“You are so ungrateful.”
“That behavior makes you persona non grata here.”
All of these phrases have a root of grace—or lack of it. They mean without grace. And they are words that any of us might have said to our prodigals, because they are true.
Yet God tells us just the opposite should be true of the words we speak. They should be full of grace:
“…your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2)
“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11)
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
I am convinced that one of the most important ways we extend grace to our prodigals is through our words.
Words are powerful. They have the potential to inflame discord and to inflict great emotional harm, or the capacity to encourage repentance and restoration, to offer healing and reconciliation.
Certainly, we must speak truth, and our prodigals often need to hear some hard truths. But God’s Word reminds us how we deliver those words:
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” ( Ephesians 4:15)
Easy? No. Our frustration prompts negative words. Their disrespect elicits a raised voice. Anger arouses emotions. Conflict escalates.
How? How do we speak truth in love. How do we make sure our words are seasoned with grace?
Some practical thoughts:
Count to 10 before you speak.
Speak slowly, calmly, gently and firmly.
Think: Will these words throw oil or water on the fire?
Consider: Would you like someone to speak such words, in that tone of voice, to you?
Recognize: The words you speak today can be part of your relationship with your prodigal for all the years to come.
Realize: Your tone of voice can turn neutral words into destructive words.
Remember: You love this person.
And most of all, stop to pray before you speak. Make sure you are filled with the Spirit. Ask Him to govern your tongue, to release His love into your heart. Choose to be an instrument of God’s grace.
Gracious words may or may not lessen the carnage in the immediate “conversation,” though they should help. But over time words filled with grace will eliminate the fuel that feeds what often becomes an inferno. Return, reconciliation, restoration will occur more easily when the words we have spoken have not done irreparable harm, when grace has prevailed.
Love speaks grace. So should we.
What about you? Do you need to add more grace seasoning to your words?
c2012 Judy Douglass
If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.