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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Loving the Prodigal Home

Loving the Prodigal Home

Pastor Andrew Palau tells his prodigal story of a squandered youth spent on alcohol abuse, vandalism, and a disdain for Christianity - and what his parents did that led to his salvation in his mid-twenties.

Original Air Date: February 26, 2014



John Fuller: On a recent Focus on the Family broadcast, evangelist Luis Palau shared the heartbreak of having a wayward son. 


Luis Palau: But for us, why is our third son out in the world? We treated him just like the other boys. We taught the Word. We lived the faith and yet, he chose because he wasn’t converted, you know. So, when you see a son rebelling, you can’t blame the Lord for that. It’s the choices he made. 

End of Excerpt 

John: You’ll hear the rest of the story from that prodigal son himself, on today’s episode of Focus on the Family with your host Jim Daly. Thanks for listening, I’m John Fuller. 

Jim Daly: John, we’re going to hear an amazing message that will bring hope to the hearts of, I think, every parent with that rebellious child – especially if they have left your home and are “out in the world”, as Luis Palau so eloquently phrased it there: meaning, embracing the world and the allure of sex, drugs, alcohol and other vices that promise pleasure but ultimately lead to every parent’s worst nightmare. 

Today we’re going to hear from Andrew Palau, the third son of Luis and his wife, Pat. And as you’ll hear, Andrew resisted Christ, in many ways that grieved his parents countless times until he was in his late 20s. And to set the stage here: this is Luis Palau! One of the most well-known evangelists in the world! Imagine being in his shoes – with thousands of people responding to the gospel when you share it, except your own son. That’s gotta be tough! 

John: And we’re gonna hear the story, as Jim said, from Andrew Palau and his perspective of that pressure and that resistance to God. Here’s Andrew speaking at a conference of ministry supporters, on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.


Andrew Palau: I was born and raised in a great Christian home, absolutely. My parents were faithful to me and my three brothers, and they really practiced what they preached: as you can imagine, regular, normal people with all our own little idiosyncrasies and issues and all the rest, but really faithful to us.

Our church, Cedar Mill Bible Church, didn’t see a lot of hypocrisy there or any such thing. But from the youngest of ages, I just decided to go my own direction and turn my back on that way of life and turn my back on God. And I had a rebellious spirit, not a stereotypical rebel who says, “I hate God; I hate religion. You can’t shove it down my throat.” But my own kind of rebellion, maybe uh, sort of the weasel-ly, wormy, you know, follow the path of least resistance, you know, type of a rebellion – equally deadly in the end.

But um, from the youngest of ages, me and my friends would sneak out of the house and rip off our neighbors’ liquor cabinets and we could get a bag of dope anywhere. Marijuana’s the number one cash crop in the state of Oregon, not a legal crop, but we could get a bag of pot anywhere and so, we did and drove up in the West Hills that used to be not Forest Park, but just sort of motorcycle tracks and we’d have keggers up there. And I – I’m ashamed to tell you, I built my whole foundation of – for life on these ridiculous things. Basically, whoever could do the most shameful thing at night and brag about it the next day, that’s how we kinda put a notch in our belt and worked our way up to build that foundation.

And I went on that way for 27 years. Went to – through high school like that, to the University of Oregon, was in a fraternity there. As Dad says, not a Sunday school picnic, but – and outside of the constraints of home, I really went downhill fast and just heaped into my life all of the garbage of – that the world offers, all the drugs that the world offers, all the relationships that go along with that lifestyle, just increasingly shameful, painful, and the Bible calls all of these things “acts that lead to death,” And how incredibly, powerfully the – properly, the Lord helps us to understand what these things are. And I began to experience that death, slowly, slowly over time.

Moved out to Boston after I graduated. Worked my way up a corporate ladder a little bit for about five or six years there. I had a great mask that I wore to show the world, “Everything’s fine with Andrew,” but things were not fine. I slowed down my partying a little bit, not for spiritual reasons, but just ‘cause I had to go to work in the morning, right? But nothing had changed inside of me.

Except for this, I – I began to realize that, you know that foundation that I’d built for myself, it was really beginning to crumble and everything that began for fun, all the partying and all of that stuff, it began to enslave me. And I could identify many, many points here that you wouldn’t want to hear ‘em, but just to get a little bit of a picture of a – the kind of pit. I noticed I was getting pretty powerful there. I was thinkin’ I was like, “The Lord rescued me out of this pit of hell” and that is really absolutely where I found myself.

