Our team gathered at the start of a weekend retreat. Two of our team members, a husband and wife, were missing. Shortly after we began our prayer time, the wife arrived, frantic. Their teenage son had run away from home.
We began to pray for him, that the Lord would bring him home. I felt in my spirit to pray that the Lord would capture him somehow. That the Lord would hold him safely, wherever he was, until help arrived. I prayed the Lord would lead those searching for the boy in the right direction.
An hour later, we received a call from the boy’s father. The boy had been found, and he was okay. A sheriff’s deputy had found him in the woods, tangled up in a briar patch.
God had answered the prayer He prompted, to capture the boy.
Ever since that time, when someone asks me for prayer for a loved one who is running, I ask them, “Would it be okay with you if I pray the briar patch prayer?” And I tell them the story. Everyone I have asked has responded, “Yes.”
One of the hardest times to pray the briar patch prayer is for a loved one out on the streets using drugs. I have volunteered with a men’s addiction regeneration center, and I know mothers and wives often ask for prayer for their loved one who is using. When it’s time to pray, “Lord, catch him,” that is tough for them.
I have a friend, a counselor, who often prays with a mom for her son, “Lord, arrest him.”
This shocks the mom, and often she asks, “Why would you pray that?”
My friend responds, “It will save his life. Or stop him from killing someone else.”
The briar patch prayer might seem natural to pray for a child who has run away and is lost. It is harder for a mom to pray, “Lord, arrest my son.” But if getting arrested will save his life?
Another variation on the briar patch prayer is to pray for God to overload the structure in a person’s life. When a loved one is struggling but refusing help from the Lord, God honors that person’s free will. We, as those who pray for our loved ones, must also honor our loved one’s free will. But we can pray for God to overload the self-made structure on which this person has become dependent.
When a person is struggling and not seeking help from God, often she creates her own “structure” for how to cope and survive. We know this is fleeting, and her own defenses will not withstand the assault of the enemy and the world. She needs God as her only structure. But until she sees that, God will overload her structure until she is ready to come to the end of herself. We can pray He does this, and this prayer will not be violating our loved one’s free will.
When the structure gets too heavy, the person will have to realize her way isn’t working. We need to pray that in that moment, she will see God, and ask for His help.
Have you ever been in a situation where the Lord has pressed on your heart to pray that a loved one gets caught? Or that the structure gets overloaded?
What did you pray? What was the result?