Guard Your Words and Pray!
About the Guest
The Lord promises wisdom to those who ask Him. This includes wisdom and strength for parenting, according to speaker Phil Waldrep of Phil Waldrep Ministries in Alabama.
Phil WaldrepPhil Waldrep is the founder and CEO of Phil Waldrep Ministries and the wildly popular Women of Joy, Gridiron and Celebrators conferences. Waldrep’s vision to speak encouragement into the lives of people unite powerful Bible teachers and speakers now inspires nearly 60,000 annual attendees. He is also author of the acclaimed parenting book, “Reaching Your Prodigal.”
The Lord promises wisdom to those who ask Him.
Guard Your Words and Pray!
Phil: One night my phone rang, and it was my friend, and he called, and he said, "Phil, I've got to tell you, my son just called to tell me, 'Dad, I got right with God tonight.'" And I said, "That's wonderful." He said, "It's terrible." And I said, "Why is it terrible?" He said, "Because you know I'm a Baptist, and he got right with God at the Assembly of God church."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 4th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll learn today what we can do, as parents, to remove barriers that may be keeping a prodigal from coming home.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We have been listening together this week to what I think is a very helpful message for parents from Phil Waldrep who speaks in churches all around the country. He lives in Decatur, Alabama. Phil is married and has two children.
And the message we've been listening to is a message on parenting prodigals, and I think it has provided a lot of parents, Dennis, with hope and encouragement.
Dennis: It has. It is the best message I've ever heard on this subject, and Phil has written a book called "Parenting Prodigals, Six Principles for Bringing Your Son or Daughter Back to God," and if folks have been listening all this week, they've already heard the first four principles that he shared with our listening audience.
Bob: Principle Number 1 is that parents should not let the prodigal's waywardness destroy their own joy and service. We've got to keep pressing on for Christ even as parents of prodigals.
Dennis: Principle Number 2, you need to ask forgiveness from the child you've offended, your unconfessed offense may be the thing that is keeping your prodigal away from God.
Bob: The 3rd Principle has to do with unconditional love for a prodigal and being very careful not to manipulate that prodigal with your love.
Dennis: Right, and Principle Number 4 – while you love them unconditionally, you must allow the sin to run its course in their lives. And that is so difficult for us to do, as parents, Bob, because by our very nature, we jump into the pool and rescue them when we see them going under. And when we see them getting off into sin, the nature is to rush in and try to rescue that son or daughter from sin's consequences when those consequences may be the thing that God uses to ultimately bring them back to Him.
Bob: Well, if you missed any part of this message this week, you can contact us to get a copy of the CD or a copy of Phil's book, but we need to pick things up with Phil's 5th Principle for parents, which is the importance of guarding our words as we talk not just with our sons and daughters but in all that we say and how we represent Jesus Christ.
Phil: [from audiotape.] I have discovered words are powerful, and they're very powerful when you talk to a prodigal. One prodigal said to me, and I think it's a great illustration of this point, he said, "I don't understand my mother. She tells me all during the week how sorry her church is, how bad her preacher is, how she can't stand those hypocrites at the church, but then on Sunday she doesn't understand why I don't want to go to that sorry church, hear that bad preacher and sit there with all those hypocrites."
Now, there's a point there, because we need to guard our words because the devil takes what we say negatively about God and church and other Christians, and he magnifies that to our prodigals.
And while it may be that there's times that there are negative things that maybe we need to address, let's not do it in front of a prodigal. Let our words be affirming, even if it's someone we disagree with on a theological issue, God may be using someone outside of your denomination to reach your child or your grandchild or the prodigal in your life and, if so, you encourage that behavior, assuming, of course, it's a Christian that preaches the truth of God's Word, and we allow them to be encouraged in that word, not discouraged – guard what you say.
And guard the way you say it. Can I share something with you that is going to probably startle you, but you need to hear me. When I interviewed the 30 prodigals, I asked them this question – when you were a child or a teenager or young adult in church, was there ever a time when the church or people in the church disappointed you? And almost like someone who has touched a sore spot, they'll say, "Oh, yes." And then they let me have it.
