But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:17-19).
This passage comes from the parable of the prodigal son. At this stage the son has demanded his inheritance from his father, and the squandered it all on high living. He realises what a mess he is in and decides to return to his father, offering to work as a hired servant. When we read on we find out the father is overjoyed, running out to meet his son. No work as a hired hand! Welcome home my beloved son!
The interesting phrase here is: “he came to himself”. I am sure we all have friends and family who are not Christian, and maybe they have been dismissive of any conversation about the faith for many years. This doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end of the matter: you can still pray. Pray that the person will “come to himself”. The prodigal was not with anyone when this took place, he was simply by himself.
There are lots of initiatives in the church to do with outreach. Barely a year goes by without a new strategy, or a new idea. Try this! Do that! Join these! In the end, though, conversion is a matter for God and so the most successful strategy is also the oldest: pray. Although there is a popular cliche of a person becoming a Christian after someone makes a compelling argument, the truth is that many if not most come to faith in a much more low key manner. For me, it was in a room by myself in a student house. That was when I came to myself.
So do pray. I finish once more with characteristic words from the Puritan Thomas Watson:
They tread every day on the brink of the bottomless pit! What if death should cast them in! O pity unconverted sinners. If you pity an ox or an donkey going astray, will you not pity a soul going astray from God, who has lost his way and his wits, and is upon the precipice of damnation! … Will you not pray for them, when you see them in such danger?