Hope for Parents of Prodigals
By Ann Vande Zande
CBN.com At the age of nine, your daughter walked down the aisle with tears, kneeled, and asked Jesus into her heart. Throughout the following school years, she achieved excellent grades. Although a bit shy, she shared her faith with friends. After a high school mission trip, she committed to future missionary work. Perfect? Parenting complete and wrapped in a pretty pink bow?
Not necessarily, because a daughter’s life can change drastically when under the influence of experiences outside the domain of the sacred. If you’re one of the suffering parents who’s experienced this harsh reality, then Janet Thompson’s recently released, Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter may be of interest. The book offers hope and encouragement for navigating hard times, and for facilitating your child’s return to faith.
Thompson suffered as a parent of her prodigal daughter, Kim, but additionally, she herself comes from a long line of prodigals, dating back to her grandmother. Throughout the book, Thompson transparently shares the story of her wayward years and return to faith. She writes, “I wandered in an immoral wilderness for seventeen years before re-dedicating my life to the Lord at a Harvest Crusade. I committed myself to God. ‘Your prodigal daughter has returned. I will go where You send me.’”
While the book is touted as a devotional and the layout seems to indicate that intent; most of the time it feels more like a “how to” instruction manual. Divided into five sections, the first two teach on prayer. The last three discuss aspects of living through the times, questions parents might raise, and how to respond after a prodigal returns home.
To Thompson’s credit, she not only includes snippets of her own story but those of other parents under the “A Praying Mother Shares” section of each chapter. Actually, these stories don’t all focus on prayer, but they do offer support and a feeling of connectedness with other parents. This section also aptly demonstrates the diverse situations and struggles of different families.
The next section proves especially insightful. It’s called “A Prodigal Daughter Shares” and contains the stories and feelings directly from former prodigal daughters.
Each chapter also contains a “Parent to Parent” section as well as “From My Prayer Journal”, “Let’s Pray Together”, “Family and Support Group Discussion”, and “Your Prayer Journal.” My sense is that those who read the book will find some sections much more helpful than others. Fortunately, the book’s set-up makes it easy to take what you need and skip sections that don’t work for you.
Unfortunately, sometimes the approach feels a bit disjointed. Yes, one can pick a chapter and read it as a stand alone, but at times, the content felt scattered. Does that hurt the reader? It depends. If you give up, then yes. If you’re extremely motivated and able to plow through those spots, then no, because the book is definitely worth reading.
Thompson also quotes authority sources for additional insight. For the most part, it’s well done, as with her use of Ruth Bell Graham’s book on prodigals. Experts like Christian Psychologists Cloud and Townsend also hit the mark for emphasis and expansion of the topic of boundaries. However, her occasional inclusion of The Oprah Show guests felt weak.
Another difficulty for me rests in what feels like somewhat narrow definitions of prodigal behavior and a “good Christian,” or daughter who is now on the right path. For instance, should a son and daughter-in-law who move to another state (as stated in the “A Praying Mother Shares” section) really be included in a book on prodigals? I understand the parents’ concern, but moving away constitutes a different issue than genuine prodigalism.
I’m not suggesting, however, that Thompson misses the mark. In fact, I agree that prayer is an essential tool for opening the hearts and minds of those that have wandered into dangerous territory. Additionally, Thompson provides excellent, concrete tools for learning to pray.
After two chapters on the subject, the next sections focus on living through the situation. Here, I believe Thompson provides potent information that get to the core of loving our children – prodigal or not. The chapters on unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness, and one titled, “Making It All about Her” were excellent. As was the exploration of conflict resolution in the chapter titled, “Resolving Conflict.”
As beneficial as the information is, though, I think it’s reasonable for a parent struggling through this crisis to read more than one source on the subject.
Overall, Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter provides genuine support and hope for hurting families. Because of my work with broken girls and young women, I don’t want to imply that following this book’s instructions guarantees deliverance. On the other hand, what better starting place than prayer and insight? I suggest parents of prodigals, and anyone else interested in the topic, check it out.
Purchase your copy of Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.
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A former college professor, Ann Vande Zande writes to share God’s truth and mercy. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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