Now, sometimes, I need to tell you, the action of the church was justified, but here is what I have discovered since then. When we are having disagreements in the life of the church, we need to remember that sometimes it is the spirit in which we've engaged in discussion and debate the devil may use to make prodigals of our children. So you guard your words.
Now, let me take that one step further. As you guard your words, you also need to guard them, even if your prodigal returns to serving God. Do you realize in the story of the prodigal son, that the prodigal son rehearsed his speech? Now, I'm going to go home, and here is what I'm going to say. I'm going to say, "Father, you've got all these other servants, and I really don't expect you to make me a son, but can I just kind of work here and hang out around here? It's better than being in the hogpen, because you really treat your hired servants real well, and that's what I want to do," and I can imagine, as he walked home, okay, now I can see Dad. Now, Dad sometimes reacts this way, so I'm going to say it this way.
But the beautiful part of this story is the father never allowed the son to give the speech. Did you notice that? When he got to his father, his father didn't even allow him to give the speech. But there's another thing you need to notice – neither did the father give a speech. I mean, if I had been the father, let's be honest, I would have probably said, "Well, I'm finally glad you learned your lesson. Well, now, I tell you what, son, you can come back, but we need to talk about the money. You have blown the money, and you need to go right now and apologize to your older brother, that's what you need to do, and you need to go around and apologize to everybody here on the place and let them all know it was your stupid decision that caused you to do what you did. Now, son, that's what you need to do." Now, that's what I would have done.
And to be honest, that's what most of you would have done, and sometimes when prodigals come home, that's what we do. We need to make sure they learn the lesson so we make sure we rehearse the lesson with them. But let me caution you – when a prodigal comes with repentance, you give them space, and you give them time, and someday you let them discuss the pigpen. Don't rush to answer all the questions – why did you do it, you know what you put your mother through? No, it's not a place for that.
When prodigals come home, it's time for rejoicing; talk comes later. And even when they tell you they've got right with God, be careful that you encourage not discourage, because if you told the truth, particularly if you're a parent here today – if you told the truth, you not only want your child to get right with God, but you want them to come back to your church. That's what you want. You want them to come back your church, to be sitting there on your pew, and what if your prodigal gets right with God and goes to another church?
Worse, what if he goes to another denomination? Should you encourage it or discourage it? I'll give you a wonderful illustration of that, and I have to put this in context that I have many, many, wonderful charismatic friends, and they love this story better than the non-charismatics do. So I can tell the story.
I have a friend, and he's a Baptist, and he had a son who was a prodigal. And he was – I mean – he would call me weeping, "Oh, you need to pray for my son, I'm just so heartbroken, and my son is away from God," and we would pray, and the next week he would call, "You just don't understand, I don't know if I can bear this burden anymore. My son is so far from God," and this went on for weeks and for months.
One night my phone rang, and it was my friend, and he called, and he said, "Phil, I've got to tell you, my son just called me" – and I thought I was going to hear it, and he's done something else. He said, "No, he called to tell me, 'Dad, I got right with God tonight.'" And I said, "That's wonderful." He said, "It's terrible." And I said, "Why is it terrible?" He said, "Because you know I'm a Baptist, and he got right with God at the Assembly of God church."
And I said, "Listen, let's just rejoice tonight that your son got his life right with God." He said, "You don't understand. He told me he's going to start attending that church." And I said, "Well, it's okay. He'll grow in the Lord. Someday you can talk about those differences, if you like, but, for now, let's just rejoice and let him grow in the Lord."
He said, "But you don't know that church." And then with gross exaggeration, he said, "They're so different from us, and their music is loud, and they have drums in the church, and sometimes they do things, and they fall down, and they jump pews," and he said, "No," he said, "I just know it's so terrible." He said, "But you just don't know," he said, "They're just so emotional, and they just" – and he was so bent out of shape, and I said, "Okay, okay, I'll give you this much." I said, "I will agree with you that from your tradition they are much more expressive, and they are much more emotional than you're comfortable with. I understand that." I said, "But I want you to understand this truth – they're going to heaven." I said, "Did you hear that? That church, those people are wonderful friends. I can tell you, I checked it out, they're going to heaven.
