Returning, Resting, and Restoration

Sometimes it is of our own doing.

Sometimes it comes because of the hard circumstances of life.

That familiar, not so friendly state of feeling frustrated. Desperate. Lonely. Tired.

Tired of where we are but not sure how to turn the corner and move past this place that seems, well, muddied.  Like the familiar story of The Prodigal Son in Luke 15 where the rebel ends up in the pigpen.

Pastor-husband’s recent sermon on this passage was in two segments: 1) The prodigal who left and 2) The prodigal who stayed.  Yes, the son who stayed.  My eyes were opened to a new reality. One that sent warning signs to my brain and to my heart.

While the first son seemed boisterous and rebellious, the second son stayed faithful in his service to the father, but his heart proved to be lacking.

Obedience is more than sacrifice, it is a willing heart that longs to please the Father.

What does please God?

This passage in Luke jumped out at me in a new way this time.  I always seemed to think of the prodigal son who left like those who are running from God, or those who at the very least have walked away from him in disobedience.  I saw the second son as a jealous brother who just had the wrong perspective about his wayward sibling.  But this time, I saw that they were both similar in their disobedience–they were both selfish and prideful and had disrespected their father by rejecting his authority.

Humility is always a precursor to fellowship with God.

How often do we pridefully forge ahead in life, doing things our own way–even in service to God–without first humbling ourselves before Him?  Does it often take a pigpen experience to get us on our knees?

I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.  Luke 15:18-19

A fresh reality jumped out at me.

Can I be a prodigal in my prayer life?  Do I jump start my day alone, without fueling my spirit with His Word?  Do I sprint ahead, leaving the Father behind, pursuing my own plans?  Is prayer a casual request or an after-thought?  Do I toss a flippant “Bless me–and oh, thanks, God!  See you later!” as I plow through the chaos of a day, only turning to Him when I get desperate?

What about the prodigal who stayed?  He was a stark reminder of how easily pride and selfishness can creep in.  “What about me, God?”  Am I always whining and complaining or do I have a grateful heart that sees how much I have to be thankful for, recognizing that  God is holy and righteous and just?  Do I recognize that He is the creator, sustainer and author of life–and He loves me.

Both of these men were lacking in wisdom.  Both needed to stop and think about what the Father’s perspective looked like.  Both prodigals need to be reminded of their father’s intense love–and that what they both really needed was to return to him in humility. To rest in his provision. And to restore their relationship with him.

Isn’t that what prayer is really all about?

Returning to the Father–resting in His promises–and restoring our relationship with Him.

“Woe to the rebellious children!
This is the Lord’s declaration.
They carry out a plan, but not mine;
they make an alliance,
but against my will,
piling sin on top of sin.
Without asking my advice
they set out…

For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said:
“You will be delivered by returning and resting;
your strength will lie in quiet confidence.

Isaiah 30:1-15

Sometimes I think we over complicate prayer.  When we are in fellowship with our Father, we enjoy His presence wherever life takes us.  We are at peace because we rest in knowing that He loves us and is always faithful.  Restoration comes as we confess our sin and walk as cleansed vessels that are ready to be used in service.

I don’t want to be a prodigal in prayer.  I want my Heavenly Father to see my obedience as an act of love, not just duty.  Spending time in His Word and in prayer is more than necessary, it is life-giving.  Life-sustaining.

And life-changing.

Maybe today you need rest or maybe your greatest need is restoration–returning to the Heavenly Father is the first step.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  James 4:8-10

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