Loving a Prodigal: At the Very Time God Promised

This is the third in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on TIME, which is the theme of the 2013 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals. This letter goes to the members of the Prayer for Prodigals community.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

It was my birthday last week.

And as I have done for years, I told my son what gift I would like from him.  It’s always the same gift:

“All I want for my birthday is for you to surrender your life to Jesus.”

There were times he yelled at me in response: “I want nothing to do with Jesus.”

Other times he didn’t acknowledge my request—not a no, not a yes, just silence.

Often he has made small steps toward surrendering to God, giving me little tokens of hope.

But I am still waiting for that very special gift.

Abraham and Sarah also waited many years for a very special birth-day gift—the birth of their son, Isaac.

There was a promise:  “’This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” (Genesis 15:4-5)

There was a bypass:  “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’” (Genesis 16:1-2)

There was an affirmation:  “Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)

Then there was the fulfillment:  “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”  (Genesis 21:2)

Abram had a promise—his descendants would outnumber the sand.  Yet he had no child, no heir.  Year after year he looked for the promise.  Time after time, the impossible did not happen.

Been there.  Waiting for the birthday gift.

Sarai couldn’t wait.  She took things in her own hands, trying to come up with her own solution.

Uh oh!  Been there too.  No, I can’t make him say “I surrender.”  But a little manipulation, maybe a small bribe, demanding prayers:  “Do it my way, God.”

I take such encouragement at God’s creativity.  Yes, pain and disruption and conflict resulted from Sarai’s efforts—then and to this day.  Yet God redeemed it—he protected Hagar and Ishmael throughout their lives.  And Hagar gave a beautiful understanding and name of God:  El Roi—the God who sees.

I would wonder if Abram and Sarai’s efforts (he did participate!) wouldn’t have caused God to take a bypass as well, to go with another approach. But no, God reaffirmed the plan:  Abraham at 100 and Sarah at 90 would have a son in a year.

And it happened. Exactly when God planned it to happen. Talk about a birth-day celebration.  I suppose Isaac is the longest waited for baby ever.I’ve had promises about my son.  Many of you probably have had promises about your loved ones.  Others of us wait and despair and pray and hope.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Will the time ever come?

God is not bound by time, but He operates in time.  And He reminds us:  God will accomplish His purposes in the lives of our prodigals—children, spouses, parents, friends—in His perfect way at His perfect time.  And He will do the same in our own lives.

In His Time,


What about you? What are you waiting on God for?

c2013 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation. June 2 is our Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.