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The Power of a Praying Parent

Pastor Geoff Banks discusses how he overcame drug addiction, repeated rehab, and the importance of praying parents, a sentiment echoed in his father James's book, Prayers for Prodigals. Read Transcript

Well, today Geoff Banks is a youth pastor.

Four years ago, he was a heroin addict.

Geoff's father, James, is also a pastor.

And he and his wife never stopped

praying for their prodigal son.

NARRATOR: It started with smoking cigarettes

in fifth grade.

Then Geoff Banks started drinking, taking pills,

and smoking pot.

By the time he was 20, Geoff was addicted to opioids and in

and out of jail and rehab.

GEOFF BANKS: It really became a nightmare, not just for me

but for my parents as well.

NARRATOR: James and Carrie never stopped believing their son

would turn his life around.

Each day, James wrote prayers for Geoff

and shares them in his book, "Prayers for Prodigals."

All right, well, James and Geoff are with us live.

And I've got to ask you--

what went through your mind as Geoff was going through this?

I mean, did you wonder, did I make a mistake?

What happened?

Was there trauma?

Oh, yeah.

All of that?


You're always second guessing yourself.

You know, hindsight is 20/20.

And you look back.

And you think, oh, if I had done this or that differently.

And you think the worst when you're

the parent of a prodigal.

Sometimes the phone rings in the middle of the night.

And you just-- what's going to happen?

GORDON ROBERTSON: What's going to happen?


The phone rang in the middle of the night.

And the phone did ring in the middle of the night.


And how did you deal with that?

You know, this was a situation that brought us to our knees.

And I think that's the best place for us

to be under the circumstances.

You do everything you can.

And you run out of words.

And you get prayed out, if you will.

And you go into the word of God.

And that's what writing "Prayers for Prodigals" was about,

was just this cry from the heart.

Lord, I can't fix this.

And only you can.

And so we just--

GORDON ROBERTSON: And that's a good prayer.



You give up trying yourself and say, God, I can't do this.

I'm too small for this.

But You can handle it.

Geoff, I got to ask you, what started you down on the road?


You know, I don't know.

It's hard to like put your finger on the this

was the moment I kind of started going down that path.

It was kind of--

GORDON ROBERTSON: I don't think anybody

who intends on being an addict.


GORDON ROBERTSON: Nobody says, yeah,

that's what I really want to do.


And you minimalize it all the way.

It's always like, oh, this isn't that big a deal.

Or nobody really gets it.

Or the other thing you do that I really did

was I surrounded myself with people who did the same thing.

So it was always, well, everybody's doing this.

It's not that big a deal.

And then before you know it, you think

you've gone a couple feet down the street.

And you look back and it's been miles.

And you never realize how bad it's

gotten until it's too late, essentially.

Well, as a preacher's kid, was that part of it,

where you're trying to prove that you could be cool

or you could be bad?

You know, I really saw my relationship with God.

It wasn't a relationship.

It was a bunch of rules growing up.

Not that they made it that way, but that's

just how I perceived it as, oh, it was this rule and that rule.

And I knew that I didn't want to do that.

So I wanted to kind of be the cool kid and whatever else.

So through with looking for that acceptance

and looking for that identity, I kind of just slowly went

that way.

GORDON ROBERTSON: What got you fast down that way?

Because it's step by step.

But then once you take the turn into opiates,

then it starts to get real fast.

Yeah, so I started off with pain pills.

And I don't even really think I knew what they were per se.

I just knew I could get them.

And I knew they made me feel good.

And there was a point where doctors and law enforcement

started catch on that that was a problem.

And they changed the chemistry of these certain pills

to make it so you couldn't abuse them.

And at that point, I started doing heroin.

And I think as soon as I used a needle for the first time,

I was like--

I was gone.

That was whenever it was like, this is all that I want to do

and what I want to do and nothing else.

GORDON ROBERTSON: What consequences started for you?

Oh, man, consequences started early on for me.

