And while he was still a long way
off, his father saw him coming.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father allowed the son to leave. He didn’t try to stop him and he didn’t go after him. As far as we know, he had no contact with him. Now I am not suggesting this is how to deal with your prodigal…each situation is different. Some prodigals have good relationships with their loved ones. But some are very much like this son who left. It is interesting that the father didn’t intervene. He did wait and he did watch and obviously he did not give up hope.
In this story, the son came to his senses. But not right away. His friends abandoned him when he ran out of money and he was all alone. But this is not when he came to his senses. Instead, he got a job feeding the pigs. It must not have paid very well because soon he was hungry and even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked appetizing. This is when he realized just how pathetic his life had become. He was in a pit. He hit bottom. He came to his senses. He thought to himself, “At home even the hired servants have enough food to eat. I will go home and tell my father that I sinned against him and beg for mercy. I will ask him to hire me on as a servant because I am not worthy to be his son.” And with those thought going through his mind, he went home.
The father was watching for him. I wonder how long he had been gone. We know he wasted his money on lavish living, but we don’t know how much money he had or how long it took him to run out. But it could have been quite a while. Some of us have been waiting for a long time. The Father has also been waiting. God sees our prodigals and He knows what is going on in their hearts and minds. In this story, the Father represents God and He sees everything. He will see them from afar off. He is a loving Father who will extend forgiveness, mercy and grace to anyone who repents and comes back home. He is waiting with open arms and will throw a party so to speak. He will not even consider making them a hired hand because they are a son or a daughter!
Repentance is a work of God. When they “come to their senses”, that will be a work of God as well. We cannot force it or predict when this will happen. It is a work of God. When we try to intervene apart from a clear leading from God, we work against Him. In this time of waiting, find out what God wants to do in you. I know from my time of waiting, I have learned so much about trusting God, claiming His promises, waiting patiently, praying fervently, and listening. God doesn’t let anything go to waste. He uses this time to teach us even as He is drawing our prodigals. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up (Gal. 6:9). In this case, the “good” is praying and pressing into the Father. It’s not letting this time be wasted.
I am a loving Father. I am always watching. I am always active. In this story I am not forcing, shaming, preaching, or cajoling because these things don’t work. But I am watching and I am ready for his return. I can see it and I want you to see it too…for your own prodigal(s). Picture it! Pray it! You can be like the father in this story and watch and pray. In fact, I tell you to watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. You don’t know when he or she will return so watching and praying is one way to participate in what I’m doing and to be ready for when that day comes. While you watch and pray, I will meet you. I will give you strength! I will give you compassion! I will give you zeal! I will give you a heart of love!