Are you praying for a prodigal?

I love the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Why do I love it? Because the son comes home, every single time. I have never once read the story and not had the son come home. You’re probably thinking well that’s kind of silly! Of course he always comes home. It’s the same story. Exactly! The son always comes home.  There is no other story that Jesus told about a son that did not come home to the Father. But notice the word son. He’s not talking about people who have never accepted Jesus. He’s not talking about the heathen, although a prodigal will no doubt behave like a heathen at times. He’s talking about a son! And according to Jesus, sons always come home. Let me explain why I believe this.

I grew up not knowing the name of Jesus. My parents went to church while I was young, but I have no memory of ever being taught that Jesus loved me or who He is. When I was 6 years old my parents moved to a new country with a new language and they stopped going to church. I was a very lonely child, the youngest of three with two brothers 10 and 14 years older. Perhaps because of this, I would pray at night. The funny thing is that I had no idea who God was and I certainly didn’t know He had a Son named Jesus. So I would pray to the unknown God. I loved the name Charlie and being a kid, I decided to call God that. So each night I would go to bed and pray to Charlie. I know this sounds almost sacrilege but I believe that God wants children to come to Him. I think He even mentions this a time or two in the Bible. Anyway, one day when I was about 9 years old, I happened to watch a Billy Graham crusade. They were very popular in the 1960’s. Dr. Graham was having  regular crusades and the TV networks would always carry them. So I watched one and I couldn’t believe my ears. God had a name and it was Jesus! I was thrilled and immediately that night I prayed the sinners prayer that I had been taught on TV and accepted Jesus into my heart. But then I decided the next day to share my story with my father. I told him what I had done. His response leaves me speechless to this day. He told me that there was no God!

You can imagine what happened next. I was a child and I believed my father. Never again did I pray to God. Not once. It reminds me of the parable of the sower as told in Luke 8:5-15. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture”. That was me right there. The seed that Dr. Graham sowed  into my heart that night sprang up but immediately withered, because no one watered it. Actually, I have often wondered if the seed got stolen by the birds.

When we pray and accept Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, I believe that we actually create a covenant with God the Father. Let me explain. The word covenant, which is used in both the old and new testaments, means to enter into an agreement, to create a contract, a treaty or a deal. It is considered a legal contract. Did I break my part of the contract that day when I believed my father more than I believed God? Absolutely. I walked away from my covenant. But I don’t believe that God walked away from me. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 18:12-14 that if a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away, he will leave the 99 and go find that one.

I think that even though I lost whatever tiny bit of faith I had to pray that prayer, God honored it. I might have wandered off, but God went after me. I entered my teen years as a true prodigal! The word prodigal means “riotous” in the Greek. I looked up what riotous means and yup, that was me. Riotous: characterized by wild and uncontrolled behavior. Synonyms are unruly, loud, out of control, ungovernable, unmanageable, etc.  Yet here I am, years later, writing a blog about Jesus! So what happened?

God began to send people into my life who would talk to me about Jesus. I rejected them. He also sent people unbeknownst to me that prayed for me, sometimes for years. And when I hit rock bottom at 17, wanting to take my own life, He gave me someone who shared the gospel with me. He gave me the grace to take another look at this Jesus and this time, I repented. He turned my life around in days. I was set free from all that prodigal living in a heartbeat. Literally.

Why did God do that for me, even after I had rejected Him? Let me lead you on a little Bible journey that I believe answers this question. In Matthew 13:31 Jesus tells His disciples that “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…which indeed is the least (or smallest) of all the seeds”. He then goes on to tell them in Matthew 17:20 that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they could move a mountain from one place to another place.

Now let’s go back to the parable of the sower that I mentioned earlier, in Luke 8:5-15 where Jesus talks about the word of God being a seed that is sown into our hearts. He describes 4 kinds of soils which the seed lands on. The first is hard ground, the wayside that people walk on as they are working their garden or going somewhere. When seed lands on this  ground, it is trampled on and the birds of the air immediately come and eat it. This type of soil is interesting if you do a word study. The Greek word trample means to treat with rudeness and insult. In other words, the seed that lands on this kind of heart is immediately rejected by the person. They want nothing to do with it. Clearly, the seed that Dr. Graham sowed into my heart that night did not get trampled on. No, I actually received it with gladness and rejoiced that I finally knew His name.

The second kind of soil that is described in the parable of the sower is rocky ground. If you’ve ever worked a garden you will know that seed does not grow on rocks, at least not for long. This is exactly what Jesus said to the disciples when He described this kind of soil or heart condition. “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away”. If you look at the story, you will notice that there are two other kinds of soils, the third being filled with thorns, which choke the seedlings, and finally the good ground, which allow the seed to spring up and yield a good harvest.

It is the second soil that I want to focus on for this post; the rocky soil. I think that it is significant that the kingdom of heaven, the word of God and our faith, are all compared to seeds, two of them to mustard seeds. Now as I mentioned earlier, the mustard seed is the smallest of the seeds. It is quite tiny. Could it be that when God sows His seed into our hearts as children, knowing that a time of temptation would come as we grow up, he in fact hides some of his mustard seed in the crevices of the rock? Interesting you might say. But what about the fact that seed can’t grow on rocks? Good question.

Remember when Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17:20 that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain “Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you”?  You and I have authority to move mountains! I would like to point out a detail you might have missed in all of this. The rocky soil that His seed often lands on is filled with rocks, not mountains. It says this: “Some fell on rock;  (Luke 8:6) They were rocks. Just rocks. Why is this so important? Because my faith might be tiny, too tiny to move a mountain, but I think I can move a rock.

King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:5 that there is “A time to cast away stones”. I’ve never connected this verse in Ecclesiastes to the story of the sower who went out to sow. Until now.

Think about this. There is a time to cast away stones! If you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you can speak to a mountain, or even a stone or a rock and command it to go somewhere else.  When we pray in the name of Jesus, we have authority to move rocks and stones and mountains. Mountains move at the mention of His name. Why? Because He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Almighty God. His name has power!

Now let me ask you a question. Are you a Christian? Do you have faith as small as a mustard seed? Surely you must have or you would not have accepted Christ into your heart for the forgiveness of your sins. Did your children accept Christ into their hearts when they were young? Did they receive the message with joy? Even if your faith is that tiny, as small as a mustard seed, you have authority through the name of Jesus to say to those rocks in their lives, “MOVE“! It’s not a mountain. It’s just a rock! Command those rocks to move and be cast out of their hearts, so that the seed you sowed into their lives all those years ago, will be on good ground and will spring up, and grow into a good harvest of salvation.

And that is what happened to me. God brought people into my life, strangers who prayed for me. They had faith to keep praying even when they looked at my life and things appeared to be getting worse, not better. But they kept praying. They kept moving rocks. And when I hit rock bottom, things changed in an instant.

Remember the Father in the story of the prodigal? He was watching and waiting for his son to return home.  “But when he 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)  The father could not have seen him while he was still a great way off, unless he had been watching and waiting. I want to encourage you to keep praying. Keep watching and keep waiting. Your prodigal will come to himself and remember. And they will come home. They always do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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