At our magnificently brilliant grandson’s second soccer game, Evin, our daughter, shouted, “Get the ball!” Almost immediately, John Hoyt, our son-in-law, shouted, “Make a goal!”
While our daughter gave instruction for the process, our son-in-law stated the absolute goal, the hoped-for outcome. Both are necessary to win the game, because without the ball, a person cannot score a goal, and without making a goal, a game cannot be won.
When we love a prodigal, our prayers can reflect these two objectives. We can find ourselves praying get-the-ball prayers that center around circumstances in the lives of our prodigals, while our ultimate goal is their salvation, their surrender to God.
Some get-the-ball prayers are important, especially prayer directives straight from Scripture. One such directive came from Jesus Himself, when He instructed His disciples to pray for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2). We often do this by asking God to send godly influence into our prodigals’ lives.
Scripture is full of other get-the-ball verses that are either prayers or verses that can be used as prayers—prayers that ask God to cleanse our prodigals, to change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, to build a hedge of protection around them, to reveal truth to them, to make them aware of His presence, to remove ungodly influence, to shine His light into the darkness that permeates their lives, and so many others.
The Holy Spirit also often burdens us with urgent get-the-ball prayers—prayers of protection that we later come to know covered them in dangerous situations; prayers for direction, for God to guide their steps, when we didn’t know an important decision was being made; or any other moment-specific directive in which He wants us to build a conduit between heaven and earth.
However, some get-the-ball prayers seem more like a waste of prayer time to me—those prayers that center around their appearance, bad language, or symptoms of a sinful life, some of which salvation and righteousness will correct, and some of which really have no bearing on their surrender to God and their service in His kingdom. Outside adherence with a sinful heart is not our ultimate goal. Inside cleanliness with obedience to God in all things is.
As for make-a-goal prayers, I often pray these specific ones: our Father, deliver them from evil, save them, sanctify them, fill them with Your Holy Spirit, and fulfill Your purpose in their lives.
There are situations for both get-the-ball prayers and make-a-goal prayers, and we are called to pray both often until our prodigals return to relationship with God.