But alcohol, I could point to, became a trap for me and I abused it in this way. I just could never go to bed sober, because if I ever found myself in my bed at night sober, my mind would just flood with all of the garbage of my life and all of my insecurities and all of my lying and cheating and stealing and the abusive relationships and all the addictions that were just capturing me and all my arrogance and my pride and on and on and on and so much more. It would just haunt me and I hated that feeling so much, that I would just do anything to avoid it. 

And the easiest thing was just to go out partying and I could find someone to party with most nights of the week. Not a problem there. And if I couldn’t, I would just sit in my little apartment in Boston and watch baseball late into the night typically, drink beers until I pass out on the couch and then back in the day of course, you remember the TV used to go to fuzz about 2 in the morning, right? I’m dating myself a little bit now. But remember, they would sign off for the broadcast day and the flag would wave and then it would go “sssshhhhhhhh”.

And I remember hearing that sound and just waking up and I hated that so much and I would turn off the TV and I’d roll into bed and then my alarm would go off, the other sound I hated. I’d turn off the alarm and go to work and go out partying. And I had this terrible cycle going on – all just to avoid the reality of my life. And so that’s 27 of my – years of my life in about five minutes. Didn’t go that fast for poor mom and dad, right? They just lived through all of that – 27 years – very difficult for parents, and their hearts were broken I’m sure, over and over and over again, that they saw me moving off in this direction and they did everything within their power. They tried everything and – but in the end, they just recognized that if anything good was gonna happen in my life, it was gonna be God’s work.

They had done everything available to them. They had tried and uh, they just determined to do this: to live the life as an expression of the reality that this is factual, that this works, that their – when God says that He offers life and life in abundance, that He means it. And they were determined to live that out, that when the Lord says, that uh, change is a possibility in life, they decided that in the places where they needed to change, they were gonna humble themselves and change. And they lived that out in a very, very great way before my eyes. So, they – they lived that life. And then they also prayed, because they knew that there’s great power in prayer. And as mysterious as it is, we know that prayer makes a difference, and they prayed faithfully for me, as did many of you and I’m very, very grateful for the power of prayer in my life.

Then they didn’t only pray though, they also acted otherwise. Periodically lovingly, appropriately, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, they would share with me the Good News, because they knew that the Good News, that Gospel message was “the power of God for salvation.” And they didn’t want me to just be a good boy and be obedient to them and stop crashing their cars, right? Good side benefit for sure but uh, they just looked at me and no matter how far away from God I had gone, they just believed and they had this faith that God could make me into a man of God – that He would make me into a man of God. And that is an amazing faith that they had. And there was a peace in their life and a joy, despite all the tumultuous things that I brought into their life; they had this peace that was a great evidence to me. And they shared with me the Good News. 

They did everything they could. When I was little, Dad would take me for a – a walk and I’d say, “Son, I gotta talk to ya. Let’s get up in the morning and we’ll go for a walk.” And I’m like, “oh, no, not the walk. Ugh! I don’t want to go,” right? You all know the walk, most of you. Or you’ve given the walk. And I was like, “Oh, no. And I know what’s comin’.”

And sure enough, Dad would wake me up and we’d walk around the rainy streets of Beaverton and he’d say, “Son, we love you. You’ve got lots of friends. You’re doing well at school. You know how to have a good time. But we just see this direction in which you’re looking for life. And as a father who loves you, I have to warn you that you will not find life there, but that you will find death. But God offers you life and life in abundance.”

I just remember that Dad would say that to me over and over, “You’re lookin’ for life and you look at life and you say, ‘Now that’s livin’. Those guys are crazy partying fools. I can outdo that. I’m goin’ over there.” But Dad would caution me and say, “Look-it, this is abundant life. God loves you with an everlasting love. And He offers you forgiveness and power for living through His Holy Spirit, because of the cross of Jesus Christ. You can receive these things.”

