Holy Spirit Story: The Prodigal Father

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


Today’s story is from Rick Anderson. It is one of power and yet of patience. It is a story of courage and obedience. It is a story of healing and reconciliation. You will be encouraged. Read it now in Rick’s own words and if you listen, in his own voice. 


It was in January 1997 that I came home from my job as a timber buyer in East Texas. I took off my work boots, flopped on the couch, reached for the remote, and turned on the TV. When the picture appeared on the screen, it was an advertisement from an airline stating, “Cut-rate airfares to London.” In that same instant, I felt my heart strangely warmed as if a hot air balloon had been inflated inside my chest. I knew immediately what the Holy Spirit was telling me to do.

You see, my father had left my mom, older brother, and me when I was four years old. He had been transferred with the Air Force to a base in England. While he was there, he met and fell in love with another woman. He would never return. My mother would end up raising us alone, with the help of her parents in a small town in lower Alabama. Times would be difficult for us all as my mom worked a minimum wage job to feed us. Even though the economic shortfall was difficult, the absence of our dad left me with a feeling of emptiness that was constant. Nevertheless, with God’s help, we made it.

After twenty-five years of separation, I finally wrote him to tell him that God had begun a work in me and that I had forgiven him. I opened the door to the possibility of a relationship if he was interested. He reciprocated with a letter of his own and we began to correspond once or twice a year over the next ten years.

Then after thirty-five years of separation, God spoke into my emptiness. It was finally time to be reconciled to my dad once and for all. As I sat before the TV, the hot air balloon in my chest slowly began to deflate. That’s when I started to argue with God: “You don’t understand, God! He left me! It’s his place to come to me!” There was only silence from the Holy Spirit as he had already said his peace.

The next day, I called my father and asked if I could come to England for a visit. He told me to come on over. Six weeks later, my wife, Judy, and I would make the flight to London. We would board a train to Ipswich and take a cab to the hotel. I called my father and told him that we were there. He said, “We’ll be right there.”

A half-hour later, the front desk attendant called to tell us that we had visitors. We came into the lobby, and I saw my dad on the far side. I couldn’t feel my legs as we seemed to float across the room toward him and his wife.

I soon stood in front of my dad for the first time in thirty-five years. I grabbed him and hugged him tightly, and said, “I love you and it’s so good to see you!” Next, I turned to his wife and the woman who had taken him from me and my family so long ago. I embraced her and said, “Joyce, I love you and it’s good to finally meet you!” Because of God’s work in my heart, everything that I said was true . . . I did love them! I was so glad to see them! I had truly forgiven them both!

We would spend precious time together riding trains, eating fish and chips in pubs, and catching up on the lives we had missed during our separation. I never once asked him why he left—because it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing he could tell me would have justified his leaving. I had forgiven him and that was enough. I had my father again and that brought God’s healing into my heart and life, but the journey wasn’t over yet. When I returned home from England, the Holy Spirit put a burden on my heart for my dad’s soul.

Although my father had been raised in a Christian home, he had run away from God for many decades. After laboring in prayer for my father for the next six years, the Holy Spirit gave me the insight and courage to share the gospel with him through sending him a copy of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life devotional book for Christmas in 2003. In January, he phoned me and told me that he received the book and that he would call me if he ever read it.

It would be another year before I received that call. This time he had some news. Dad said, “I read your book.” I said, “Oh, yeah! What did you think?” He said, “I’ve come back into the fold. I’ve renewed my relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve come back to where I should have always been.” My heart nearly exploded! God had been faithful to find the prodigal and return him to the fold.

From that day on until he passed in 2010, we were able to share our faith with each other and pray for each other. I had no idea that day when I saw the airline commercial that God would use me to help bring my father back to him. Now, I look forward to seeing my dad again in the afterlife and I praise God that he restored us both through the power of the Holy Spirit working within each of us.


Abba Father! Thank you for this story of amazing grace and of how you make impossible things possible. Thank you for the grace of forgiveness—given without being requested. Thank you for the ways you get our attention, even through a television commercial, and for the courageous and yet simple obedience we see here. Thank you for the patient waiting, over decades, and the slow and steady pace of grace to keep unfolding the story. Awaken us to the broken and unhealed relationships of our lives and give us the grace to entrust them to you over and over again. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.


How does today’s story encourage your faith? Are there relationships in need of healing in your life; maybe even decades old; maybe even posthumously? It is never too late. 


Today let’s sing our Saturday song, “Sanctuary.” Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you. Such a profound prayer of consecration. This is our story dear friends. This is our song. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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P.S. Holy Spirit Stories Welcome

I would love it if you would send a story of faith from your life we might use on a Saturday in the future. We will be glad to attach your name or a pseudonym or anonymity—it’s up to you. It can be a story of coming to faith, a story of transformation, a story of healing, deliverance, suffering and sufficient grace, family reconciliation, prodigal returns, answered prayer, and so forth. A word count of 500–800 words works well. We can’t guarantee publication, but we assure you of our prayerful discernment. You can reply to this email with your story and it will come to me.

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. This Story revealed the eternal truth to me that by God’s grace, it’s never too late to be reconciled to Him and others as long as you still have breath within you. This is His will.

  2. Only through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, can someone tell an estranged loved one, “I love you and forgive you,” and not “why did you?”
    Not only is it a victory of reconciliation of a relation, but it’s also a victory of the spiritual warfare inside Rick. His flesh wanted to know why. His spirit just wanted to know his dad.
    Ephesians 4:32
    Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    Staying 💪’n Christ
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  3. Thank you for sharing that story. I was sexually abused when I was very young. And I’m on medication that helps me focus on life.

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