Bill had a son who fell away from the church a number of years ago. This had been a real hardship for him because he and his wife had blamed themselves for what had happened. Recently, friends of Bill’s, a married couple, were talking with him, and shared their sadness at the fact that their two children had stopped going to church. They were also blaming themselves. Bill said to them, “I know exactly what you are going through. It’s hard not to blame yourself. I kept thinking about what I would do differently had I been given the chance. But here’s what really helped me. One Sunday I heard a homily that made me look at my situation differently. The priest was trying to emphasize that we have to learn to place our concerned in God’s hands and not think that its all about what we are going to do. This changed my way of thinking, and now I don’t pray, ‘Lord, help me figure out what I did wrong’ anymore. Now I pray, ‘Lord, you love my son more than I do. I know you want my son to be saved even more than I do, so I expect you to do something about it. I’m going to rely on you to bring him back, and I believe I can rely on you.’ And through the grace of God, I feel much more at peace with the situation. I don’t preach to my son about going back to church anymore, although he knows how I feel. So, I would encourage both of you to pray in a similar way. You see, I had to learn to take the emphasis off of myself. I was making it all about my feelings of guilt. I had to come to the realization that I didn’t have the power to change things. This is up to Christ. So, I am still praying for my son’s return to the faith, and I am confident that God will make it happen.”
Jesus says today: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” Bill, in the story, had to realize that his job was to plant the seed, and that it was up to God to provide the fruit. All of us can name family members and close friends who have fallen away from the faith. So maybe “Bill’s prayer” will help you too. But remember this: Don’t tell God when to bring about the conversion, or how to bring about the conversion. Instead, ask God to give his grace to whomever he wants, in whatever way he wants! Say instead: Dear Lord, don’t let all your terrible suffering and death go to waste. You did this to save us. I ask you, and I even expect you, our merciful God, to bring about the salvation of your people.
When you pray like this, God will give you the grace to trust him and rely on him to make things happen. Such bold sentiment expresses the deep confidence we should all have in God’s loving care for our fallen away family members and friends.
You have no need to anxious—-even in the worst situations because you have the all-powerful God working to bring about what you want—-the return of the “Prodigal Son”.