. We cannot possibly create faith in prodigals by ‘naming it and claiming it’, or ‘speaking it into existence’. To presumptuously do that is to put faith in our faith — it is not faith in God, and it is idolatry. Thus we blaspheme God, and miss one of the sweetest blessings given to God’s children, that of the fellowship of His suffering, that suffering that Abraham knew most excruciatingly, when he in faith laid his son on the altar. And the agony of Abraham’s hope is described here:
“…as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” ( Romans 4:17-18)
It is said of Abraham that he was a ‘friend of God.’ When we look to his example, and wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled in our lives, we lay down in his same choice place — close to God’s own heart. We would miss that hidden blessing if we choose instead to make ourselves ‘little gods’ and take things out of His hands. So don’t waste those prayers for your prodigals. Don’t wave a magic wand. Don’t speak your positive confession, claiming them for the kingdom, and putting yourself in the place of God so you can birth them again with the power of your words — but this time to an eternal life. It is God alone who gives life to the dead! So don’t waste your breath like that. Instead, let your particular pain of bearing a prodigal lead you in prayer to a place of intimate friendship with Him.