The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a well-known story from the Bible, found in Luke 15:11-32. It tells the story of a younger son who asks his father for his share of the inheritance and then squanders it all on wild living. When he comes to his senses and realises his dire situation, he returns home and asks his father for forgiveness. Seeing him from a distance, the father runs to him and welcomes him back with open arms, despite his son’s mistakes. The elder brother, who had stayed home and worked for his father all along, becomes angry and resentful at his father’s forgiveness of the younger son.
This parable illustrates the themes of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It shows the power of a loving and forgiving father and the contrast between the elder brother’s resentment and the father’s joy at the return of his son. It can be related to many real-life scenarios. For example, when a child goes astray, despite the parent’s hard work, and later returns to the family, the parents happily forgive and accept the child. It’s also relatable when someone realises their mistakes, asks for forgiveness and reconciles with their loved ones.
We as the prodigal children
The Parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates the relationship between God, as the Father, and humanity, as the prodigal son. The younger son in the story represents humanity, who chooses to leave the Father and go our own way, squandering the gifts and blessings given to us. Just as the younger son in the story realises the error of his ways and decides to return to his father, we too can recognise our mistakes and turn back to God.
Just as the father in the story runs to his son and forgives him, welcoming him back with open arms, God forgives us when we repent and return to Him. The elder brother in the story represents those who may feel resentful or jealous of the forgiveness given to the prodigal son; in the same way, some may question why God would forgive others who have done wrong. The parable highlights God’s boundless love and forgiveness and the importance of embracing it ourselves and extending it to others. It illustrates that God is always ready to forgive us, no matter how far we may have strayed and is waiting for us to return to Him.
Themes of the parable
- Forgiveness: The Father in the story forgives his son without hesitation, despite squandering his inheritance and living a wild life. This illustrates God’s boundless love and forgiveness for all of us, no matter how far we may have strayed.
- Repentance: The prodigal son in the story recognises his mistakes and returns to his father, asking for forgiveness. This represents the importance of recognising and admitting our wrongs and returning to God in repentance.
- Reconciliation: The father in the story welcomes his son back with open arms, reconciling with him and restoring their relationship. This represents the power of reconciliation and forgiveness in restoring broken relationships with God and others.
- Grace: The father in the story gives the younger son his inheritance, despite his mistakes. This illustrates God’s grace and how He freely gives us blessings despite our unworthiness.
- Love: The father in the story demonstrates his love for his son by forgiving him, welcoming him back, and throwing a feast in his honour. This illustrates God’s love for us and how He celebrates when we turn back to Him.
- Mercy: The father in the story demonstrates mercy to the prodigal son and is willing to forgive him even though he has squandered his inheritance. This illustrates the mercy of God, who is always ready to forgive us, no matter how grave our sins are.
- Jealousy: The older brother represents the human tendency to be jealous of the forgiveness and blessings are given to others and illustrates the importance of learning to be joyful for others, despite our struggles.
- Generosity: The father in the story demonstrates generosity by giving his son his inheritance, even though he knew it would be squandered. This illustrates God’s generosity in giving us blessings and the importance of being generous with others.
Understanding the Prodigal Son
The Parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates how we, as human beings, are prone to following our own desires and straying from God’s will. Just as the younger son in the story asks for his inheritance and chooses to leave his father and go his own way, we, too, can focus on our own wants and needs rather than following God’s plan for our lives.
Scripture makes it clear that when we turn away from God, we become “lovers of ourselves” (2 Timothy 3:2). This self-centeredness can lead us down a path of destruction, just as the younger son in the story squanders his inheritance and finds himself in dire straits.
When we stray from God, we become more vulnerable to the temptations and influences of the world, and it becomes easier to lose our way. This is why it is crucial to stay rooted in God’s word, to seek His guidance constantly, and to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us to stay true to His path.
In the parable, the younger son’s straying from his father’s will and following his desires ultimately led to his downfall. This serves as a reminder that we will inevitably face the consequences when we stray from God’s will. However, just as the younger son was able to repent and return to his father, we too can turn back to God, ask for forgiveness, and be reconciled with Him.
The younger son’s actions and motives
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son begins by asking his father for his share of the inheritance. This shows his desire to break away from his father and go his own way. He then takes the inheritance and travels to a distant country where he squanders it all on wild living.
While it may seem that the younger son’s actions were solely driven by selfishness and rebellion, it’s possible that there was also a sense of purity and naivety in his desire to break away. He may have wanted to experience the world and make a name for himself, without fully understanding the consequences of his actions.
This relates to the biblical principle of freewill, which allows us to make our own choices, whether good or bad. The younger son’s actions were a result of his own freewill, just as our own actions are a result of our freewill. He decided to leave his father and go his own way, and ultimately, he had to bear the consequences of that decision.
