“I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon was on the prodigal son, but there is only one word I remember: ‘You are not forgotten or cast off,’ the preacher said. ‘You are missed.’” (Flora Campbell quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them by Ruth Bell Graham).
 

This quote has comforted me so many times as I have prayed for my own beloved prodigals, many of them far beyond my reach. Today, it reminds me what I need to communicate to those who have wandered away from God—whether to a far-off country, or just beyond the fringes of the faith community. What they need to hear from me is not condemnation, words of shame or judgment, or I told you so’s. What they need to hear is how much I miss them. How much their heavenly Father misses them and longs for their return.
Of course sin is wrong. Of course there will be consequences. Restitution must be paid, and trust earned, and healing will take time. They know that. And there will be a time to communicate those things, even as I seek God’s help to forgive them for the harm done.
But initially, what they need to hear is, “I miss you. I miss the fellowship we used to share. I miss hearing your laughter. I miss knowing what’s going on in your life and sharing my life with you. I miss your sense of humor and the special place you fill that no one else can. I miss discussing the scriptures and comparing what God is saying to us through it.” 
Isn’t that what brought the prodigal son back home in Jesus’ parable of Luke 15? It was the knowledge that he was missing out on good stuff going on at Dad’s. It was the shining hope, that despite everything he had done, his father might still take him back. 

 

As you pray for the prodigals you know—those who have relapsed into destructive habits and beliefs, who have been lured into unhealthy relationships, who have disregarded your warnings and advice, who have idolized people or things instead of God, who have become discouraged or disillusioned with God’s people, and even God himself. Pray for opportunities to speak these words: I miss you. You are valuable. You haven’t been forgotten. Please come back.

 

And if you are a prodigal, wondering if anyone has even noticed you’re gone, let me reassure you, you are missed. God sees you there in your pain and confusion and need, and He is calling you back. He misses the fellowship He once had with you. And He is calling people to reach out to you daily—in prayer, with a smile, with a word of comfort or encouragement they didn’t even know you needed. But He did and He’s speaking to you through them. 

You are missed.