It was legal trouble from 16 years old on,

whether it was getting caught marijuana

at school or pills or everything else.

So it was in and out of schools.

By the time I got to college, it was in and out of jail.

And I mean, I remember first time getting arrested,

I was 16 and charged as an adult.

And I think that made me--

going through that kind of hardened me a little.

GORDON ROBERTSON: Charged as an adult?

Yeah, so I got caught with a little bit of weed at school.

And because it was on school campus,

they charged me as an adult. And I went to Durham County jail

with all the adults and had us sitting there.

And that really kind of hardened me and reinforced me

to be like, are you kidding me?

And I think that played a role in kind of sending me

off the deep end, too.

So you just thought that was unjust?

Yeah, that was part of it, was feeling like it was unjust.

I always felt like everyone was out to get me, too.

That was definitely another kind of symptom of my addiction,

was I felt like everyone was coming after me.

GORDON ROBERTSON: You had to have a moment.

Here a 16-year-old son, you're a pastor, and you're going,

how in the world did this happen?

Yeah, how did we get here from there?

I mean, it's just one of those things that, as a pastor,

sometimes you realize that the devil goes after your family

as well.


GORDON ROBERTSON: Not sometimes.


You know, my wife and I--



But I've been blessed with a wife who loves God and loves

our kids fiercely.

And one of the lessons I learned through her was never give up.

Keep loving.

Keep loving.

Keep that relationship open.

And keep praying for them.


GORDON ROBERTSON: You've got a son in Durham County jail.

I assume he's spending time.

Yeah, he's sitting there.

What prayer are you praying.

You know, I can't even remember the exact words.

It's just, Lord, help.

I think it comes down to that.

But Lord set him free.

One of the amazing things that God did for my wife

was when Geoff was going through all this,

she still believed that one day, God was

going to use him in ministry.

And I couldn't see it.

I was so far from that.

But that was a gift that God gave to her.

She just went to Him with this.

And I went to Him just realizing that I had nowhere else to go.

I couldn't fix it.

I preached so many sermons to Geoff.

GORDON ROBERTSON: It doesn't work.

Didn't work.

GORDON ROBERTSON: He's got the full armor on.

That's not going to get through.

When your mom comes to you and says,

you're going to be in ministry, what's your reaction to that?

That wasn't the only time I'd heard that, either.

I had been told several times in my life.


GORDON ROBERTSON: What was the first time?

I don't think I remember.

There was ladies in church.

And I've always kind of had this outgoing personality.

And I think people saw that in me.

But you know, I don't know if it is even a mental running away.

I don't remember much of kind of that time period

as well as I probably should.

But-- for obvious reasons.


Goes with the territory.


It's more like stepping into a river and getting swept away.

That's right.

But that's an important thing for parents to know,

that that child that they're looking at

is in there somewhere.

That's-- what he's doing.

GORDON ROBERTSON: But no longer in control.

But no longer in control.

And that was the biggest thing for me,

is I never really like--

it wasn't that I wanted to hurt my parents.

It wasn't that I wanted to put anybody through this.

I just knew what I wanted to do.

And I thought I was OK in it.

So whenever I heard stuff like that,

like you're going to be administration someday,

I was like, yeah, OK.

I always thought that I would someday grow out of it,

that I would get to be like--

I don't know-- 20-something years old

and I wouldn't want to do drugs anymore.

And I would just kind of go get a job and be a normal person.

I thought it was just a period.

And I really thought that I would grow out of it.

But instead, I grew into it.

GORDON ROBERTSON: And then the compulsion takes over.

And you can't get free.


But you got for free.

What was the turn for you?

Yeah, so I tried everything.

I tried rehab after rehab after rehab.

I sat in jail.

I did all the stuff that the world tells you to do.

It's the rehabs, the jail, the mental institution.

I did all of it, probably 11, 12 times, in and out, in and out,

in and out.

And kind of what was the turning point for me

was Jesus and the change in identity that He gives us.

Because I went through all this recovery, having to say,

I'm Geoff.