And he talked to me about heaven, of course, right? Because he knew what the Bible says about – God says, “I’ve written eternity on the hearts of all people,” so no matter what games we play or what façades we put up, we can know and believe that people are thinking about eternity. And um, so, he would take me for the walk and I would just weasel my way out of it somehow. And I would just reject it somehow, and I’m sure I felt like I’d done it pretty cleverly, but you know if you’ve ever made attempts with people, you know you – you just walk away saying, “Oh, my gosh. Well, I thought the Lord had told me to share.” And He did, but it’s not always the time that you’re gonna receive the harvest. But they never gave up.

Dad would write me letters. I got these awesome letters from Dad, because I’m a little bit of a pack rat, I’ve got these letters. The incredible heart of a father for his son. And you know, it’s a, “Son, great to be with you in, you know, London or wherever we were and wish we’d have more time. I intended to talk to you, but just time got away from us. And if we woulda had time, I wanted to tell you that we love you and I wanted to ask you something I’ve never known. Andrew, it’s a burden of my heart to know, have you ever given your heart to Jesus Christ?” So, long introduction as pastors are prone to giving, right? And then right to the heart of the matter. And it was like The Four Spiritual Laws with my name inserted in there, right? 

Program Note:

John: We’re listening to Andrew Palau on Focus on the Family, and you can get a CD of this program for a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY or request it at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Let’s go ahead and return now to Andrew Palau on Focus on the Family. 

End of Program Note 

Andrew: And of course, I would just like stick ‘em on the shelf and reject it, and he would sic Campus Crusade guys on me. What else? The poor Board guys. I remember workin’ in Boston in retail out there and somebody was – one – all of you probably would call. ”Oh, I’m in town for business. Let’s go to lunch.” I’m like, “Oh, here we go again,” right? And we’re down at Quiznos on “Who’s on the throne of your life, Andrew? You know on the napkin and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, here we go again,” right?

Dad would write. I swear, probably half of Dad’s 40 or 60 books were written just to have somethin’ else to stick in my hand, right? And uh, I could tell you great stories about that, but time is escaping. But they really – just to illustrate that they never gave up and they continued to try and I’m so thankful that they never gave up. 

Because in 1993 at the age of 27, I was in that circumstance that I described, wearing this mask, in this hole of life and I get a phone call from Dad and he says, “Son, come on out. We’re havin’ a – a festival and uh, you should come. And the whole family’s gonna be there.” And I thought, “Um, not my idea of a vacation. Been to a few crusades before, right?”

But uh, thanks, but no thanks. Like, “oh, that’s okay.” It was February I should add – February in Boston, snow this deep, right? And I was freezing cold. And he said, “That’s fine. We just thought you might be interested. This one’s in Jamaica.” And I was like, “Oh, Jamaica, huh?” Hm, maybe I can work somethin’ out, right?

So, I’m thinkin’ about Red Stripe beer on the beach, get some sun. I know how to handle this Christian thing, right? And also, I love fishing, so I said, “If you get me a Marlin fishin’ trip, Dad, maybe I’ll consider it.” And uh, so, he calls me back. Lo and behold, “there’s this family; they’re in Jamaica. They’re gonna take you fishing. They’re very hospitable. Their son’s a tournament Marlin fisherman.” And I’m like, “All right, Dad. Okay, I know; I know what you’re after and you know what I know, right? And I know that you know that I know what’s goin’ on.”

But uh, because of the generosity of my parents to keep that relationship intact and refraining from wringing my neck, as I’m sure they desired to do on many occasions and throwing me out of the house, we had the kind of relationship where they could call and I could say “Yes” and I would go out there and I knew I’d have a good time. And I love my family and I went out there.

I had these things in my mind and God had other plans. I had no sense that anything of this nature was gonna happen to me. By when I went out there, I saw how the Lord was orchestrating my life and my circumstances in this incredible way that almost defies description. But I went out there to – and I saw – I met some young people, Wendy and her brother and this group that God was doing these incredible miracles inside of this group. People getting radically saved and transformed and healed of their addictions and restored in relationships and they’re talkin’ about all this. And I’m watching this. I’m like, wow. That’s powerful.

And if that is true, if God is real and this is how it is, I need to know. And I just began to called out to God and say, “God, if You’re real, I’ve got to know. Reveal Yourself to me.” And then of course, every night, there I am at the Kingston National Stadium and Dad’s preachin’ away, you know, same old thing. I’d heard it 1,000 times and God is just pressing down upon me.

