What do I do if my child has strayed from the faith?

I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers. And while I am a parent, my little girl is still just that, little. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about what could happen as she gets older. One of the scenarios that I think about is: What if she strays from the faith?

While I’m not facing that situation (and pray I never will), I have witnessed it first-hand. My oldest brother was one of those children. Most of his teenage years were spent not only away from the faith but away from our family. After a lot of fervent prayer, he eventually came back. So what is some good advice for parents if they find themselves dealing with a prodigal? While we have covered this before, it never hurts to seek counsel from a multitude of people. Nick Batzig — a pastor in Richmond Hill, Georgia — is offering some solid guidance regarding the situation over at The Gospel Situation. Below are his five, helpful points, along with a brief explanation.

1. Pray explicitly for your children’s salvation.

Incessantly ask the Lord to extend redeeming grace to your children. While their rescue ultimately depends on his sovereign mercy, the prayers of godly parents often play an vital role.

2. Pray God will surround your children with strong Christian friends.

Through all of my years of rebellion, I knew my parents were asking the Lord to bring godly people into my life—and that’s exactly what he did. I’d often find myself working with Christians who reached out to me with Scripture and the gospel. My sister introduced me to new believers who’d been saved out of similar lifestyles of rebellion. I’ll never forget how, on one occasion, a biker at a bar witnessed to me and asked if he could pray for me in front of my unbelieving friends. That experience will forever be etched in my mind as a direct answer to the prayers of my parents.

3. Pray God will do what it takes to bring your children to himself.

Though no one likes the thought of asking God to “do whatever it takes,” this is a prayer we should all be willing to pray for our children. The Lord often brings individuals to rock bottom in order for them to see their need for the Savior. When the prodigal son finally hit rock bottom, he “came to himself” (that’s shorthand for “repented”) and returned to his father (Luke 15:17).

4. Pursue your children with God’s Word.

I distinctly remember how, on one occasion, I’d been out all night partying and was still under the influence of drugs the next morning. My dad woke me up and called me to the living room. He read John 8:12, where Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” I sat there knowing that Jesus, the living Word, was speaking directly to me through the written word. Though I wasn’t converted until many years later, the Lord used it.

5. Be loving yet firm with your children.

Far too many parents think they can love their children into the kingdom by being soft on them. Nothing is further from the truth. The Bible is serious and firm in its teaching against sin and rebellion. When I was at the height of my rebellion, my dad told me: “Nick, you choose this day blessings or curses. If you continue living the way you are and continue to reject Christ, you are choosing covenant curses.” […] That said, it’s possible for parents to swing the pendulum from the one extreme of enabling and weakness to the other extreme of heavy-handedness. There must be a balance between sternness and tenderness.

“I think of the many others he has redeemed late in life, and I’m encouraged to pray more fervently for the rebellious,” Batzik concludes. “I think of the fact that the gospel is for rebellious prodigals whom God loves to welcome home with inexpressible joy.”

Read his full article here.

If you’re going through this right now, take heart. God is at work. And if you’ve gone through this, please share your own tips on Facebook. Let’s encourage one another.

Now read: Hope for the parent of a prodigal

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