In Isaiah 65 the Lord laments that although He holds his hand out to people all day long, many prefer to walk in ways that are not good, and to pursue their own imaginations. But I was struck the other day by the way the chapter begins:
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
To a nation that did not call on My name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
I believe there is something really powerful here that we can take hold of here by substituting for the words, ‘To a nation that does not call on my name,’ the name of specific people who we know, and for whose walk with the Lord we are concerned.
To . . . who is not calling on Your name, Lord, (name the person you are concerned about – or indeed, the vast swathes that comprise the whole category of people who have fallen away from seeking Him) You are still saying, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ In Your mercy, reveal Yourself to those who are not asking for you as eagerly as they should be doing. May they both find and be found afresh by You we pray. (See Is 65:1-2)
See this wonderful story in the Still Small Voice for an example along these lines in which the Lord suddenly chose to ‘reveal Himself’ to someone – with wonderful results. Click the link and search ‘God speaks a Healing Centre into being.’
And here is a link to a Prayer for Prodigals that we included on one of our very first prayer CDs, set to a beautiful piece of music that Linda Entwistle composed: ‘Connections.’
Praying for Prodigals Part Two
He was as sharp and as prophetic a pastor as any I have worked with; she was a passionate fervent intercessor. Neither are now walking with the Lord – and they are far from being unique even amongst those I have known over the years. There are many once fervent witnessing, praying and preaching believers who have now taken such refuge as they can in philosophies, ideologies and lifestyles that do not look the Lord Jesus for their primary inspiration. Some have even become ‘evangelists against God’.
How can someone go from white hot to utterly indifferent? Only too easily! Falls are rarely sudden; a process of backsliding has usually been at work in the heart.
Most of us will have known people who, like Demas, have desert d the faith in favour of some more immediate worldly goal or pleasure. How often our thoughts and prayers come back to praying for those were once active in following the Lord, but who have drifted and departed from any active discipleship.
Where someone has made their final decision, there may be nothing we can do for them, for Hebrews sounds the very strong warning that ‘it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift and who have shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age to be brought back to repentance if they fall away from Him, because, to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.’
But If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)
If we are aware that we have started to ‘drifting’ in some key area, it is really important not to ignore it, but to talk and pray about it with somebody mature enough to handle it. None of us are impervious to the risk; the stark reality is that far more people embark on the way of the Lord than those who end up fervent in Him.
If we have ‘fallen’ in some way, it need not be the end of the story. So too did Moses, David and a host of others. It may actually turn out to be one of the defining moments in making us more focused and wholehearted for the Lord.
Susan Pevensey, in the Narnia stories, is one of the few literary creations I have wept over. As ‘party life’ and excessive concern for her personal appearance came to mean everything to her, her willingness to forget her experiences in Narnia, and to dismiss them as childish fancy mirrors the real-life story of countless people who turn away in later life from the close relationship they once enjoyed with the Lord Jesus.
At school, Susan had wanted to grow up and be the age she is now – and all her efforts now are directed at staying that age. May we rather have the faithfulness, and the spiritual sensitivity of Lucy, who sees Aslan when others do not, and refers to him readily. Whilst she sometimes lacked the courage to strike out on her own when her siblings were doubting Aslan’s leading, Aslan’s perception of her is entirely different: “If you were any braver, you would be a lioness!” May age mellow and mature us rather than muddle and mislead us!
When people fall away from the Lord are rarely the result of one experience only, but rather the culmination of a long-drawn-out process, where the loss of spiritual sharpness has been so gradual that people are often unaware of what they are losing. May the Lord keep many from being ensnared and ‘taken captive through hollow philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.’ (Col.2:8)
And may we take care likewise to guard against the cares of the world, the devil snatching good seeds that have been planted, and ensuring that our roots are deep in to resist the pressures and temptations of life. At the deepest level may we never be willing to exchange the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator. To say the least it makes for a poor replacement in the long term! (Rom. 1:25)
Praying for Prodigals Part Three
Some of the most awful words in Scripture are to be found in Judges 16:20 concerning Samson: “He did not know that the Lord had all departed from him.” Because the Lord is the Lord, though, there is always hope. There are recorded examples of people being healed not only of things such as cancer but even of dyslexia and autism too – so why should the Lord be unable to heal the Backslider’s condition? It helps enormously, of course, if people are prepared to face the reality of the condition, and to seek restoration. Even Samson sought the Lord in his dying moments!
The fact that we may never have ‘fallen’ in some particular area ourselves, or backslidden altogether, by no means ensures that I may not be missing my vulnerability to something else that is draining or distorting my spiritual life. That is why we need mentors and accountability!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
May we never be too proud to face the consequences of our sinfulness and guilt, or to ‘own’ the Lord Jesus to others. because they are overly influenced by what other people think, because they are effectively ashamed of the gospel and too proud to face the consequences of their own sinfulness and guilt.
See in particular the value of praying this prayer concerning the hedge of thorns for those who are backsliding.
Despite all our mistakes, Lord,
Bring our children back to You,
and give them the resilience they will need
to navigate through the losses
that are sure to come their way.
May they return to love You with all their hearts –
and may their future homes
be filled with that same love.
See also this prayer for prodigals we recorded some years ago.
Please note: Sally has now made the whole of Vale of Tears available in an illustrated format on the website. Please do make good use of this rich resource!