If you are dealing with a wayward child your soul is no doubt in deep anguish. As you watch your son or daughter make harmful, negative decisions you long to return to the early years when you could sit them in a chair and MAKE them behave. Oh, to have back some control!
Maybe you have already given up on having any control. By now you have tried "talking some sense into them", laying on a good guilt trip or perhaps out and out begging. Those didn't work. You have finally accepted that you cannot change a human heart; only God can. Now you grieve privately - and pray.
Praying of course is the most effective thing you can do. But what kind of prayer? Is there a prayer that short circuits rebellion? Is there prayer that cuts through the destructive patterns and produces the heart change spoken of by Jesus in the parable of the Prodigal son? "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!'" (Luke 15:17) Finally seeing the light, the young son returned to his father's house and was fully welcomed. That's what you want for your child too.
We'll start with the reminder that in the parable Jesus told, the father saw his son returning "while he was still a long way off." (Verse 20) This means he must have been out watching for his son all the time. He anticipated his return but he didn't know exactly when so his eyes constantly searched the horizon. This is active waiting. You can be busy watching too; praying bulls-eye prayers that hit your child's heart even if they are far off. That's far more control than you realize.
Prayer Strategies for Prodigals
The Hedge - Hosea had a prayer strategy to bring his harlot wife back. "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; and she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!" (Hosea 2:6-7)
Imagine a person inside a thorny hedge, unable to get out. They may try to go their own way but they can't hack their way through the dense hedge. You can pray that though your child tries to go in the paths of sin, they are stopped in every effort. Pray and declare God's hedge around your loved one. Declare that they are coming to their senses as they are hedged in and can't get out. (The pig pen was the prodigal son's hedge.)
Break Generational Curses - "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me." (Exodus 20:5)
Are there generational curses operational in your family? What seems to reoccur from one generation to the next? Addictions? Sexual sins? Violence? Guilt? Lying? Unfaithfulness? Are these things fueling your child's rebellion right now? Repent on behalf of your ancestors who may have introduced these curses into your family line and break them off at the root by the power of the blood of Jesus that covers all unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:9)
You can replace the generational curses with generational blessings, which last a whole lot longer. "Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments." (Deuteronomy 7:9) You are the one who loves him and keeps his commandments so claim that for your son or daughter and for the generations beyond them to come.
Persevere - Do not give up; do not lose heart. Remember the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. God specifically gave us this parable to see us through, even if it is a long haul. The widow went back to the unrighteous judge day after day demanding her claim be addressed. The Judge finally gave in "lest by continually coming she wear me out." (Luke 18:5) But God says he is the righteous Judge! "Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?"
This parable invites you to give God no rest until he answers your prayers for your wayward child. Use it persistently and aggressively. You can say; "Lord, I cry to you day and night. Do not delay over me. Bring me justice speedily." Keep pressing in your claim!
Dos and Don'ts till Victory Comes
Ask God to give you a specific scripture that you can pray and claim for your child. For instance, God gave a friend of mine this Word in praying for her prodigal son; "I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners." (Isaiah 57:18) What a comfort and encouragement that has been.
Refrain from manipulating or trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit yourself. Your child will usually see right through your tactics. Pray and then let God arrange divine appointments etc. He doesn't need your help and he'll do a much better job than you, I promise.
Avoid demanding time frames. Yes you want it to happen NOW but you will end up frustrated and discouraged if you claim timings that God does not initiate. This is a very delicate balancing act: pressing hard and aggressively for your child's return to the Lord and yet waiting patiently and trusting God for his way and his time.
Don't give up no matter how long your child sits in his pig pen. Keep watching and expecting his return. Have the fatted calf in the wings, waiting for the big celebration. It's coming. "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14) NO! NOTHING!
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