The older son’s reactions and attitudes
The older son is initially upset when the father gives the younger son his share of the inheritance, and he becomes even more angry and resentful when the younger son returns and the father throws a feast in his honor. This reaction is true to human nature, as it is easy for us to become jealous and resentful of the blessings and forgiveness given to others.
The older son’s attitude towards his younger brother is also reflective of how we often feel when someone we love strays away and then returns. It can be hard to forgive and forget past wrongs and to embrace the person who has returned fully.
However, the parable of the lost sheep, also found in Luke 15, illustrates that we should be just as joyful when one lost person is found as when 99 people who were never lost are found. This teaches us that every person is valuable and worth rejoicing, regardless of their past actions.
The father’s actions and attitudes
The father in the parable is characterised by his boundless love and forgiveness. He gives the younger son his share of the inheritance, even though he knows it will be squandered, and he runs to his son when he returns, welcoming him back with open arms and throwing a feast in his honour. This can seem like he is rewarding the son who has gone astray and returned, while the obedient son, who has stayed home and worked, feels hard done.
This reflects the attributes of God, as shown in other parts of the Bible. God is often described as merciful and loving, and He is willing to forgive and welcome us back, no matter how far we have strayed. Just as the father in the parable is overjoyed at the return of his son, God rejoices when we turn back to Him.
However, it’s important to note that the father’s actions do not necessarily mean that there were no consequences for the younger son’s actions. The father’s forgiveness and acceptance do not negate the fact that the younger son had to bear the consequences of his choices.
The Power of Prayer in the Prodigal Son Story
The younger son’s prayer for forgiveness
The power of prayer is evident in the Prodigal Son story through the dialogue between the father and his returning son. The younger son, upon his return, says to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This statement is a prayer of repentance, acknowledging his wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness.
Similarly, when the father sees his son returning from a distance, he runs to him and embraces him, saying, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” This statement is an expression of joy and gratitude. It’s a form of prayer, thanking God for the son’s return.
This is reminiscent of the Christian walk of faith, where repentance and forgiveness are attained through prayer. In the same way, when we acknowledge our wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness through prayer, God forgives us and welcomes us back into His fold.
The older son’s prayer for understanding
In the parable, the older son also responds with resentment. This can also be seen as a prayer. The older son is asking God to understand why he feels wronged, and why his father is rewarding his brother who has gone astray. This highlights that prayer is a way to ask for forgiveness and express our emotions and feelings to God.
Applying the Prodigal Son Story to Our Lives
Recognizing our own prodigal tendencies
The story of the Prodigal Son can be applied to our own lives in several ways. Firstly, by recognizing our own prodigal tendencies, we can identify when we are straying from God’s will and make a conscious effort to turn back to Him. This could be through a desire for material possessions, a focus on our own wants and needs, or a lack of gratitude for the blessings in our lives.
Seeking forgiveness and reconciliation through prayer
Once we have recognized our own prodigal tendencies, we can seek forgiveness and reconciliation through prayer. This involves acknowledging our wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, and committing to living a life that is pleasing to God. By doing this, we can experience the same joy and reconciliation that the prodigal son did when he returned to his father.
Additionally, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation through prayer aligns with the ministry of reconciliation that the Apostle Paul talks about in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Paul states that as Christians, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, which means that we are called to bring others back to God through our actions and words. By recognizing our own prodigal tendencies, seeking forgiveness and committing to living a life pleasing to God, we are not only reconciling ourselves with God but also fulfilling our role as ambassadors of reconciliation to others.
Furthermore, when we are reconciled with God, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to extend grace, forgiveness, and love to others, just as the father in the parable forgave his son. As we grow in our relationship with God and become more like Him, we will be better equipped to extend forgiveness and reconciliation to those around us.
Learning to forgive and reconcile with others
Additionally, it’s important to learn to forgive others and be joyous when they are reconciled with the father. Just as God’s heart breaks when we are apart from Him, we should also have a heart that breaks for others who are lost and estranged. The scripture that says, “break our hearts for what breaks yours” (Psalm 51:17) reminds us that we should have a heart that is sensitive to the pain of others and to work towards reconciliation and forgiveness actively.
Prodigal son prayer
The prodigal son prayer would:
- Acknowledge wrongdoing
- Humbly ask for a reconciliation
Dear heavenly father,
I have sinned against you and wandered astray from your will. Forgive me, oh, Lord. Please grant me the grace to walk in your will. I pray that I would dwell in your abundant love. Thank you for loving me at my worst. Thank you for always seeing the best in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen