Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

How prodigal prayers get muffled

IF IT’S THE part of icebergs we can’t see that can sink ships, it’s also what’s submerged that can sink some of our prayers. When higher concerns get muddied by our fallen nature, we can weaken our intercession.

Remember, James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working,” not the prayers of a self-righteous person. Praying with unaddressed emotions and attitudes is like driving with the parking brake on, or running with a truck tied to your waist.

Now, we’re never going to get it all right this side of heaven. But if we’re praying for things that weigh heavy on our hearts, it makes sense to do some self-examination to ensure we’re not undermining our own efforts. That means being aware of darker emotions that can lurk beneath the surface.

One area in which it’s possible to miss this danger is in praying for prodigals. The heartache of loved ones who have wandered far from their spiritual roots is immense, but it’s easy for that godly grief to become clouded.

That’s when anguish can turn to anger. Certainly, there is a time and a place for godly anger, but we need to be willing to acknowledge that what we’re channeling maybe isn’t. It might be more about us and our feelings than concern for our loved one, driven by anger with:

Them. We think of all we did for them, all we tried to pour into them, and feel let down. Maybe we feel rejected, or worried about what others who know what’s going on may think of us. We feel like a failure. Sure, we love our prodigal, but we’re also mad at them. It’s all his/her fault.

Ourselves. While knowing that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own choices, we can’t help looking back over all that we did—and didn’t do—and wondering where we went wrong. How did we make it easier for them to make poor choices? When should we have put our foot down or lifted our hand off? It’s all our fault.

Their friends. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, our loved one is in a far-off land, metaphorically if not literally. Their life is with people we do not understand, who speak a foreign language, it seems, and whom we may blame for helping lead our loved one astray. We agree with 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character.” It’s all their fault.

God. We have prayed and prayed, but He doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Other people have seen their prodigals return home and thrown the celebratory party, and that makes our waiting even harder. When there’s no reason to fire up the grill for a fatted calf, it can be tempting to throw a pity party instead. It’s all His fault.

Instead of lapsing into anger mode, it’s better if we stop and recognize where we may have wandered off course. By inviting God in to blow away the fog of our anger, we allow more of the light of His love into our prayers.

Photo: Strongman.org

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