A good shepherd guides his flock by choosing what he knows is good for the herd. He picks the right pasture, the right watering area, he knows when to corral them for protection, and when to let them wander about. A good Shepard has a gift of discerning what is good and true and what is best for his flock. The gift of discerning the good and choosing the right means is the definition of prudence, or right reason in action.
Why does the psalmist call out to the Lord for kindness, compassion, mercy, and guidance? Because the author knows that God is the master of all wisdom and that His actions are reliably for good and true reasons. God acts with prudence, always.
So how does the prodigal son fit into this – I sometimes think ‘This father is NOT in his right mind, your son just wished you were dead, but you send him off with ‘his’ inheritance - basically a third of all you possess, to squander…. Then you welcome him back?!?! That’s not right…’
I’m glad God doesn’t think like me, but rather with right reason. He allows us the free-will to wander, allows us to squander our inheritance, paid for by His only Son’s suffering and death, He’s offered ALL for us, His very life. While we wander, we learn what is right & true, good & beautiful, so we can make right decisions and take the right actions and return to Him for mercy, forgiveness, guidance, and peace. And when we return, He welcomes us back, and we find that He’s been with us all along, urging us to return to His fold.