God has blessed me with a prodigal.
I consider it a daunting privilege to write about what I’ve learned about praying for prodigals, and to testify of God’s amazing grace, mercy, and peace. To God be the glory!
In this 6-part series, we’ll explore:
- What & who is a prodigal?
- Prodigals & God’s plan
- Loving a prodigal
- Praying for prodigals
- A prayer for prodigals—Part 1
- A prayer for prodigals—Part 2
Let’s dive in!
What is a Prodigal?
What does prodigal mean? It’s a good question with surprising answers!
First, the word prodigal does not appear in Scripture. The Word of God is most likely to use the word fool for someone who rejects God and His ways.
Proverbs has a fairly blunt way of describing what a prodigal looks like. There are four kinds of fools:
- Simple-minded but teachable
- Hard-hearted pressing toward foolishness
- Arrogant and rejecting opportunities for wisdom
- Brutish fools 1
The prodigal is one—or perhaps more than one—of these fools. Obviously the more hard-hearted, closed, and brutish fools reflect lives moving further and further from righteous living, moving further from Jesus.
Second, most of us are familiar with the parable that Jesus told (Luke 15:11-32), and where we see the actions of a prodigal son. It is an understatement to say that Jesus’ audience would have been horrified by the son’s actions.
Finally, we can best understand this son’s redemption when we look at the other lost items in Luke 15—the lost coin and the lost sheep. The coin was found. The sheep was rescued. The lost son returned home to his father. Lost and found. The songwriter John Newton wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Who is a Prodigal?
Now here is the big question: Who are the lost of whom Jesus speaks?
That would be us—you and me and all members of the human race—before salvation. We are born into sin, into rebellion. Anyone who has put a toddler to bed knows that we have “No!” built into our DNA. “Wayward is in our blood.”2 We were all born wayward, rebellious, lost—prodigal.
This is foundational to understanding how to respond to our own prodigals.
We too have been prodigal. Perhaps not with such fireworks, fanfare, dramatic wreckage, and innocent casualties. But all sin is against God. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:4, NKJV).” We are reminded that the prodigal and I come from the same stock, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, NKJV).”
And sin hurts. Like a reptile, sin grows when it is not cut off. It grows in scope, and often in injury. Like a bomb that detonates, sin blasts in a wide circle. Prodigal-living hurts the prodigal (“the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23a, NKJV]”) and hurts those who love the prodigal.
But God has a plan of redemption. He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life … that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16,17b, NKJV).”
For the prodigal, redemption is coming home to the Father. “But when he [the prodigal son] was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him (Luke 15:20, NKJV).”
So, when we think of prodigals we remember:
- Each of us were once a prodigal
- Those who have Jesus as Lord and Savior, and who follow Him, are no longer prodigals
- There is hope for the prodigal (as there was once hope for us, hope that has been realized!)
- Sin hurts those around us
So, for the remainder of this series, when you see prodigal think wasteful, extravagant, rebellious, wayward, lost, Proverbs’ fools … for now!
1Types of fools in Proverbs https://www.biblestudy.org/bible-study-by-topic/proverbs/fools.html, downloaded August 22, 2022
2Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert (2016). Letting Go: Rugged love for wayward souls Michigan: Zondervan, p. 44