Month: August 2021

Prayer for A Prodigal

When someone mentions the word “Prodigal,” my mind instantly recalls images of Sunday School flannelgraphs (yes, I just aged myself). These memories include a defiant son standing before his father, demanding his inheritance. Then there was the figure of a grieving and broken father gazing after the distant figure of his son, racing towards ruin, shame, and destruction. The next photo in the series was the shocking depiction of the son destitute and driven by starvation, groveling on hands and knees in pig slop. 

The In-between….

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We know and cling to the end of this story. My favorite image was of the father embracing his prodigal son, offering grace when the son deserved judgment, and providing clothes, jewelry, and a party instead of condemnation and banishment. Yet, there is a piece of this story that is often rushed past or perhaps even overlooked. There weren’t any photos illustrating the hardest season of life for the Father of the prodigal son. This is a season I refer to as the “In-between.” While this parable illustrates our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we might find ourselves the parent of a prodigal son or daughter. One day this story we remember from Sunday school, with a “Happily ever after” ending, might become a never-ending nightmare in which we live. We know God knows their heart, sees where they are, and is aware of their involvement in sin and rebellion. We know he is rich in mercy, grace, and love. We believe that there is no heart too hard, cold, or far away to be reached by his voice and presence. BUT right here, right now, our child is an enemy of God and contending against a Heavenly King of holiness, justice, and judgment. While they will always be our flesh and blood child, we understand that to be enemies with God is to be, in some respect, spiritual enemies to us as well. Knowing this can make our day grueling as we navigate through the in-between, a season when love is put to the test, as is our obedience to Christ (Lk 14:26). This season can produce sleepless nights and days filled with sorrow, regret, shame, anger, terror, and fear. 

Their hearts rest in the hand of God, not our own….

The reality of life is that no matter how well we parent and teach or how often we took our children to church and VBS, their life and choices might bring great sorrow into our hearts and homes by rejecting faith in Christ and rebelling against God. BUT, God declares that our hearts are precious to Him, and that he alone turns and redeems them. (Psalm 49:7, Proverbs 21:1) No matter how faithfully we are to addressed sin, disciplined Biblically, and vigilantly take advantage of every opportunity to teach our children about God, heaven & hell, right & wrong,,,, we might eventually find ourselves looking into the face (or even the fading form) of our very own prodigal child.

The journey of a prodigal often begins within the walls of their own home

While some kids might leave home in pursuit of the prodigal lifestyle , or be lured into it, oftentimes, that journey begins within the protection and supervision of our own homes. Long before they have the opportunity and resources to pursue the impulses of rebellious and fleshly desire, we might watch in bewilderment as they begin the journey to reject the truth of the Gospel and the beauty of a redemptive relationship with the Creator and Lord of all. The life of a prodigal can begin deep within the hearts of our children, who naturally despise boundaries, question restrictions, and chafe at the idea of being told they do not get to decide how to live their life. Add to this are the countless voices encouraging them to question, reject, and walk away from their Creator and Lord. Over the years, I have heard the words, “I don’t want to be put in a box,” tumble from the lips of a defiant child, more than I care to count. You see, I am the parent of a prodigal child who still lives at home with us. Though we live together, eat, laugh, play games together, and celebrate holidays and special occasions together,….. with each passing day, I watch my child spiritually rebel and run from God. No matter how hard I try, I can not extract myself from participation in my own “Prodigal” story. Every day I am forced to watch as a heart grows more cold, defiant, rebellious, and resistant to the truth of the Gospel. Our home isn’t a war zone, and there aren’t huge shouting matches, but the spiritual chasm between us continues to grow. 

They are asleep….

 Months ago, the Lord used a wise and Godly woman to encourage, challenge, and bless me through this season. She has walked the path I now travel, and her heart also grieved over her own prodigal child. She shared a book (Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter) and a story that has blessed and radically transformed how I pray for my child. This story is found in Luke and while this account isn’t about our children, there is a rich nugget of truth found within the verses: 

Luke 8:46, 49-56

Just then, a man named Jairus came. He was a leader of the synagogue. He fell down at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to come to his house because he had an only daughter about 12 years old, and she was at death’s door.

While He was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore.”

When Jesus heard it, He answered him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be made well.” After He came to the house, He let no one enter with Him except Peter, John, James, and the child’s father and mother. Everyone was crying and mourning for her. But He said, “Stop crying, for she is not dead but asleep.”

 They started laughing at Him because they knew she was dead.  So He took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. 

