Six Prayers for a Family Member Who Leaves the Faith
It can be incredibly painful when someone we love decides to leave Christianity. According to the Pew Research Center, while more than 85 percent of American adults were raised in the Christian faith, nearly a quarter of those raised Christian no longer identify as such. Nineteen percent of American adults consider themselves “former Christians.”
Many of these people are our family members — spouses, children, and others we love deeply.
As Christians, it’s extremely difficult to watch loved ones turn away from or even outright reject the faith. We grieve for these people and genuinely worry for their salvation as well as the general course of their lives. Perhaps we blame ourselves, thinking we did something wrong or didn’t do enough to help them.
Sometimes a family member called themselves a Christian at one time; they attended church, got baptized, want to Bible study, and prayed with us. But as they learned more about authentic faith, they decided real Christianity was not something they agreed with after all. They rejected God’s word or God’s way when they discovered the truth.
Much like the parable of the four soils found in Matthew 13:1-23, these people were like the first three soils — they had no root. Perhaps they converted to another religion or left religion entirely, choosing the world and its ways. Or perhaps they were somehow swayed by false teaching.
Sometimes a family member has left the faith because they are running from God. Much like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, this person is rebelling against God, choosing the temporary pleasures of the flesh or other worldly concerns instead of the Jesus way.
Whatever the reason, we know that we can and should always go to the Lord in prayer when this happens, knowing that God hears our prayers.
Here, then, are six prayers for a family member who leaves the faith.
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1. On Never Giving Up
My heart is breaking as I grieve my loved one who has left your way. But I know I can trust in the words of my Lord and Savior, your son Jesus Christ, who assured us that “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
I am placing my hope in you, Lord, for I know you are the only one who can truly do anything about this. You know why they left, and I choose to believe you know how to soften their heart and bring them back into the fold if this is your will and for your glory. I want what you want, Lord, and I surrender my loved one to you, for they belong to you foremost.
I trust in the words of Galatians 6:9, that we will reap if we do not give up. So I lift my heart and soul to you, Lord. I beg with every ounce of my being that you reach their heart and help them see the truth and the light. I strive with all my being never, ever to give up hope and faith, and I put my trust in you and your perfect goodness.
In your holy name I pray,
2. On God’s Miracles
You are a God of miracles. You made the sun and the moon and the stars, the people and animals on this vast planet. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end.
I know there is nothing you cannot do if you so choose. And I also know the words of your son Jesus are true, that if only I have faith like a grain of mustard seed, I will tell the mountain to move, and it will.
Today, Lord, I pray for a miracle. I pray you speak truth and love into my loved one’s heart, mind, and soul. Help them understand that your way is the only way, that their only path to eternal life is through your son, Jesus.
Please use me however you will in this process, and know that I give over my life to you whatever this looks like. Help me to take comfort in knowing your power and might are matchless, rivaled by none. You are the God who parted the seas and raised the dead.
Lord, bring my loved one back safely into your arms.
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3. On Listening Well
You know how upset I am about my loved one who has left the faith. You know I grieve and mourn them deeply. You know my fears and my anger and my worry. You know every corner of my heart now and forever.
Today, I turn over command of my life to you. Help me to reach out to my loved one in a way that shines your light. Help me to listen well and with empathy to their pain or their intellectual discourse, and give me the right words to say in response, if any words are necessary at all. Help me to reflect your perfect love in how I deal with them, laying the groundwork for their return to you. Jesus said the world will know we reflect you if we have love for one another (John 13:35). Help that love to blossom within me and drive out all darkness. Help it to shine like a beacon, drawing them close so they see you and want to be part of your family once more.
In your precious name I pray,
4. On Staying Humble and Compassionate When Angry or Sad
I’m a tumble of emotions right now — angry, sad, and incredibly upset about my loved one choosing to walk away from you. Even though all of these feelings churn within me, help me to forgive them and rest in the perfect peace that you provide. Help me to trust that you don’t want seeds of bitterness to blossom in me and that you will handle this situation. Help me to remember that you care for them far more than I possibly can, for you created them. In the words of Psalm 139:13, you created our inmost beings, knitting us together in our mothers’ wombs.
As I encounter my loved one, enable me to maintain a spirit of humility and compassion. Enable me to heed the words of the apostle Paul and do nothing out of selfish ambition but instead, in humility, value others above myself. Help me look to your interest, not my own pride or anger or hurt feelings or anxieties.
I turn it all over to you, Lord.
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5. On Remembering God Cares
I confess sometimes I feel like I’m among the few who truly cares that my loved one has gone astray. I feel isolated and alone, scared and worried. Why has this happened? Where did I go wrong?
I admit I even sometimes wonder why you let them go.
But you didn’t let them go. Deep down, I know you are there, working, chasing them down, steering them back in the way you know is best.
You are the God who loves us so much you will leave the 99 sheep to go after the one who strayed. And when you find that lost sheep, you will rejoice (Luke 15:4-7).
Today, I put my trust in you, Lord. You are the Great I Am, God Almighty — El Shaddai. You are master and king over all creation, existing before time began.
And you love us all, even those of us who run from you or veer off your path.
Thank you, God, for loving us so much.
6. On Staying in Relationship Despite the Strain
Every time I see my loved one, a big part of my heart aches. I want to make them see, use the right words to convince them, do whatever I can to guide them back to you. But sometimes, it’s not about words at all. Sometimes, the best way to guide someone to you is in the silence… in the things shown, not said.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul urges us to remember we are Christ’s ambassadors, your representatives here on earth. Help me to remember that you make your appeal through us — through me. The generous and merciful love I show shines your light far better than anything I can ever say.
God, please fill me with your Holy Spirit so that he overflows out of every aspect of my being. Help my loved one see you when they encounter me and know you in spite of where they are in their faith journey right now. Help me behave in such a way that they want to draw closer and closer to you.
In your holy and magnificent name I pray,
Remember: God is walking with you through this pain, and God is also walking with your loved one. Even if they cannot feel him, God is there.
Trust that God will make a way and that God loves them in spite of this.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.