And I'm an addict.

I'm Geoff, and I'm an alcoholic.

And whenever Jesus stepped in, it wasn't you're Geoff.

And you're an addict.

You're Geoff.

And you're an alcoholic.

But you're Geoff.

And you're forgiven.

And you're perfect.

And I've made you perfect.

And realizing that identity was the change point for me.

Because I found freedom there.

It wasn't--

GORDON ROBERTSON: Well, how did you get to that?

Because I think a lot of people in America--

the newspaper is full of reports of the addiction problem

we currently have.

How did you get free?

By no merit of my own--

so I think I look at the way that you guys loved me.

The way that my parents and the people around me

loved me was unconditional, even whenever I was in that.

GORDON ROBERTSON: Yeah, but you had an encounter.


Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

So I got in a--

probably the turning point that I think you are referring to--

I got in a car wreck that was pretty bad.

And at that point, I went back to treatment.

And my parents had given me a book.

And it was like a God's promise book.

And I read this verse in Isaiah 43:2.

And it's when you walk through the waters, I'll be with you.

And they will not overwhelm you.

And it goes on from there.

And kind of in that moment, I felt

God speaking to me, being-- it wasn't like God speaking

of the Israelites.

But He was speaking to me.

And He's like I'm with you in all of this.

In all the bad stuff that you're going through

and all the troubles that you're going through, I'm right here.

And that wasn't the freedom point for me.

But it was the start of it.

GORDON ROBERTSON: You had a struggle getting free.

GEOFF BANKS: Yeah, absolutely.

You had this start.

You have a spiritual encounter.

And suddenly, God is real to you.


And He's not a rule anymore.


GORDON ROBERTSON: He's a loving God.

Yeah, and you hear all these stories of these light bulb


And I think everybody wants that.

And I wish I would have had that.

That would have been awesome, where

God comes in a shining light.

And from that moment forth, you're free.

But for me, it was--

GORDON ROBERTSON: Well, even with a light bulb moment,

it's still a struggle.


So I realized God--

It's day-to-day.

Yeah, and then it was this day-to-day struggle towards


And I think that's what life looks like for everybody.

It's kind of this slow walk that God is pulling us out of it.

But you got to a point--

after the revelation, after the struggle, you got to a point

where you finally realized you're a new creation.

And you don't have to self-identify anymore

as an addict, as an alcoholic, that you're really free.

Who the Son has set free is free indeed.



But when did that happen for you?

I think it was another one of those things where

it wasn't this moment.

What do you--

JAMES BANKS: Yeah, I want to jump in there.

Because Geoff got to a place where he was really,

really struggling.

And his mom and I came and got him and said,

we want you to go to this place, Christian Recovery Home.

And he went there.

And before he went, he said, I'm not going to Jesus camp.

But while he was there, he got in the--

GORDON ROBERTSON: was still rebelling.

Yeah, still rebelling, but he went.

And he got in with a community of people who

loved him right where he was.

And he saw the Lord's love and presence somehow

in and through that.

And they didn't give up.

You know, you think about it.

Jesus was a friend of sinners.

And that's--


That's the thing.


He met Geoff in that place.

And for us, it was such an incredible answer to prayer.

Because I thought that maybe years down the line,

I'd see something.

But then this is really immeasurably more

than we could ask or imagine, I mean,

what God ended up doing was just breathtaking.

GORDON ROBERTSON: Yes, He is a breathtaking God.

We could talk for a long time.

I know if you're interested, we've

got Facebook Live with Jim and Geoff.

And I know a lot of families are struggling with addiction.

And what do you do with the child?

What do you do with a parent who is addicted?

How do you pray for them?

And James has a book.

It's called "Prayers for Prodigals."

It's available wherever books are sold.

And you can-- also, we're going to have

that web exclusive interview with James and Geoff.

And we're going to have more on "700 Club

Interactive" on Monday morning.

So thanks for being here.



Thank you so much.


Thank you so much.


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