According to all the physical laws of nature, this young girl was dead. There was no sight in her lifeless eyes, and she can not hear the sound of her grieving parents. There were no breaths of air gulped into her lungs. Death had come, her spirit and soul departed, and her body was beginning to decay. While someone told the man to not “bother” Jesus, because in human terms it was too late, Jesus told the desperate father two things: Don’t be filled with fear, and Only believe (that life is still possible when the Son of God is present). As they approached the house, all present were in the process of weeping and mourning her death. Likely there were hired “mourners” in attendance stoking and maintaining the wails of grief and loss. Jesus then separated the parents and his disciples from the mourners. The crowd who had given up hope and did not believe Jesus could alter the outcome of the story. In fact, when Jesus told them to stop crying because she “slept”, scripture tells us they laughed him to scorn. But Jesus, the Son of God, who knew the will and plan of the Father, went into the house. With the disciples and her parents looking on, Jesus commanded, “Child, get up.” The bible tells us Her spirit immediately returned, and she rose from her death bed.

“She isn’t dead. She is just sleeping.”

“Δεν είναι νεκρή, κοιμάται”

Debbie’s testimony and application of this truth brought me to tears and helped to frame the petitions of my heart that I have prayed for my child every day since. Debbie reminded me that as long as there is life and breath in my dear child’s lungs, she isn’t hopelessly spiritually dead; she is simply sleeping. My prodigal child is sleeping because of the illness of a sinful heart. She can’t hear His voice or understand His truth. She can’t see the beauty and Glory of a Merciful and loving God. His majesty does not bring her to her knees in fear and terror, and his beauty does not captivate her heart and draw her into a redemptive relationship with Him… In the evenings, I often creep silently to her room at the end of the hall. I put my hand on her door, and I pray like crazy for her. I still pray for a hedge of protection, exposure of sin, and for mercy and grace to flow down on her like rain, but more than anything, I cry out to God, asking that He would awaken the spiritually dead heart of my child, calling her out of darkness and into light. A while back, I snuck outside her door and, with a sharpie, wrote above the trim and just out of sight the Greek phrase “She is not dead, she is sleeping.” I will continue to pray for her own spiritual resurrection and day of great awakening when Jesus speaks into her heart and proclaims, “child, get up!” Will you join me as I pray for my child? I will join you as you petition the Lord of mercy for your child’s spiritual resurrection as well!

When Blue Doors Brought Me To My Knees

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 61:1

“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 42:5

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an “end of the earth” moment? I have, and I do more often than I like to admit. I am not referring to missed appointments, burnt dinner, or throw-up that needs to be cleaned up. I am talking about times when fear wraps peace-devouring tendrils around my heart, stealing the very breath from my lungs. Moments when I truly feel like and believe the “end” of something has come. So I brace myself as the world appears to unravel before my eyes, with all I love and hold dear seemingly doomed to destruction. 

In those moments, to simply say “my heart is overwhelmed” seems like an insulting understatement because, what I feel and fear is a very real and present foe threatening to steal EVERYTHING I cherish. This lurking enemy takes no prisoners and shows no mercy. This foe wages a ruthless battle that saps every ounce of strength and threatens to steal every drop of peace and joy I possess. In fact, God likens our spiritual foe ,Satan, to a prowling and devouring predator. When David penned Psalm 61, chances are he was staring off in the distance at a very real, flesh and blood, prowling, devouring enemy intending to end his reign as King of Israel and take his life. Yet, when face to face with the enemy, David’s prayer often focused upon his own heart, not the physical enemy threatening to snuff out his life. 

I find this observation both exciting and liberating. David was the master of asking questions. Statements like “why O God,” and “how long O Lord,” flow from his mouth without shame or hesitation. Sometimes the questions are directed to God, but other times they are directed toward himself. David may have felt bewildered by the circumstances he faced, but he was never so bewildered as to doubt the presence God. In the face of fear and uncertainty, David openly strove to reconcile the circumstances in which he found himself with the Nature and Name of the Lord who had made him a king and promised a kingdom without an end. David did not hesitate to plumb the depth of his own heart, ask God to reveal His heart, always asking God to remind him of His Steadfast love and faithfulness until he had the answers he needed! In Psalm 42:5 he repeatedly asks himself, “Why are you anxious and unsettled, oh my soul, what has stolen your peace?” He understands the answers for deliverance are often 1st found by exposing the sin and weakness of his heart. David also knew that the answers he sought were obtained when he asked the right questions. 

Over the past few years, I have made it a habit to approach turmoil, anxiety, fear, and my “end of the earth moments” just as David did, with lots of questions for myself and then God. I have discovered that tuning my heart to seek and listen to the voice of the Great Comforter helps me to process, discern, and understand the truth and reality of the situation before me. This process helps to usher me into the presence of God with a soft and contrite heart. It is only in humility and weakness that our hearts are able to see and then willing to accept and cooperate with the Lord and His process of sanctification, transformation, and deliverance. 

