A Problem with Idolatry

Once a month I write a letter to the wonderful Prayer for Prodigals community I am part of.  Often those letters, though specific to those who love a prodigal, apply to any or all of us in the challenging circumstances of life.  I hope this letter on the idols in our lives will encourage you.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

(My friends, I wrote this not long ago in the midst of a challenging time.  It's pretty vulnerable.  Gratefully I don't live in this state all the time.)

I have always marveled at the children of Israel’s constant idolatry.  When I read in Isaiah about the foolishness of taking a piece of wood, carving an idol out of half and making a fire to cook dinner over of the other half—ridiculous!  Bowing down to piece of wood you made into a “god”!  How absurd!I would never worship an idol!

Until, of course, I did.Not an idol I carved from wood or formed in gold.  But a real live person I loved and treasured.  A person I put on the throne of my life.  Someone who sometimes becomes higher in my affections than God.  Someone I couldn’t let go of.

My prodigal was not my first idol, but he has been the most consistent one—my repeated one. How many times have I prayed the Prayer of Release! (See below.)

God gave me a visual to help me forsake my idolatry: I imagine myself lifting him off the throne of my life and putting him on the altar as an offering to God.  This has been helpful.

Most often this idolatry grows out of my desperate desire for the rescue, redemption, restoration and transformation of my loved one.  These are good desires, appropriate requests to God.  But sometimes they become idols:  “I think I have to have this or I will die!”  That’s when this deep desperation is a sign that idolatry may have entered the picture again.

I seem to think that he is mine.  But in reality he is the Lord’s.  And my Lord is faithful to keep reminding me, encouraging me to let go, to release, to offer him up, to trust that God knows what He is doing.  Repeatedly He gently pries my fingers loose and takes him into his loving and capable hands.Then last night the Lord opened my eyes to a new “aha”! He said, “Yes, you need to let go, to give him back to me.  But here’s the truth: more than you think he belongs to you, the reality is that you belong to him.”

Oh, it’s too true. He owns me.  Not always, but sometimes.  I will do anything for him.  Not unusual with parents and children—prodigals or not.  We would die for those we love.   But how easily this can become a great idolatry:  when my heart belongs to anyone or anything more than it belongs to God.

A new revelation?  Not entirely.  But a greater understanding of how it happens. I pray for our prodigals—my prodigal—to be set free.  But sometimes I am the one who is imprisoned.

I am listening to and talking with God about letting go and setting free, but also about getting free. He assures me that I belong to Him and He sets me free in His Spirit:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

May nothing take you captive but God Himself,


What about you?  Is there an idol in your life?

C2013 Judy Douglass

Prayer of Release

During your times of prayer, say this declaration of release as often as necessary:               

To my loved prodigal:               

Because Jesus Christ is my Lord, I free you from my anxiety, fears and    control.  I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you the way that is    right for you - the way of love, joy and peace and all that salvation includes.               

I place you at God's throne of Grace.  I cannot force my will on you. 

I cannot live your life for you.  I give you to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You are a very special person.  As much as I love you, God loves   you more.  Your life today is totally in His hands, and I trust Him with it.               

In Jesus’ name, I release you from my expectations, I place you on open palms to the Lord, I give you my blessings, I let you go.

Prayer Portions L 1991. 1992. 1995. Sylvia Gunther. P.O. Box 380333, Birmingham, AL 35238 USA