The Shepherd Who Leads Through the Wilderness

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. We have just finished our annual June 2 Worldwide Prodigal Prayer Day. Our theme this year has been Treasures in the Wilderness.


Dear Lover of Prodigals,

Sheep wander. If one makes a turn, the others will follow. Even if it’s a wrong turn. A wrong turn in the wilderness can lead to disaster.

So the sheep have a shepherd. That shepherd never leaves them. He or she leads them to green grass, to clear water, to a place for rest. And the shepherd protects them, from wild animals and from precarious paths.

This picture of Jesus rescuing the lost sheep is a perfect image for those of us who love a prodigal. Sometimes, too often, someone we love becomes that lost sheep, wandering on a precarious path.

We do our best to guide, protect and rescue, but we don’t always succeed. That’s when we turn in desperation to the Good Shepherd, to Jesus Himself. That’s why we have a Worldwide Prodigal Prayer Day every June 2.

I hope you prayed with us on June 2—for your own prodigal and for the many whose names were entrusted to us to pray for. Here’s what it was like at my house that evening:

Eighteen of us made a large circle in our Florida room. We each shared why we had come—a brief overview of our journey with a prodigal. Some were new-to-me people so new-to-me stories. Others were reminders of long waits to see changes, of despair and hope entertwined.

What did we have in common? We each loved a prodigal. Some were just taking their first shaky steps in this wilderness. Others were feeling their way in the shadowy darkness. A few had stories of light and new life and great hope.

We had all come to the only place we thought offered any answers: on our knees. At first our prayers were tentative—were these people safe? But then honesty, vulnerability, tears opened our hearts and we connected at that throne of grace, petitioning our God for each other, for the many who requested prayer, for our own loved ones, for ourselves.

Our prayers became tender, desperate, impassioned. We confessed our unbelief and declared our belief. We extended arms of faith and love to each other. We beseeched and begged and hoped.

In the end we recognized that our prayers were as much for ourselves as for our loved wanderers. And we acknowledged that loving a prodigal was indeed a wilderness journey, but that each beloved prodigal was a gift, a true treasure to make us more and more like Jesus. And gratitude filled us even as tears flowed.

So, as you await and anticipate answers to your prayers, remember that God is always working, even when we can’t see it. Our loved ones have free will, but our God relentlessly pursues them, even as he does us. He won’t give up, nor must we.

We have a Father who welcomes us to the throne of grace. Jesus is our shepherd as we navigate the wilderness. And the Spirit lives in us to give us everything we need for the journey.

May our Shepherd sustain us as we look for the way out of the wilderness,