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Praying for prodigals

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WORLD Radio - Praying for prodigals

A prayer group in Georgia lifts up families with estranged children


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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 29th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Prodigals.

A recent survey says 1 in 10 adults have cut off contact with either a parent or a child. The complicated and often painful dynamic is nothing new. This kind of family estrangement goes all the way back to the Old Testament stories of Joseph and his brothers or King David and his son Absolom.

REICHARD: And just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, many parents of prodigals today are also waiting faithfully for their children and loved ones to return. WORLD's Myrna Brown met a few of them and has their story.

MYRNA BROWN CORRESPONDENT: Three and half years ago, when COVID shuttered churches around the world, a small group of men and women in Georgia started praying daily online.

ROB FROEHBRODT: Initially we covered the gamut of everything in terms of prayer topics.

That’s one of the prayer warriors, Rob Froehbrodt. Today the 68-year-old is leading what’s become an offshoot of the early morning online prayer.

FROEHBRODT: A week hasn’t gone by for the last, I’d say a year and a half, where at least one or two days of the week or more, prodigals are brought up. And we have a prodigal list.

TINA PRAYING ON ZOOM CALL: Lord, 39 years ago I held Daniel for the first time, and Father he’s gone so far from you...

ROBIN PRAYING ON ZOOM CALL: And so Lord, I bring Andrea and McKenzie, my brother Jim…

BETH PRAYING ON ZOOM CALL: And I lift them up to you that you may fill their heart with longing for you.

FROEHBRODT PRAYING ON ZOOM CALL: Father, the path that he’s gone off now as a 43-year-old man, the choices he’s made, the faith that he’s stepped away from…

In 2020, Froehbrodt’s first-born left his home, his wife, and their three teenage children. Since then, Froehbrodt says his interaction with his son has been limited to brief phone conversations.

FROEHBRODT: It caused a level of pain we had never felt before. We never thought we’d be that family.

And he isn't alone.

JAMES BANKS: Thank you. Good Morning. It is so good to be here.

James Banks lives in North Carolina. The author, pastor, and speaker has written and spoken extensively on prodigals and family estrangement.

JAMES BANKS: The only thing that makes me an expert in this is the unwanted experience of having a son who was an addict and a daughter who was a runaway and God used all of that I think to forge experiences in us that led to a book that would become a bestseller.

Eleven years ago, Banks wrote Prayers for Prodigals, 90 days of scripture-based prayers.

JAMES BANKS: And yes, they are absolutely prayers that I prayed as I was writing them. My son was addicted to opioids and eventually that led to his becoming a heroin addict and he shared needles. He was in and out of jail, in and out of the courtroom. He stole from his family and from his closest friends.

Banks says he also made mistakes as the parent of two prodigals. He second guessed himself and made comparisons.

JAMES BANKS: When you’re a parent of a you sometimes feel like oh, if only I’d done something differently. Often you have these bumper sticker conversations with people. My child is an honor student at, and you wonder where you went wrong.

He says he also failed to remember how a gentle answer turns away wrath.

JAMES BANKS: I think of sermons that I preached to my kids when they were going down the wrong road that were unkind and angry and that certainly didn’t reach them.

Banks says what helped was constant and corporate prayer, like the online prayer group in Georgia.

JAMES BANKS: Never give up. Always keep praying and that’s hard, but when you go to the word of God and let that empower your prayers, then there’s a new strength there. And keep in mind, no one can pray for a prodigal like a parent can. That’s why we need to be grouped with others who have had the same experience. And united prayer is a powerful thing. We have seen so many prodigals return because of it.

GEOFFREY BANKS: But again what I want to submit to you guys today is identity is something each and every one of us struggles with at some point. Every single one of us.

That’s Geoffrey Banks, James Bank’s son. He’s now 32 years old, drug-free for more than a decade, married and working as the high school pastor for his local church. Looking back, the dark-haired, slender Banks says it was easy to live like a prodigal.

GEOFFREY BANKS: It is much easier to be estranged. It’s much easier to pull out of a relationship. It’s much easier to not have contact. And I would just encourage anyone who’s struggling through something like this to maybe go down the hard path in this area and build a relationship. And not just your relationship with your parents. I always encourage people to do away with everything they think they know about God. Do away with everything they think they know about what it means to be a Christian or what it means to follow Jesus and go read one of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and look at what Jesus actually taught and actually said.

It’s advice that his dad, James Banks, prays his daughter will hear and heed one day.

JAMES BANKS: She’s not home yet. I would say she is turning from the far country. I can see her coming from a distance but she’s not home yet.

Another name on the prodigal prayer list.

ZOOM PRAYER ROBIN: Lord your word says you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. We pray that over our prodigals.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Lawrenceville, Georgia.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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