Praying For Prodigals: Wanting What God Wants

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down,
asked a favor of him. (Matthew 20:20)


Ask most parents what they want for their child and you’ll find they want good things: a successful career, a happy home, good health, a life with fewer challenges than they’ve had . . .

But what does God want?

Sometimes we don’t give that question as much thought as we should. We naturally assume that god wants the “good things” we envision for our children, and that our dreams for them are the same as His.

That’s how the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee) saw it. Matthew writes that “the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.” When Jesus asked what she wanted, she answered, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21).

Why shouldn’t she ask that? After all, Jesus had called her sons the “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). They were ambitious and had great plans for the future and for the kingdom of God. And if anyone got in their way, like the time a samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus, James and John wanted “to call fire down from heaven to destroy them” (Luke 9:54).

If anyone “had Jesus’ back,” it was the “sons of Thunder.” But when mom went to talk this over with Jesus, he responded, “You don’t know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22).

I don’t want to be too hard on James and John’s mother. I have a sneaking suspicion that they put mom up to it. After all, certainly the strapping “sons of Thunder” could have made mom stand down. But they didn’t. And when Jesus responded, he answered them directly, not her. Notice too that Matthew tells us that “when the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers” (Matthew 20:24)….Mom doesn’t get mentioned.

Still, she did ask. maybe she got pulled into her sons’ scheme. any parent of a prodigal knows how easily that can happen. Her actions show that she loved her kids, like any good parent, and believed in them. still, her encounter with Jesus raises a vital question: Do I want the same things for my child that God wants?

I find that if i’m not careful, I get caught up in the world’s way of thinking: a successful future means the “right” schools, major, career path, and spouse. That’s good as far as it goes, but it’s too shortsighted when eternity comes into view. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). If my kids are successful heathen who look good from the world’s point of view but will be separated from God for eternity, what kind of a future is that?

Nothing matters more than getting right with God. If i’m trying to shape their future with anything less in mind, I’m missing the mark by a mile and then some. But if I aim for what God wants, then there’s always reason for hope.

When you’re the parent of a prodigal child, you may feel like you have to settle for second best when it comes to the future. Maybe you’ve been “keeping score” with other kids his or her age, and it seems like your child is behind. Maybe your plans haven’t worked out, and you’re scrambling to come up with new ones. God once promised His people, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), and His heart hasn’t changed.

The future He promises isn’t limited to a lifespan. Not only can God open doors for our children on this earth, he can also open heaven.

Our prayer needs to be, “Father, help me to want what you want for my child. Help him to love you most of all!”

When that prayer is answered, then your son or daughter will be truly happy and have all that he or she needs. not just for a few years on this earth but for every day to come, stretching on beyond forever, because “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what god has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Your possessions are never so safe as when you are willing to resign them, and you are never so rich as when you put all you have into the hand of God.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon


A Prayer For Your Children:  For The Keeping of Angels

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
Matthew 18:10

Your Word says you send Your angels to do your “bidding,” Father (Psalm 103:20).

Thank You for giving our children angels who “always see” Your face. Thank You for all the times you’ve looked after my child when I could not: the near misses, the fraction-of-a second, happened-too-fast-for-me-to-react moments when Your angel intervened. My child needs the protection of your angels now, Lord. Just like when you sent one to watch over daniel and “shut the mouths of the lions” (Daniel 6:22).

I need your angels to go where I cannot go, just as you did the nights you rescued Peter “from Herod’s clutches” (Acts 12:11) and “opened the doors of the jail” for the apostles (Acts 5:19).

I know some might think it presumptuous of me to ask for angels for someone who is not where he’s supposed to be, but you’ve done this before. You did it for elijah when he “was afraid and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:3). “all at once an angel touched him” twice (1 Kings 19:5, 7).

You also had your angels take lot’s hand “when he hesitated” to leave sodom with his family, because you were “merciful to them” (Genesis 19:16).

You are merciful, Lord! And You said that “whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

So I ask that you send an angel from heaven to help my son. Just as “some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2), let a stranger show him a kindness that he knows is from you. 

Or, as when you sent your angels to shepherds with the “good news” of Jesus (luke 2:10), send someone to share your love and your presence with him so that he will believe, seek you out, and bow before you.

You’ve said that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

Because I “know what it is to fear” You (2 Corinthians 5:11), Lord, with reverence, awe, and love, I ask that You deliver my son.

Your Word tells me about what You’ve done for those you call Your own: “in all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy He redeemed them” (Isaiah 63:9).

Redeem my son, Lord! Let him be a joy to You and to all of heaven, because “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (luke 15:10).

I don’t know how You will do it, but I ask you to help him open his heart to You.

I’d love to know how You’re going to do it, Lord, but I know that “even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).

So I will watch and pray and wait, and say with the angels, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:11–12).




Taken from Prayers for Prodigals, © 2011 by James Banks.  Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 4950l.  All rights reserved.