Now, I will admit some of them will probably go past it and have to turn around and come back, but they are going to heaven." And I said, "What you need to do is you need to be happy and rejoice and affirm your son rather than criticize him. You see, that's guarding your words – that you be a person of affirmation not encourage them, because if you're not careful, when the prodigal comes home, if you say the wrong thing, they may pack their bags and head back to the hogpen."
And there's even one step further that also applies for us for prodigals who repent and come to our church; that sometimes they come, and we want to know the gory details. "Tell us everything." When, quite frankly, it's none of our business, and we need to affirm those prodigals who come, because if we're not careful, we may have a sign outside the church that says, "Everyone welcome," but our body language may be a sign that says, "No prodigals allowed." So when return, we affirm, and we encourage, but we don't criticize, and we don't lecture.
And then there's a 6th Principle – and it will sound simplistic, but it's not. You need to pray specifically for your prodigal. "Oh, I pray for my prodigal, Phil, I pray for my prodigal every day." Well, let me see if I can help you with that just a little bit. When I talked to the prodigals who returned to serving God, I began to notice that there were two things that God used to get their attention that ultimately resulted in their return to serving God.
Now, I will grant you that there are exceptions, but I will also tell you that in my research somewhere around 85 to 90 percent of the time, it is one of these two things – sometimes these two together – that God uses to get the attention of a prodigal and cause them to come to themselves. So if God uses it, wouldn't you agree with me, it is the two things we need to pray?
The first is this – that God often uses the influence of someone their age who has a heart for God to nudge them back to the Lord. It is rarely the talking of a parent or a brother or a sister or a best friend in the truest context of lifelong friend that gets them back to God. You know who I've discovered has the most positive influence on a prodigal? It's the guy who is their business partner, the lady who is on the PTA committee with them, it's the neighbor across the road, it's the golfing buddy, it's the fellow who helps out with at Little League Baseball, it is someone who comes into their life who is about their age who has a common interest, they bond together, and that friend who has no preconceived notions or even knows anything about their past begins to talk to them about their relationship with the Lord and their walk with God.
And so, quite often, it is the influence of a peer or associate, a friend that gets their attention. So what should your first prayer be? God, will you bring into the life of my prodigal people with whom they can bond, that has a heart for you?
Here is the second prayer – and I need to tell you, this is the toughest. I discovered it is often the sickness and death of a parent primarily, a grandparent, a brother or sister or a close friend, that gets the attention of the prodigal. So here's the tough prayer – are you willing to say and to pray, "Lord, if it means that I need to be sick and die, I am willing to do it if it will get my prodigal back to You." Boy, that is a tough prayer, and let me caution you, don't pray it lightly, because God may answer it.
But I want to tell you this, what if it is your sickness, your death that gets their attention and brings them back to the Lord? What if? You say, "Well, but I'll be in heaven." But wouldn't it make heaven a little sweeter if one day when you're walking on the streets of gold, the Son of God walks up and says, "Have I got news for you."
You know that son that you finally said, "He's never going to amount to anything? That daughter that broke your heart, that brother that you thought just would never get it together, you know that friend that you thought had gone off the cliff, well, guess what? They stood today and blessed My name." I don't know about you, but wouldn't it make heaven just a little sweeter if we don't see the prodigals come home here that we get to hear about it over there.
I know it will for me, and what I want you to understand this morning, in practical ways we can't force them to come home, we can't make them come home, but we can remove the barriers that the devil uses to keep them away. So when they come to themselves, and they think, "I need to go home to my heavenly Father," that we have removed all the barriers so they can come home.
