The Prodigal Son had two prayers. First, there was his going away prayer. "Father, give me." It was a wicked, selfish prayer, the prayer of a young man tired of restraint and tired of religion. He was tired, too, of his relations, his father who reined him in and his brother who ran him down. Indeed, one can feel sorry for any boy who has an older brother like the prodigal's—a smug, self-satisfied hypocrite and snob. It would be enough to make anyone with red blood in his veins run away. That Pharisaical elder brother of his made the world and its ways very attractive to the prodigal son.
So, the prodigal responded to the call of the world. The far country beckoned all smiles and good cheer. It offered freedom from all the restrictions of a godly home. It offered a wide gate and a broad highway where sin was called by other, friendlier names.
He responded, too, to the congratulations of the world. He headed for the far country with plenty of money in his pocket. He had youth and charm, and he paid generously for all his fairweather friends to have their fun. So, for as long as his money lasted, it was wine, women, and song, a fast life, and plenty of laughs. But then his money ran out. At once the world turned a different face toward him.
He began to learn something of the cares of this world. A famine arose, and even capable, local men were thrown out of work. He felt the pinch of poverty. He was hungry. Nobody gave him so much as a denarius. His fast-living friends abandoned him. He was out of work, and out of money, and far from home. He was lonely and hungry and cold.
In that far country, wherever it was that he went, he learned something of the coldness of the world. Gone were its smiles; gone was its song. He stood amid busy, bustling throngs starving! "He joined himself," Jesus said, "to a citizen of that country" (Lk. 15:15), but starvation wages were all he could earn. And what a job it was! He was hired to feed swine! Worse still, he became so hungry that he longed to eat the slop in the pig pail. So much for his going away prayer.
We can picture the prodigal as he bangs on the door of the big house on the hill in that faraway land. "Here Mister, here's your pig pail! I'm going home to my father." Perhaps the man would look the boy up and down with scorn, observing his unwashed body, his unkempt beard and the marks of dissipation on his face. "Well, boy," he might have said, "more the fool you are. If I were your father, I'd set the dogs on you." And the boy would say: "I daresay you would, but you don't know my father." Nor did the prodigal for that matter.
Now we hear his coming home prayer: It was no longer, "Father, give me," but, "Father...make me as one of thy hired servants." His father's servants were well-treated, well-housed, and wellfed... while he perished with hunger. "He came to himself," Jesus said (Luke 15:17). And then he came to the father. "I am no more worthy to be called thy son," he said. When he finally arrived at the father's home, it was not the servant's quarters to which we was sent. He was caught in the father's embrace. The best robe, a ring for his finger, shoes for his feet, and the fatted calf for a celebration banquet were his...and a new life as well!
The whole priceless story told from the lips of the Lord Jesus is a parable of God's dealing with us who have gone astray..."All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way" (Isa. 53:6). Yet, those with contrite hearts that humbly return to the heavenly Father, seeking forgiveness, find it is graciously given and His love is outpoured!