And I just knew, you know, this is not my parents. This is God Himself calling me. And I just began to say, “God, if You’re real, I have got to know. Reveal Yourself to me.” And in this one moment, I’ll never forget it, I kind of turned my phrasing from challenging God to reveal Himself to me, jus – asking Him to do one more thing for me. I just called out to Him in desperation. I said, “God, what is keeping me from You?”

And I remember when I called that out to Him, it’s as if He just said, “Ah, ha. You really want to know, Andrew, what’s keeping Me from you?” And I was like, “Yes, what is it?” And He just opened up my eyes to see in that moment what was keeping me from Him and just all of that garbage in my life. And in that moment, it was just right there before me in the most harsh way. And I just realized how dark and horrifying all of that was to Him. It was like, they describe repentance as recognizing your sin as God sees it. And that’s what happened to me. I – I know in that moment I was just broken. And I was bawling and bawling my head off, I was like – everybody’s looking at me like, “Somethin’s wrong with that guy.”

And uh, the Lord was mercifully revealing Himself to me and I just said, “I’m so sorry; please forgive me.” And that is exactly what He did. “If you confess your sin,” He says, “I am faithful. I am able to forgive your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” And He did it in that moment and it was awesome. And uh, I stood up and life has never been the same. He brought me my godly, beautiful Wendy shortly thereafter that and we’ve begun to grow and we’re able to minister. It seems like just yesterday and here it is 17, 18 years later. And you can see what God has done and why I say, I’m like a poster child for how this works, because this is what our life is all about. Am I right? This is what our life needs to be focused on, changed lives. And He has a purpose in all of that, not just to change it. It’s not just to rescue us, but to use us. And I want to encourage you.

I shared this with you for about four reasons. I’ll go through them very quick. Firstly, that you would realize that this is what our ministry is all about. When you boil it all down, it’s changed lives. Secondly, that you personally would never give up, right? That you would be encouraged. I pray you’ll leave here encouraged, full of faith and confidence that God is gonna do this kind of work in the friends of the people that He’s brought you into relationship with. And you never know what God is doing, so never give up.

Live your life in such a way that people would say, “Yes, I want that.” Pray for people faithfully. Never give up bringing them to a place where they would hear the Good News. Deliver it yourself. Some of you, even here, you might say, “You know, Andrew, I’d love to pray for my friends and invite them to know Jesus Christ, but the fact of the matter is that as I sit here, today, I am much more like where you were.” 

And if that is you, I want to encourage you that if you’ve never accepted Christ in your heart, do it today. And I can lead you. I’ll just lead you in a simple prayer and you can just make that confession for yourself today and receive Christ and all of these promises we’ve been talkin’ about, sharing around the world will be yours.

Or if you’ve sort of wandered away, you know, and you’ve known Christ and you’ve known the goodness of God in your life, but you’ve wandered away, you can come home and get on that right path and kinda pull out of that darkness that is binding you and tripping you up and you can get on that right path and begin to walk with Him afresh today. And He’ll use you. He’ll use you again.

And if that’s you, I’m gonna lead you in a little prayer. If you would, let’s bow our heads and if there’s anyone here that would like to just do that incredible eternal work with God Himself, you can do it in this moment and I can help you.

And as you have your heads bowed and you’re just – turn your heart to God and maybe you just to try to even let my words slough away and do your business with the Lord, I can remind you that the message is, that God does love you and He loves you with that everlasting love like no other love you may have seen or known or considered. But He loves you like that and He’s created you for a purpose in this world. He wants to be in a relationship with you and that is His purpose for you.

But the relationship you’re made for is broken. And if you look honestly at yourself and you say, “That is correct; my relationship is broken,” there is hope because of the cross of Jesus Christ, that sacrifice that we should’ve paid, that He paid on the cross on our behalf. And because of that, you can come to Him and that relationship you were made for can be made whole again.

Dad was talking about the reality that we are body, soul and spirit. And our body is in whatever state it is in. Your soul is either happy or not so happy, based on what’s happening in your life. But your spirit, you can identify, do I have joy? Do I have peace? The fruit of the Spirit, being alive to the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. If your spirit is dead to that, let your spirit come alive to God right now and you can walk in the Light again or for the first time. You can serve Him and you will see life with spiritual eyes, not just physical.

