“I shall get up and go to my father” (Luke 15:18).
The prodigal son had nothing left; he had lost it all. His inheritance was gone. His prospects had evaporated. His honor was in tatters. And yet he was still his father’s son, disfigured as he was. He still belonged at home, distant as he had become. He still hoped, bleak as his condition was. So from that “distant country . . . he got up and went back to his father” (Luke 15:13, 20).
When Jesus told that parable to the tax collectors and sinners, and within earshot of the Pharisees and scribes (see Luke 15:1-2), he revealed who he is. He is the one who makes it possible to seek the Father from wherever we find ourselves, even when bitter of heart or mired in the filth of sin. He is the one who gives that lost son the inspiration of prayer—that desire to rise and go to the Father. He is the one who descends to our condition and from there addresses his Father. He is the one in whom that lost son begins to move.
The love of Christ reaches that son who has lost everything. Because the only-begotten Son of the Father descended to that sad and lonely place, the lost son may begin to pray from that “distant country.” His sin, his sorrow, and his desperation may become offerings of prayer, because Christ makes that lonely place holy by his presence.
Jesus does not forget the Pharisees and scribes who overhear him. To those bitter ones, he presents the elder son—the son who is always near home, ever dutiful, and oh so pleased with himself. The Pharisees’ and scribes’ murmuring over Jesus’ feasting with the tax collectors and sinners reverberates in the anger and disdain the elder son has over his father’s feast for the younger son (see Luke 15:28-29).
Jesus does not just chide the Pharisees and scribes though; he also beckons them. He allows them to hear the father say to the elder brother, “Son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31). Through Jesus the embittered can rediscover themselves as the beloved of the Father.
The younger son and the elder son are both meant to be at home in their father’s house. The tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees and scribes, hear that together. Jesus is the one who reveals this to them. It is indeed his prayer.
“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). The true home for all whom Christ claims as his own is his Father’s house. He came from his Father to share in all that we have and all that we are, taking on our flesh as his own. From where we are, the Son of God himself said, “I will arise and go to my Father’s house.”
Prayer is receiving him who comes to us and rising with him who takes us home. Every prayer offered in his name is a step toward home. All can be offered through him in prayer.
Christ gives us himself to contemplate, he teaches us how to pray, and he hears our prayers. But as his disciples, we have the responsibility to make his prayer our own. Shall we pray?
“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
This is a selection from Into the Heart of the Father by Leonard J. DeLorenzo (The Word Among Us Press, 2021), available at www.wau.org/books.