How to Pray

This is Part 4 of a 6-part series.

1. What & who is a prodigal?
2. Prodigals & God’s plan
3. Loving a prodigal
4. Praying for prodigals
5. A prayer for prodigals—Part 1
6. A prayer for prodigals—Part 2

Praying for prodigals is not new. Parents have been praying for their prodigal sons and daughters for thousands of years (perhaps up to six thousand!). Did Eve pray for her son Cain even after he was marked (Genesis 14-15)? Husbands have been praying for their prodigal wives and wives for their prodigal husbands ever since humans began wandering from God’s plan. Prodigals are not new.

Tips from the Front Lines

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16, NKJV).”

So, how can I learn to pray better, more effectively—and perhaps even more fervently? What can I do or not do (let go of, get rid of) so my Heavenly Father hears my prayers?

I recently learned that God will not hear my prayers if I have unforgiveness, bitterness, or malice toward others1. Wow. Of course, Jesus told us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive others (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4, emphasis mine).”

So now I come to prayer asking God to reveal to me anyone (anytime, anywhere) with whom I have any resentment or unforgiveness. Who can know our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9)?

God has shown me that there are many ways of praying scripturally.

  • All prayers: We can pray “all prayer and petition” at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18)
  • Praise: Praise God for the work He is going to do (Psalm 149:5-9)
  • The Name of Jesus: We can pray in the power of the name of Jesus, to whom demons were subject and cast out (e.g. Mark 16:17)
  • The Word of God: Perhaps the most surprising way I learned to pray scripturally was to actually pray the words of Scripture! Jesus spoke the Word of God to the enemy when He was tempted in the wilderness. What power the Word of God has! For example, “Lord, I know that You can do anything; No purpose of Yours can be withheld from You (Job 42:2, NKJV).” Or simply put “Help me!” (Psalm 119:86c, NKJV)

A Six-Part Prayer

Some wise pastor (unknown to me) on YouTube recorded a short message on how to pray for prodigals. What a blessing this pattern of prayer has been to me.

1. Lord, change me
2. Lord, my prodigal is Yours
3. Lord, change this prodigal
4. Lord, let sin run its course
5. Lord, sustain me as I wait
6. Lord, help me welcome the prodigal home

A Prayer for my Prodigal’s Salvation and Return

1. Lord, change me into the image and likeness of Jesus Your Son (Romans 8:29).
2. Lord, my prodigal is Yours, You formed them, and in Your book were written all the days for them (Psalm 139).
3. Lord, change this prodigal’s heart of stone, give them a heart of flesh, and put a new spirit (the Holy Spirit) within them (Ezekiel 36:26).
4. Lord, let sin run its course until this prodigal confesses their sin, and then You, Lord, will be faithful and just to forgive their sins and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9 NKJV).
5. Lord, sustain me as I wait. Help me not to be afraid or discouraged. You are my God. You will strengthen me, You will help me, You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
6. Lord, help me welcome the prodigal home, with compassion and joy (Luke 15), praising God!

A Miracle!

We witnessed a miracle this year. Our son bent His knee to Jesus on February 19, 2022. Here’s how he tells the story:

“I would not be here without the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This is all to His glory.

I moved out when I was 16. I got a job, dropped out of school, and started working at McDonalds. I’ve had multiple jobs since then. I started living the worldly Babylonian-kind-of life—whatever I wanted to do, whatever pleased me. That’s how I lived for about four years.

I always came back to my parents’ house, and they always told me about Jesus, about His saving grace, and that He wanted me to serve Him and follow Him. But it was always overrun by my sin and what I wanted–until February 19 of this year.

I’ve been through lots, but that was a particularly hard time of my life due to various reasons. It got so bad that I decided that I believe Jesus is the way. And something just clicked. I didn’t know what it was. I believe God was calling me and it was the time.

So, on February 19 I accepted Jesus as my Saviour, but also my Lord, and I follow Him. All glory to Jesus. Hallelujah!”

– Daniel Bailey

To God, indeed, be the glory, forever and ever!

We were able to put into practice that prayer “help us welcome him home.” We (my husband, daughter, extended family, brethren) have had the privilege of seeing the return of our prodigal son to his senses, to his heavenly Father, to the works that God has prepared for him, to his earthly family.

Jesus says, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10, NKJV).” Indeed, we rejoice!

It seemed hopeless—but God!

“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NKJV).”

I continue to pray for those other prodigals in my life, siblings, nieces, nephews, and other relatives whom God has given me for a time such as this.

Through this journey I see the hand of our mighty God working all things for our good and our gain, and for His purposes and His glory (Romans 8:28).

God continues to reveal His nature even more clearly, and shines light upon my own utter dependence on Him—for sanity, for calm, for hope when there seems no way through. God brought me to deeper prayer, deeper trust, deeper gratitude for what He has already done, is doing, and what He will yet do.

FOOTNOTES
1Gruden, W. A. Prayer. In Systematic Theology; An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Academic.

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