Praying for Prodigals

A prodigal is a loved one who has known the Lord and yet has turned away toward the temptations of the world. There is a limitation to what you can pray, because the person’s free will is running against God. While God does not force anyone to believe, we can marshal all natural and supernatural factors to help the person to return to God’s love.

As Ruth Bell Graham quoted in “Prodigals and Those Who Love Them” (Focus on the Family, 1991, p 150), coming across a nest of hornets might not compel you to go against your will, but it might just make you willing to flee. Here are some biblical strategies for prayer:

  1. Hedge of thorns (Hosea 2:8) – God told Hosea to marry an immoral woman who would betray him. Then He instructed Hosea to pray for difficult circumstances to block his wife’s path as she was on her way to sin. This prayer helped Hosea to understand God’s feelings about being betrayed by the human race.
  2. Cords of love (Hosea 11:4) – God continues to demonstrate kindness to people while they are sinning in the hopes of attracting them back to Himself. We need to keep demonstrating that positive grace ourselves and to pray to bring other people into the prodigals’ path to show them compassion to draw them back toward God’s love.
  3. Sensitize conscience (II Corinthians 4:2) – Divine truth is manifested in a person’s conscience. We pray for an inward sense of right and wrong to be activated so the prodigal can discern the difference between what is moral and immoral.
  4. Bind satanic blindness (II Corinthians 4:4) – Sin is so illogical that it is always accompanied by lies from the devil which deceive the person. This is particularly painful because the lies often involve slandering the very ones who are praying for the prodigal, or who represent righteous authority in his or her life.
  5. Angels to block path (Numbers 22:22) – As when God sent an angel to block Balaam’s path on the way to sin, so can we ask for an angel to deter the path of our loved ones on the way to sin. This cannot prevent them, but it can discourage them.
  6. Angels to protect them (II Kings 6) – As Elisha prayed for his servant to see the protective angels around them, we can pray for protection for our loved ones from the danger that their sin has exposed them to.
  7. Distance demons from them (Matt 15) – A Canaanite woman prayed for her daughter who could not pray for herself, and the demon left her. That was a case of sickness, not sin; so we have less authority to pray for deliverance in a case of someone who is willfully sinning. However, we still have the ability to limit their activity.
  8. Holy Spirit poured out (Joel 2:28) – The Spirit will be poured out not only on dedicated believers, but on all flesh. All flesh includes our wayward friends and family members. The fire of the Holy Spirit on a person’s flesh can burn, but it’s still better than not being influenced by the Holy Spirit at all.
  9. Holy Spirit reminding (John 14:26) – Yeshua prayed for the Holy Spirit to remind His disciples of His teachings. The Holy Spirit has the ability to remind. For someone who has known the Lord’s teachings, yet backslides, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to bring back to their memories what they heard in the past, even if they are not studying now.
  10. Lust to be disgusting (Numbers 11:20-34) – God gave to the children of Israel all the meat they desired, but even while they were still eating it, their lusts became disgusting to them. Most prodigals turn from God because of the pleasures of the lusts of the flesh. We can pray for those lusts to lose their attractiveness.
  11. Lover to become disgusted (II Samuel 13:15) – After Amnon raped Tamar, his “love” instantly turned into spiteful lust. Many backsliders are drawn away by so-called “lovers.” Pray that their partner in immorality will quickly reject them and reveal the difference between lust and love.
  12. Turning their heart’s course (Proverbs 21:1) – The Bible says that God can turn the course of a king’s heart even as He turns the course of a river. While every person has sovereign authority over his own will, God has His ways to influence a person and persuade them to make the right decision.
  13. Letting them go (Judges 14:4) – Although sin is NEVER the will of God, sometimes a period of a prodigal venturing out into the world is allowed by God as part of His overall plan to bring greater good. A young person who has been dependent on another’s faith may need to go out and determine for himself what he or she really believes. The prodigal son’s dad didn’t stop him from leaving.
  14. The “Pig-pen Revelation” (Luke 15) – There comes a moment when the prodigal “comes to his senses” in the midst of a wasteful situation, and realizes that he would be better off going back to his Father. We can pray to bring about this revelation as soon as possible. We should also do everything to make sure that the prodigal knows that he\she is always welcome back with open arms.
  15. Destruction of the Flesh (I Corinthians 5:5) – Paul prayed that certain hardened sinners would be turned over to Satan, which would cause them to deal with the destructive results of their own sin. In turn, this would result in the saving of their souls. Kids from godly families usually get “caught” the first time they sin. That is part of God’s grace of God to help them repent.
  16. Sanctify ourselves (John 17:19) – As friends and relatives of prodigals, we need to make a special effort to keep ourselves extra-pure of heart. Our purity of heart will directly or indirectly help them find their own purity once again.
  17. Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34) – Much of what a prodigal does is with complete knowledge. However, there is always a certain percentage that is done in ignorance, duped by the temptations of the world. We pray for God’s forgiveness for them, even before they repent themselves. Watch out that you do not get bitter at the one you have so “invested” in with love. Keep your heart free from resentment.

Despite the pain and fear, we have to live in faith. We believe that what we pray will indeed come to pass (Mark 11:23). Many are the promises that our children will return home and to the Lord (Jeremiah 31:17, Isaiah 49:25). Let us declare them by faith.

When we have done and prayed all we can, we have to just stand (Ephesians 6:11-14). I think about Jacob during the many years that he was “sure” that Joseph was dead. It was an impossible situation. Then he found out that Joseph was alive. No matter how bad the situation may seem, God is always faithful.

This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, October 21, 2020, and reposted with permission.