When You Grieve a Prodigal’s Sin More than He or She Does

If it hasn’t happened to you yet as a believer, I suspect it will – that is, you’ll face a time when you grieve someone’s sin more than he or she does. When you walk in the footsteps of the father of the prodigal son, hang on to these thoughts: 

  1. Keep praying. When you quit praying, your silence is a confession that you’ve given up on somebody—and on God. Prayerlessness leaves prodigals living in sin.
  2. Keep believing. God knows exactly where your prodigal is. The One who created him (or her) and died for him still loves him; in fact, He loves your prodigal more than you do.
  3. Keep walking. Stay faithful yourself. Don’t turn in anger from God. You can’t expect Him to answer your prayers for somebody else when you’re not walking with Him yourself.   
  4. Keep standing. Here’s my point (and it’s not an easy one): don’t let your prodigal’s departure lead you to redefine what is right and wrong. Sin remains sin, regardless of how much we love the people living in it.
  5. Keep grieving. That means your anguish may not go away entirely, but the minute you stop grieving sin is the minute you also start caring less about your prodigal’s choices. Agonizing over sin keeps you on your knees—the right place to be on behalf of a prodigal.
  6. Keep loving. There’s a legitimate place for church discipline, but many prodigals have walked away from the church first because they assume the church will reject them. Love your prodigal even if others don’t seem to—and even if he or she thinks you’ve lost your love, too.
  7. Keep listening. Follow the Spirit’s guide to know when and how to speak into the situation, but be willing to listen more than speak if needed. An open ear might take you a long way with your prodigal.   
  8. Keep waiting. Returning to God is seldom easy for a prodigal. It’s sometimes equally hard to return home. Wait patiently (and then be patient when he or she does come home, as change usually takes a while . . . ).
  9. Keep trusting. To be honest, God might allow your prodigal to suffer the pains of disobedience to turn him back toward Him. You might want to try to fix the situation so that doesn’t happen, but trust God. He knows what’s needed.
  10. Keep watching. Keep your eyes on the driveway. You never know when you’ll see your prodigal on his way home.

What thoughts would you add? 


  • Cynthia says:

    I am humbled and grateful for your thoughts. You are a blessing.

  • Ken Morris says:

    Dr Lawless, Thank you for this. I think also to continue to contact the prodigal by a text, visit or phone call. Let them know you have not forgotten about them.

  • Joe Scott says:

    And what of the so-called “prodigals” who are not lost so much as trying to find their way as adult men and women after being raised by violent, mentally ill cowards who frequently employed Christian language to sheath what was clearly a narcissistic personality disorder?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I would pray that God draws them to Himself to see Him as He truly is, Joe, apart from whatever image they’ve gained through their rough upbringing. All of us need the prayers of each other.

  • Brenda Harshman says:

    The Holy Spirit keeps tugging at my heart, I am so confused, why does this continue year after year. I go through so many times when I hurt too much to pray. I can’t cry any more tears… Thank you for these words Chuck. I want so much for the pain to go away, I just go days without praying for him so I don’t have to think about it. I want God to be glorified! I want to see our prodigal have a relationship with the Lord as well as a relationship with us! I want to keep believing that God hears our pain and our prayers! Thank you for this reminder. It is much appreciated

  • Bonnie Annis says:

    Thank you for this timely post. I’ve been praying for a prodigal for several years now and this gave me new found hope. God bless you and your ministry!

  • Mike Madaris says:

    Great stuff! I was the prodigal for about 10 years starting rt after my Dad died suddenly when I was just 15. I walked away from the faith. Or tried to…thankfully, neither my God nor my Mother gave up on me. Mom never stopped (metaphorically) watching the road for my return. She prayed diligently & loved tirelessly as described in this article, as did others in my life. Slowly I looked @ the (metaphorical) pigstye I was in, turned around, & came back home.
    It’s been just over 43 yrs since I walked away & ~33 since I came home. Mom’s great faith became sight a couple of months ago. I’m forever grateful for her & that she saw both of her sons get on course & stay on course with our faith for many years.
    Thx for this post!

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