As we examine the very familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son, here in Luke 15, we see a stark contrast between the way the prodigal left home and the way he returned home. It is an insightful text on the power of God to change a person’s life—to bring them back home again. It is a glorious illustration of true repentance and full forgiveness. And it also offers some pertinent teaching on the two ways people pray.
FIRST, HE SAID: “FATHER, GIVE ME” (Vs. 12). This was his request when he left home. It is the typical attitude of all who are self-centered, materialistic, ungrateful. And unfortunately, it is a description of about 95% of the prayer life of the average Christian. “Give me this, give me that”. This boy essentially was immature. He had not learned responsibility as evidenced later in the story by the way he wasted his inheritance. He had not developed a thankful spirit for the blessings of his Father’s house, as evidenced by the fact that this did not even dawn on him until he was in the pig pen. His self-centered attitude said: you owe me! I deserve this!
There are a number of forms of prayer: Intercession, Thanksgiving, Confession, Communion. But the only one many people practice is “Petition”. As parents, what would it be like if the only time you ever heard from your children is when they wanted something? They never wanted to just talk, never uttered a word of thanks or appreciation, never showed any concern for the things that were important to you—they just called on the phone when they needed money. Well, this is how he left home—now observe how he returns home.
SECOND, HE SAID: “FATHER, MAKE ME” (Vs. 19). A great change of heart occurs “when he came to himself”. Note: it is important to observe here, that he came to himself (conviction of God’s Spirit), before he came to his father. Isn’t it intriguing what went through his mind when he “fain would have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat?” The thing that brought the boy back home was the memory of how good it was at the Father’s table. That was the memory that God used to turn his life around, and bring him back home again. He changes his whole attitude. He assumes responsibility for the mess that he had made of his life. He appreciated for the first time the blessings he had always taken for granted, and he got his focus off of himself, and his own materialistic desires. Oh what a change took place in his life. He left saying, Father “give me”—but he comes back saying, Father “make me”. Now he proclaims: “I am no more worthy to be called thy son”. This is the attitude that God accepts, that of a “broken and contrite spirit” (Psalm 51). He left home in rebellion, he returns in repentance!
But there is more. His first request was for THINGS, the second has to do with CHARACTER. As God’s children, we need to grow up and realize that what we are is far more important than what we have. This is a hard lesson in a materialistic society. And look what joy comes through the tears of genuine repentance! The “freedom” he tried to find out in the world was an illusion; he ended up in bondage. When he comes back and is willing to subject himself to slavery-- he discovers true freedom! The nice “things” he thought he would find out in the world all disappeared and he ended up with nothing. But by coming home and asking for nothing (except forgiveness), he gets everything! The best robe, new shoes, a ring, even a fatted calf. What a celebration took place that night in the father’s house that night! Jesus said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you".