By Rebekah Montgomery
*Ministry Tips to Help Parents of Prodigals (POPs) at the end of the article
I don't think I ever truly loved anyone so absolutely unreservedly
until the doctor placed a squirming little morsel of humanity on my
chest and the nurses lifted my head so I could see my newborn. It was
as if the spirits of every mother from Eve to the present gathered
around the head of the delivery table and said, "Now you are really
going to learn about unconditional love!"
True. Too true. The slog through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
required to birth a baby is a cakewalk compared to the rigors of
childrearing. Like all mothers, I have needed to draw heavily on that
God-given reserve of love for patience, wisdom, and endurance for that
trek. But even childrearing is a stroll-in-the-park compared to the
hand-to-hand combat with Satan for the souls of each of our four
This was never truer than for our youngest son. After the tragic loss
of a son and several miscarriages, my husband and I were blessed to
adopt to complete our family.
Some children are born with sunny dispositions and eager to please, but
our last son came into the world indignant about the cold hands of
delivery room nurse, the doctor's bad breath, and slow service in
getting him a bottle. He was angry and opinionated for the next 20
years and adolescence was all-out warfare. The school actually had my
phone number on speed dial. We tried everything and later discovered
that he had some contributing medical problems. None of this changed
our love for and commitment to our son, but it certainly tested it.
There were literally hundreds of nights when all I did was pray,
begging God for wisdom and to heal and save our wayward son. I felt
like I was trailing the Good Shepherd through the darkness, edging
sheer cliffs, fighting wolves, as we searched for this lost lamb.
I'll admit it: I very often felt discouraged. Yet, like the persistent
mother Jesus encountered (Matthew 15, Mark 7), I had just enough
stubborn faith to keep begging God to help and heal.
From my perspective, the story of the persistent mother is a tragic
comedy with a happy ending. In the story, Jesus is visiting Tyre on the
seacoast. The Scriptures don't say what He is doing there—resting,
preaching, shopping—but a mother attaches herself to Him, begging for
mercy for her demon-possessed child and refuses to leave His side. The
disciples are peeved. They don't care about the suffering of the child
or the mother. They want peace and quiet!
Here is just one of the heartbreaks experienced by the parents of
wayward children: Not only are their children at risk, their Christian
friends may not be very supportive. They may not know what to say. Or
they are full of those irritating pat answers. Often, my husband and I
found comfort and help at Al-Anon that we did not find at church. That
should not and need not be the case.
Fortunately, Jesus never tired of our neediness. Nor did He tire of the
pleading of the relentless mother.
The comedy portion takes place in the clever, almost playful repartee
between Jesus and the persistent mother. He says (paraphrase), "I can't
help you. I'm sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
"Help me anyway," the mother begs.
"It's not right to take the children's meat and give it to the dogs."
"True. But even dogs gets crumbs."
At this point, you can almost here Jesus laugh with delight at her
stubborn confidence in His goodness and grace. "You have great faith!
Your daughter is healed!"
And joy of joys, she was!
Regardless of the attitude of the disciples, prevailing religious
snobbery, or any discouragement, the mother trusted and doggedly
pursued the compassionate heart of Jesus. Every despairing parent can,
One night, when the situation with my son looked hopeless, I had a
vision. In it, I was carrying my son through a dark, foggy night over
rocky terrain. He was heavy and the way was difficult but I would not
set him down. I carried him uphill until I could go no farther. I
looked up and before me was the cross and Jesus hanging upon it, His
blood dripping down. In wonder and awe, I touched His blood and
immediately, I felt stronger, hopeful, empowered, wiser.
And I knew what to do: I prayed the prayer every mother must pray for
her child whether that child is prodigal or not: "By the power of the
blood of Jesus Christ, bring every thought and imagination of my
child's mind, every emotion of his heart, every deed of his hands, and
every step that he takes under Your Lordship. Lead him to love You with
all of his heart, mind, and soul, and his neighbor as himself."
With that, I touched him with the blood of Jesus. Then I asked the
Lord, "What now?"
He said, "Leave him with Me."
I laid my son at the foot of the cross. Although the vision ended, in
my heart, there my son remains.
I still pray for my son, but I pray in confidence now rather than out
of desperation and fear. Like the persistent mother, I have laid him at
Jesus' feet. His love is healing him. Jesus wants my son to be well,
I have prayed the prayer of the persistent mother with many mothers and
grandmothers struggling to bring their children to mental and spiritual
health in a world where Satan actively seeks to destroy them. We will
stay on our knees pleading for the healing of our children's souls
until we receive what we seek, all the while believing in the powerful
love of Jesus whose crumbs heal.
Ministry Tips to Help Parents of Prodigals (POPs)
By Rebekah Montgomery
- Acknowledge that prodigals happen despite the best efforts of
parents. After all, God had two perfect children in a perfect world and
was the perfect Parent but wound up with two prodigals (Adam and Eve).
- Pray God's protection over the children of POPs. The terror of every
POPs is that their children will not only miss out on the peace and joy
of knowing Christ now, but also eternally live separated from Him.
- Encourage POPs to let the Holy Spirit do His work and for them to
cultivate a joyous relationship with their children. It is tempting for
many POPs to focus only on the state of their children's eternal souls
and drive them further away from God.
- Pray that God will give POPs special wisdom and sensitivity to their
children's needs. The parent-child bond needs to be strengthened
regardless of the state of the child's soul. As it is strengthened, the
child is drawn away from his rebellion against the Lord.
© Rebekah Montgomery 2007