June 2015 — “I hate you! You will never see me again! I am getting married and you will never see my children. I am done with you forever!”
Our recently graduated eighteen-year-old daughter howled with rage and hatred towards us as a string of profanity flew out of her mouth.
I was trembling with fear and left her in her bedroom with her father and her shocked best friend. Our fifteen-year-old son looked terrified. She left our home with an overnight bag and was picked up by her fiancé to go to her apartment. This was the culmination of months of conflict where we had tried desperately to hang on to her and she fought us with all of her might to run away from us. This latest explosion was caused by my secret misguided attempts to force her to come home. Yet, it had backfired SO badly!
In shock, we realized that we were now the parents of a prodigal child. I knew that it was time to let go of her and that this was a battle that no amount of effort on my part could win. I had been under the illusion that I could always find a way to fix my children’s problems. But now, only God could rescue and save our child.
My husband and I released her into the arms of her Heavenly Father and stopped giving advice, preaching, and trying to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit in her life. Even though I now had zero direct influence on my child, I could pray.
I learned how to pray effectively in order to defeat the powers of darkness that threatened to destroy my daughter. I joined a weekly home prayer group and a larger corporate monthly prayer group. I also had a group of friends whom I could text any time and ask for prayer. When we met for group prayer, we cried out to God on behalf of our children in agreement with each other. I found that the best strategy against fear and anxiety was praying from the ground of redemption (Oswald Chambers). It changed my perspective from believing what I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears to trusting what God says in His Word. When fear and hurt assailed me, I spoke out His truth and wrote His promises in my journal. I also sought the Lord deeper than ever before and found that I wanted Jesus for Who He is and not just for what He could give me.
Sometimes the pain of the estrangement and the unknown was so great that I literally felt as if my stomach was churning and my heart was cut open and bleeding. I felt broken and didn’t know if I would ever feel whole again. Yet, God was so faithful to me and I experienced His loving presence giving me peace and even joy in the middle of sorrow.
The more we prayed, the worse things got. One night, our daughter packed up her belongings, left the apartment she shared with her fiancée, and drove alone with her cat in tow from SC to AZ to live with a man she had met on the Internet. We didn’t know where she was for over a week. She spent 3 months living in a literal hell because the man was a drug addict who physically and emotionally abused her. Like the prodigal father, my husband and I ran to our (digital) road all day long, hoping to get a text from our child letting us know that she was alive.
From one day to another, we literally didn’t know if our daughter was alive, hurt, dead, hospitalized, or lost forever due to being kidnapped for human trafficking.
Yet, while she was far away from any family support, she saw God act in miraculous and very personal ways on her behalf. And I experienced more peace than I had ever known during these darkest of days.
She came back home on Mother’s Day 2016, but it was clear that she was still a prodigal far from God and in her heart, far from us. She sought professional help but her soul was still in bondage to the enemy and she was profoundly wounded and traumatized. She got married, to the same fiancé she had left, and eloped two months after coming back from AZ. I had to put dreams to death on a regular basis and my heart would break at every new funeral of a dream, hope and expectation.
Eight months later, she left her husband and came home to live with us. She was expecting a baby. It was during this time that she realized that she had never been a believer and that her life was not about her selfish desires anymore. She knew that she needed Jesus to survive the stress and uncertainty of her pregnancy and broken marriage, raising her baby, and her serious life challenges.
Over the past two years, our daughter has learned to love the Word of God, drinking deeply from its life-giving water. It sustains her daily as she faces multiple life challenges. She also has learned to love the body of Christ and has surrounded herself with a community of believers with whom she prays and shares what God is doing in her life.
She has become a powerful intercessor for other prodigals and young people who are struggling as she did.
We have seen an incredible life transformation as she has gone from darkness to light, from crippling fear and anxiety to courage and peace, from despair and hopelessness to hope in Christ and from constant depression and sadness to a life that is lived joyfully, even in the midst of sorrow and loss.
I have always wondered about the epilogue of the Lost Son in the Bible. What happened to the family after the party? For us, the ongoing epilogue of our prodigal story is this: A heavenly Father who had compassion on a Mother and Father, indeed on a village of believers, who cried out for their child and brought her home from the brink of destruction. It is a found child who walks with her Heavenly Father daily, hand in hand, and whose vision and passion in life is to serve her Redeemer and Savior. She now tells her story of redemption, helping young people who struggle as she did, and raises her beautiful baby girl in the love and fear of the Lord. Our family has also experienced the joy of reconciliation and restoration in our relationships with each other. We celebrate and are glad, because this daughter of ours was dead and is alive again; she was lost and now is found!
Have you experienced meeting with other moms to cry out to God on behalf of your children?
Do you have a prodigal child and would like to find out more about Moms in Prayer resources?
Axa Carnes is originally from Ecuador and has lived in the USA since 1987. She has been married to Larry for 29 years and they have a 19 year old son and a 22 year old daughter who are both college students, and a delightful 20 month old granddaughter. Axa’s passion and first spiritual gift is teaching. She delights in teaching the Word of God and engaging in prayer. Axa taught high school Spanish until 2017 when she had to stop teaching due to a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke. Currently, she facilitates and teaches a Bible study at her church and is co-launching a Moms in Prayer International group, also at her church.