To the person believing God for salvation of a family member. To the person who so desperately wants their family to know God like you do. To the person wants to see their family someday in Heaven. To the person praying, believing, and rejoicing. To the person who doesn’t know where to start. To the person considering giving up. You are not alone. Many have walked this path before you, and many will walk the path after you. Today I want to encourage you to continue to pray, believe God, and rejoice for your family.
I’ve been where you are. I’ve prayed for my dad. I’ve tried to think of the right words to say, the right way to approach the subject. I’ve asked God to send laborers across his path. I’ve rejoiced and thanked God that my dad served him even though he didn’t at that time.
See, I didn’t grow up in church. We went to a church when I was really little, but I don’t remember much. My dad didn’t go though. I didn’t start regularly going to church until the fall of my sophomore year in high school when a friend asked our lunch group if any of us wanted to come to youth group that night. I thought sure why not, and I went along. I encountered Jesus there like never before, and it changed my life. I became a regular in the youth group every Wednesday night. My sister started coming with me shortly after. That spring, we went on a youth retreat, and after that, we were regulars at big church (what those of us in youth group referred to the regular service as) on Sunday mornings too. Our mom started coming on Sunday mornings with us shortly after.
My dad never came, and he never expressed any interest in it either. As we got to know God, I wanted my dad to know Him as well. I knew that my mom and sister would be in Heaven; I wanted to know my dad would too. As a teenager, I had no clue where to start. I just started praying that my dad would come to know God. At that time, I didn’t know a whole lot of scripture, but I learned Psalms 138:8 NKJV “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me”. So that became what I would pray: “God, Your word says that You will perfect that which concerns me, and this concerns me.”
As we got involved with the church, our youth pastor and youth leaders would come over for dinner and to hang out. They’d come to our extracurricular events like dance and softball as well as our high school and college graduations; they became part of our family. Some of them would try to talk to my dad about coming to church, he’d always have these evasive ways of saying no. Dad always came to the church picnics throughout the year though, so he got to know our Pastor. I joined the choir after a few years, and when we performed my dad would come to watch me. He was becoming friends and making connections with people who loved God.
I never felt God leading me to sit down and talk with dad though. I kept thanking God. Believing that dad would have a relationship with God, and thanking God for that. We’d ask dad if he wanted to come to church with us, usually he’d turn us down. I continued to pray and serve God. I graduated from high school, graduated from college, and started working all the while serving God and seeing his blessings every step of the way.
Honestly, there were times when I would pray for my dad more than others. Sometimes it was every time I’d drive, which would end up being over an hour every day. Other times it was just a quick “I thank you God for my dad and that he serves you!” But I never gave up, and I knew God was working the entire time. I also knew that God couldn’t force my dad into a relationship with Him, but that my dad would come to Him when he was ready.
In April 2011, the horrible tornados had just ripped through the southeast, the entire area was out of power for several days. We’d gotten a text message from church letting everyone know that there would be a casual service that Sunday. My dad immediately said “We need to go!” It was 7 years after my mom, sister, and I had started regularly attending church. You better believe that all 4 of us were at church that Sunday! It was so encouraging for all of us!
Dad didn’t start going regularly with us after that, but you could tell that God was speaking to him. In fall 2012, I signed up for Bible Institute at my church, which is a 2-year in depth bible study school. One day I was out to dinner with mom and dad. I was telling them about what I was learning in Bible Institute. After I explained about my favorite class, Redemption, my dad looked at my mom and said “we should sign up for that.”
I continued to pray. I asked God if I should talk to dad about Him, but I never felt like I should do anything more than pray for him. I started to pray for my dad to be responsive to hearing from God. I continued to thank God for my dad and rejoice that he serves God.
Easter 2013, I was with Stephen visiting his family in Georgia. I got a call that afternoon from my mom. She asked “guess who came to church today?” I started naming off different friends from youth group that didn’t regularly come to church anymore. Mom said “no! Dad!” She told me when she was getting ready to go, he said he was going to go with her. I was honestly surprised! He’d never expressed interest in coming to church since April 2011. Mom said he came back to the Lord that day too. She asked him what made him want to come, and he said “it was time.” I was overjoyed and rejoiced in the fact my dad had a relationship with God!! I’d been praying for nearly 10 years for him, and words could not express how happy I was for my dad in that moment.
It’s been 4 years now, and he’s been coming with us ever since! He went to the membership class, participated in the Easter musical, joined the Parking Lot team, and got baptized! Next spring, I get to watch my mom and dad graduate from Bible Institute! Praise God! Honestly, there are times I still get tears of joy when I’m standing next to him at church and I can hear him praise God and lift his hands towards Heaven! All I can do is thank God for his goodness! He is a good, good Father!!
I want to encourage you to seek God, and ask him if He’d have you to speak to your family member. Continue to pray for them, find some scriptures that speak to you and let those become your lifeline. If you don’t know where to start, Psalms 138:8 spoke to me. I never felt lead to do anything other than pray for my dad, but God may have you speak to your family. I also believe I wasn’t the only one praying for my dad. I encourage you to seek some trusted friends or other family members and have them pray as well.
Know that God doesn’t have favorites. What he does for one, he will do for another. It is his desire for everyone to be saved. Don’t give up hope! Don’t feel lost! My friend tells me that every time she sees my dad at church it gives her hope for her dad. I hope that I can bring the same encouragement to you!