And you can just pray this prayer: “Heavenly Father, I love You. Thank You for never giving up on me. Please forgive me. Thank You for forgiving me and bringing me home. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for forgiving me. Thank You for coming in. And thank You for heaven. And now I know that heaven is my home and I have this place where I belong. I believe in You. I receive You. Thank You for making me Your child this night, in Jesus’ name, amen.” 


John: And with that heartfelt prayer we’re coming to the end of the message from Andrew Palau, who is the son of well-known evangelist Luis Palau. And Andrew resisted God until his world was turned upside-down at the age of 27. It may be that you prayed along with Andrew, and asked Jesus Christ into your heart. And if so, please get in touch with us here. 

Jim: Wow, I hope we hear from lots of people who have made that very important decision. You know, if you think about it, it’s the most important decision you can make in this life. Let’s just make the assumption that it’s all true, that Jesus was the Son of God; there was no doubt. Is there any other answer we should be seeking in this life? I mean, even beyond marriage and family, it’s this core question of “Who I am? Where do I come from? And who is God?” If you’re wavering in that, don’t stay in that place where Andrew was. Be that person that seeks out truth. 

We’re here to help you do that and to provide any resources that we can. And let me say, please call us. Visit our website. Visit the Facebook page. Let us know how this program impacted you. I’d like to hear back from people. Did it strike a chord with you?

John: And as Jim said, stop by the Facebook page and let us know or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Now, for those of you who are parents of a prodigal child, let me repeat Andrew’s advice to you, because his parents obviously did a great job of keeping the lines of communication open during those “wilderness years.” He said, “Remember that God can change lives.” We’ve heard that over and over on the broadcast; testimonies from people who have been radically changed. 

Next: “Never give up! Never assume someone is beyond God’s reach.” That’s something I say often. ”Be a good example.” As Andrew said, live your life in such a way that people would say, “Yes, I want that.” Be a contagious Christian.

Finally, “Pray faithfully and ask your friends to pray, too.” Jesus told his disciples to always pray and never give up, like the nagging widow who badgers the corrupt judge day after day in Luke 18. Or like the neighbor who pounds on his friend’s door asking for bread late at night because he has unexpected visitors. Even though the friend is already in bed, he gets up and helps his neighbor. That’s one of the most real-life examples I can imagine. If somebody bangs at your door late at night, are you gonna get up and answer the door, or are you just gonna pretend no one’s at home? 

This parable, in Luke 11, ends with Jesus saying, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you – ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Jesus is encouraging us to be persistent in prayer. 

John: Yeah, that is quite an exhortation, to stick with it and not give up. There’re going to be moments where you’re feeling, “that wayward child is never gonna come back to God.” But keep at it; keep praying and watch God work. 

Jim: That’s true, John, and if you’re in that situation, and you are desperately praying for that rebellious child, please give us a call. We have caring, Christian counselors on our staff who would count it a privilege to listen to your story, and pray with you for that young man or woman that you care so deeply about. 

And if you support the ministry, let me say thank you, because you are a part of this. The Lord is using you in your vocation to generate resources, I’m sure, that you’re providing to your church and also to Focus on the Family. And you are doing ministry through the work here. And if you haven’t supported Focus on the Family, maybe now is the time. We can do so much more if more people would help. We can touch more lives, help more marriage, help parents, help save a baby’s life. And when you make a donation to support the work we’re doing, I would like to send you a copy of this CD for a donation of any amount as our way of saying thank you. And right now is a great time to give. Generous friends of the ministry have offered to match your donation, dollar-for-dollar. So your contribution will help twice as many families. I think that’s wonderful, and I wanna say to all of you, thank you for partnering with us!

John: Just give us a call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can donate and request the CD at focusonthefamily.com/radio. 

John: Now we heard today, from Andrew Palau, and his dad, evangelist Luis Palau was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer back in January. Andrew tells us that his dad’s had good results after two rounds of chemotherapy, and he’s transitioning to the next phase of treatment. I know the family will appreciate you keeping them in prayer and hope you’ll do that.

Well thanks for joining us today, and be sure to tune in next time. Dr. Gary Chapman has some practical ideas for overcoming what you might consider minor irritations in marriage. 


Dr. Gary Chapman: I think if we don’t have a plan for handling these irritations, we tend to end up, you know, feeling the other person doesn’t love us, the other person doesn’t wanna be married to us. And that’s not a good feeling to have in a marriage. 

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