Bob: We've been listening to a message from Phil Waldrep for parents of prodigals. I had to think of the statement of Jesus when He said, "Greater love has no man than this – that he lay down his life for his friends, for his sons, for his daughters" – I'm paraphrasing here at this point, "for the prodigals in his life." We can lay down our lives, certainly, while we're still alive, but we can't give up hope. At any point along the way, we don't know what it's going to take for the Holy Spirit to begin to stir and to reawaken the heart of a prodigal.
Dennis: Bob, these words from Phil Waldrep this week have been so instructive and hope-giving to, really, all of us, as parents, but I want to conclude our broadcast today by reading some words from the Apostle Paul from his letter to the church at Thessalonica – 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, he says this – "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idol, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays another evil for evil, but also seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Some great words of encouragement, Bob, because as any parent who is listening to these broadcasts this week knows – right now, as you've listened to all of these principles, the feeling is "Oh, I would whatever it took for my son, my daughter, to come home."
And I just want to say a word right now to a son or daughter who is a prodigal who may be listening, maybe there's just one of you who happened to tune in this week and hear this series about prodigals. It is never too late to come home. It's never too late to come back to God. He is a God of grace, a God of forgiveness, and He bids you to come. He is the good shepherd. He knows the sheep by name, and they hear His voice, and if you are hearing His voice even now – come home. Come back to Him and repent. Turn from what you are doing and from your rebellion against God and your selfishness and ask your heavenly Father to welcome you back.
Bob: In fact, we'd be happy to send you a free resource – a book called "Pursuing God," that can help you reexamine the claims of Christ, help you understand, in a fresh way, perhaps, what it means to walk in a right relationship with God. Oftentimes, I think, Dennis, there are folks who are prodigals because they have rejected a caricature of Christianity.
Dennis: No question about it, Bob.
Bob: They have not rejected the Savior. When you come face-to-face with the real Jesus from the pages of Scripture, He is irresistible.
Dennis: He is compelling.
Bob: So if you'd like a copy of the book, "Pursuing God," you can contact us, and we will send it to you at no cost. It's our gift to you as you reconsider the claims of Christ and the significance of those claims for your life.
And then if you are the parent of a prodigal or if you know someone who is a parent of a prodigal and, in fact, I think this is one of the things I hope our listeners will do regularly, Dennis. I hope they will think about people they know who, if you're not experiencing what we've been talking about on today's program, think about people you know who are, and then contact us, either on our website or by calling us, and get the resources we've been talking about and pass them on to a friend.
In this case, you can get a copy of Phil Waldrep's book, which is called "Parenting Prodigals," and a copy of a book by Stormy Omartian, called "The Power of a Praying Parent," and if you order both of those books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD of Phil Waldrep's message that we've been featuring this week on FamilyLife Today.
You can request these resources either online at FamilyLife.com. If you go to the website, click the red button that says "Go," that you see in the center of the screen, and that will take you to an area of the site where there's more information about what resources are available and how you can have them sent to you. Or if it's easier, to call 1-800-FLTODAY, we've got folks who can respond to your call and get these resources out to you as well.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button when you get there, or call 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make arrangements to have the resources you request sent to you.
I want to make sure that we take just a minute and say thanks to the folks who not only listen to our program, Dennis, but to those who help support the ministry financially. I think most of our listeners know we're listener-supported as are most of the programs that you hear on this particular radio station and, in some cases, the radio station itself is listener-supported. So it takes generous folks like you in order for these programs to continue, and that's true for us as well.
This week we wanted to say thank you to those listeners who can help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today by sending you a copy of "The Jesus Movie" on DVD. If you'd like to receive that DVD, when you make a donation this week, all you have to do is type the word "Jesus" into the keycode box as you fill out your form online, and we'll know to send the DVD to you.
Or if you're calling, just ask for the Jesus DVD when you make your donation at 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and we appreciate your support of the ministry, and we hope that the DVD is an appropriate way of saying thank you for that support and letting you know we really do appreciate you.
Well, tomorrow Dr. Tim Kimmel is going to join us, and we're going to talk about why Christian kids rebel, even if they don't become prodigals, why do kids push back against the standards their parents have established? We'll talk with Dr. Kimmel about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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