Years ago, a close friend of mine abandoned her faith, her family, and her friends…including me. It hurt deeply that she could so easily cast aside all that she once held dear. I missed her terribly - or, at least, I missed the person she once had been. I prayed daily for for a very long time afterward, hoping that the Lord would draw her back to Himself.
But I have to admit that, over time, I got more lax with how frequently I prayed for her. I don’t know if I finally lost all hope or just got busy, but I found myself only praying for her only occasionally instead of multiple times each day.
Last week, however, I ran across online photos of her current life, and all the frustration and anguish came rushing back. I was heartbroken all over again at her lifestyle choices. I had to wonder if she really was as happy as those photos seemed to indicate. Having an online presence myself, I know how incomplete a handful of social media images is when depicting someone’s life.
I sighed and was about to close my computer tab when I felt the Holy Spirit gently whisper to my aching heart.
“Her story isn’t finished yet,” He reminded me. “While there is life, there is hope. She's heard the Gospel, grown up with God's Word. She knows the truth. Keep praying for her."
I felt simultaneously comforted and convicted. Her story isn’t over yet. Keep on praying for her.
“Yes, Lord,” my heart whispered back. “I will continue praying. Help my unbelief!”
Whether it’s a spouse, child, family member, or friend, nearly every one of us has a prodigal in our lives who needs prayer. I also know how hard it can be to faithfully pray for someone, especially if years have elapsed and you’ve seen no change.
As I’ve been more fervently praying for my friend to return to faith, the Lord has laid several things on my heart. If you have a prodigal in your life, my prayer is that these would encourage your heart, too.
6 Ways to Pray for Your Prodigal
Pray daily for them
I’ve really struggled with this one. Although I love praying for others and also love praying often, I forget to pray for people far more often than I remember. I’ve also found that when a crisis is fresh and new, I tend to pray a lot. But once time has gone by, it’s easy to stop praying as fervently.
Why not try setting a timer to remind yourself to pray for your prodigal? I’ve personally found that a 10am timer is great for me - breakfast is over, but it’s still morning time when I tend to feel my best. (Note: this works better for me during summer break than it does during the school year.)
Or you could place a photo or related item somewhere prominent to remind you to pray. I still have hand towels from my wedding shower 16 years ago, and I can recall who gave me which pattern. Whenever I pull out a towel, it’s a great reminder to pray for the giver!
Whatever you need to do to remind yourself, aim to pray daily for your prodigal.
Pray with others for them
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20, NKJV)
A college friend and I, separated by numerous states, sometimes do a long-distance tea and prayer time for one another. Although we can’t meet up physically, we each brew a cup of tea at a mutually-set time and spend time in prayer for one another. I can’t tell you how encouraging this has been for me! To know that someone else is lifting me up in prayer at the same time I am doing the same for her is incredible.
When praying for your prodigal, take time to pray with other believers about him/her. If you can’t be in close proximity, why not try praying long distance like my friend and I do? Simply commit to a specified time that you all can pray for the person on your heart.
Pray for the unsaved people around them
A couple I once knew who had a prodigal daughter discovered something amazing. While their daughter wasn’t open at the time to spiritual things, her husband - also unsaved - was. So, they spent time sharing the Gospel with him.
When we pray for our prodigals, we should also be praying for the unsaved people around them. It well could be that if our prodigals aren’t open to hearing God’s Word, someone else around them might be, who could then, in turn, prompt our wayward one to desire Godliness.
Pray for the believers who have a direct influence in their lives
It breaks my heart, but many of us who have a prodigal in our lives don’t have a direct influence on them anymore. But that doesn’t mean our prodigals are not surrounded by God’s people! A relative of mine, who I only got to see on holidays, had a Christian who was witnessing to her daily at work. As a result of this man’s faithfulness, my relative placed her faith in Christ.
We need to be praying for the Christians who do have an influence on our prodigals. We should pray that these believers will be bold in sharing Christ and that they will lead blameless lives that our prodigals will want to emulate.
Pray for those who have been hurt by them
Although I was hurt when my friend cut off our relationship, my pain was small in comparison to those closest to her. Many, many people are deeply wounded when a family member or close friend abandon the Christian faith.
We can pray for those who have been hurt (including ourselves). We can pray for healing, for compassion, and for understanding. We should also pray for the Lord to prevent a root of bitterness from taking hold. It is far too easy to become angry and resentful when we need to remain open and loving.
(Please note that forgiving someone who’s hurt you doesn’t necessarily mean that everything’s okay, that you’re simply ignoring what he or she did, or that there won’t be lasting consequences.)
Pray that you will not become proud
All of us have said or done hurtful things to others at one time or another. While you and I may not have ever abandoned our faith or our families, we all have moments we regret and actions we’ve had to seek forgiveness for.
When we keep in mind our own past sins and failures, it can help us keep a tender heart toward those who have hurt us. Additionally, it can help prevent us from becoming proud.
Although I hate admitting it, I’ve thought to myself how wonderful it is that I’ve finally made it in my adult life and don’t have to worry about shunning God and becoming a prodigal myself. And while it’s true that with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He won’t let me turn my back on Him, it’s also true that I still sin and choose to do wrong.
When we pray for our prodigals, we must keep humility close at hand and realize that we are not above falling into some of the same traps that they have. We can pray that the Lord will prevent us from becoming proud.
Having a prodigal in our lives can be heartbreaking, but we we can keep them in prayer. We need to be careful to pray for them daily, to pray with others for them, to pray for the unsaved around them, to pray for the believers who can directly influence them, to pray for those who have been hurt by them, and to pray that we will not grow proud. In so doing, we will be faithful to follow what the Lord commands of us, and who knows but that the Lord might work through our prayers and save our prodigals?