Why and How to Truly Surrender Your Prodigal to God

I have control issues.

I sometimes try to control things by doing them myself, since no one can do them like I can.

I sometimes try to control people through my carefully crafted words.

Frankly, I sometimes even try to control God by always praying the way I am supposed to pray, as if by saying it just right and covering everything I am supposed to cover as often as I am supposed to cover them will cause God to answer. I also try to tell Him how to do His job from time to time.

Have I told you about what happened on March 18, 2022? I was praying, making suggestions to God about things He should do and about how He should do His job, and the Holy Spirit checked me. I apologized to God, opened Fighting for Your Prodigal through Prayer to pray the prayer starter for the day, and the promise for that day began, “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted” (Isaiah 46:12–13). I got so tickled at God’s sense of humor, in awe of the fact that the prayer starter for that day was just for me, repented of my pride, and asked God to help me.

I have control issues, and God knows it! He still loves me and still answers my prayers, though.

Several years ago, as I prayed fervently for a prodigal, basically begging God to save him, God spoke to me and said, “Tami, withdraw your hand, and let me be God in his life.” I realized I truly was trying to take God’s place in that prodigal’s life: sending Scriptural texts, speaking words of life, making suggestions about how he should be and the decisions he should be making—doing everything I could think of to make him surrender to the Lord. I believe it was the next Sunday that the Holy Spirit told me to go forward and let my pastor pray for me. When he reached me, he immediately began praying in the Spirit. When he interpreted the message, he said, “Withdraw your hand, and let Me be God in his life.” It was almost word for word.

That got my attention—how could it not— and although I still battle my control tendences, the Holy Spirit checks me, and I check myself often and work diligently to obey the Lord. I do not want to interfere with anything the Lord wants to do in any prodigal’s life!

I am not telling you the exact same message is for you. Your hands may be fully engaged in the life of your prodigal at the bidding of the Holy Spirit. Only God can tell you what He needs from you in your interactions with your prodigal(s). I am saying none of us can do God’s job like He can, so we strive to carefully obey the Holy Spirit in our interactions with our prodigals, especially so we do not interfere with anything God is doing in their lives.

We Can’t Control Them, But There Is Something We Can Do

If we can’t make suggestions, send texts, drop hints, leave Scripture in sight, etc., what can we do?

We give them to the Lord and leave them there. That’s what we do.

My Papa Henderson, a pastor, had six grown children, all of whom were either prodigals or had never been saved. Six! He had been praying for them, of course, but it seemed like they were getting worse. He went to the church, knelt and prayed, and told the Lord he was giving them all to Him, that he couldn’t take it anymore. He prayed, “They are in Your hands, and I am not going to interfere anymore. I just want to see them saved.” He walked away changed, and all of them were saved! All of them! Two became pastors, my Daddy’s being one of them.

Just what does mean? What does it mean to give our prodigals to God?

I think Papa’s prayer gives a clue: we don’t interfere anymore.

It means trusting that it is His perfect will for our prodigals to be saved!

It means we trust God to change their hearts and pour out His Spirit on them, just like He said He would do (Joel 2:28).

It means we trust that He will work in them “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 NKJV).

It means we still pray for them and never stop taking them to the Father, covering them in prayer, all the while trusting the outcome to Him.

It means trusting Him to the place that we can walk in peace and rest.

It means only saying and doing the things expressly given to us by the Holy Spirit.

It means we don’t worry when we have a promise. We do not fear nor be dismayed—the Bible says this eight times! Dismayed stands out prominently to me recently. God knew this journey of loving a prodigal would result in worry, wringing of hands, pacing the floor—dismay. As the psalmist wrote, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

It means not taking them back when we are not satisfied with how God is working it all out, and that we do not interfere with His plan, His methods, His working.

Isn’t this the best way, anyway? We cannot change the hearts of prodigals, nor save them, nor change their minds, nor bring them to the point of repentance and surrender, but God can.

So, whenever I find myself wanting to tell prodigals certain things or thinking through conversations I would like to have with them, telling them the things I think they need to know, I remember that God told me to withdraw my hand, and I remind myself of His promises to me, of Scripture, and of who God truly is. And, many times, I fall to my knees and pray until I can rest again and until my faith and trust meet God’s plan, His power, His sovereignty. Then I can truly leave them there.

It helps. It truly helps. It truly helps me overcome my control issues and to leave prodigals in the best place they can possibly be: the hands of Almighty God.

“Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

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