This week, my most recent end of the world moment came because of “Blue Doors.” I can’t go into detail, but “blue doors” triggered overwhelming anxiety and fear. My initial impulse was to fight the situation and demand from God and others steps that I felt would ensure my world remained unthreatened and safe. My desire to fight quickly transitioned into feelings of despair. Once the urge to fight had passed, I faced a new urge to give up and retreat. The desire to withdraw (flight) tempted me to push aside the onslaught of fear, scolding myself about how stupid the situation was. But at this moment, I knew running away and denying the issues at hand were just as destructive as recklessly going to battle in my own wisdom and strength. In my frustration, I cried out to the Lord. In my despair, I asked the Creator of my heart and the Redeemer of my soul a question. “Why do the “Blue doors” matter so much?” As Lisa Terkeurst eloquently puts it, “God and I went a few rounds,” and in the end, He was the undisputed winner of the bout. God answered this plea and many more after it. Some of the questions I grappled with in the ring tumbled from my lips. But other questions, the ones that lay at the heart of my anxiety and fear, flowed from the lips of the Savior. He used the Holy Spirit to pierce, divide asunder, discern and reveal to me the true thoughts and intentions of my heart. Before long, I wasn’t asking the Lord to take care of my “blue door” circumstance because He had taken care of what truly needed care, my heart. 

If you find yourself struggling with your own “Blue Door” scenario today, consider David’s prayer and battle plan. The progression of Psalm 61 is a beautiful picture of how to process sorrow, grief, anxiety, and fear. It is a battle plan that helps us rise above our circumstances, draw near to God, and find peace. 

“From the end of the earth I cry to you.”

When overwhelmed with fear and anxiety over the prospect of what we feel is assured loss, destruction, and sorrow, cry out to God!

Cling to the truth that no matter where you are, God is present, can hear your cry, and stands ready to deliver.

Our End of earth moments often not the end, but actually moments that usher us to the border of our Heavenly Kingdom, inviting us into the sweet presence of our King, Redeemer, Savior, and Father.

“When My heart is overwhelmed….”

Understand our “Blue Door” situations might overwhelm us, but they are never too complicated, never too messy, and never too hard for God. 

Lean into God and cooperate with the process. All things flow through His Sovereign hands and will be used to draw us close and refine our heart. The key to peace and the solution to our “Blue Door” moments are found by submitting our heart to God for Spiritual surgery. 

In humility, ask the Holy Spirit to plumb your heart, piercing, dividing, and exposing the things that He desires to purge, cutaway, and transform… so there is room to accept and embrace His Grace and purpose for the trials at hand.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

David realizes he is not positioned where he needs to be. David has taken up residence (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)at the edge of a cliff. He is surrounded by a hopeless situation and life looks bleak. His has yielded to the feelings that doom is assured and eminent. His heart is bewildered, terrified, and “overwhelmed.” How could anyone ever expect to escape the anxiety and fear of horrible circumstances when willingly camped in the midst of calamity and surrounded by hopelesness on every side? 

David cries out to God, offering up a prayer that I believe is both a confession and a plea. He acknowledges where he stands and asks for God to move him emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to where he needs to be. If I were to pray this same prayer, it would sound something like this. 

Father, “Blue Doors” have knocked me to my knees and robbed me of peace. I have been distracted by their existence, and I have been overwhelmed by their presence. Instead of trusting in you, I have allowed this situation to overwhelm me. I allowed myself to make a bed and then lay down in the middle of my circumstance.  I chose to live and fellowship with feelings of despair and hopelessness. I have willingly wallowed in fear and anxiety, and I have questioned your goodness, and doubted your truth. O God of Angel Armies, forgive me for my faithlessness. Lead me out of the midst of these “blue doors.” Help me to lay my fears and anxieties at your feet. Plant my feet me on a mountain far above my spiritual enemies. Give me relief from my fears and let me lay down in peace in the midst of your presence. Comfort my heart with the truth of who you are. Let your Name and Nature be my covering and my shield. Let me see and gaze upon the glory and majesty of your steadfast love, righteousness, and abounding mercy. Let me bath my heart and mind in the truth of your grace and faithfulness. Lead me to a location and a place far above the place I currently find myself in and the circumstances I face. Give me the ability to understand my heart and the real issues I need to face. Grace me with the desire and ability to acknowledge the sins I need to confess and give me the strength to fight the battles that truly matter. 

Remember my precious sisters, you were never meant to live in the midst of blue doors. He calls out to you and yearns to draw you out and up to a high place, and in into his sweet presence.