Epilogue of the Lost Daughter

“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 I met with others 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 the following Mother’s Day, 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, eloping two months after coming back from Arizona. I had to put dreams to death on a regular basis. 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 she had never been a believer in Christ 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!

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. 

Comments 20

  1. As I read your article about your daughter, tears streamed down my cheeks because it is very similar to my daughter’s story. My daughter is currently far from God and is suffering from anxiety and depression, which (I believe) is due to the tremendous spiritual that she is in for her soul. I would like to start a small group for parents to pray for their prodigals.

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    2. Hi Carol,

      I have a similar story to Axa’s that has unfolded in my life with my 25 yr. old daughter Sierra. I have been a Moms In Prayer leader and member over 20 years and I am so thankful for the resources provided with this ministry for Moms just like us. My prayers are rising up for you and your daughter. “We’re going to see a victory for the battle belongs to you Lord!”

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I have been praying for 8+ yrs. for our prodigal daughter. Every day, I wonder if I will live to see the day she “comes home .” Please join my group of those I have asked to pray. Thank you.

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      Hello Monica, Thank you for your comment. I will pray for your daughter! Are you in a Moms in Prayer group? “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 God bless you Monica.

  3. I remember this dark time in your daughter’s life so well and there were so many of us praying for her. She is now such a sweet girl with a sweet spirit. I love to hear her heartfelt prayers for others. A miracle indeed occurred in her life.

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I am forever thankful that you walked with us during this very difficult journey. The Homebuilders Sunday School ministered to us sweetly and powerfully during some scary and dark days.

  4. Thanks for your encouragement and honesty as I am dealing with a similar situation. I pray that your daughter and family will grow from glory to glory with God.

    1. Natasha,

      The Lord is faithful. Never give up trusting and hoping that your daughter will come home to you and the Lord. He is faithful and never stops drawing our children to Himself. A book that was really helpful to me was Come Back Barbara by John and Barbara Miller. It gave us a strategic way to pray for our daughter.

  5. Thank you for sharing this!!! We have a lost son, (sons?) We are still in the waiting stage. It’s EXTREMELY hard to watch and not say or do anything besides pray, but prayer is our ultimate weapon against the enemy!! This has encouraged me!!

    1. Yes, it is EXTREMELY hard. I asked the Lord to put blinders in my eyes and plugs in my ears so that I wouldn’t see or hear what was happening on the ground. I would play loud praise music to drown out my fears and go on prayer walks in the forest where I would wail and scream out for God’s mercy and help. I learned to listen more than talk, which is REALLY hard to me because I am latina, verbose and process everything through my speech. But, listening gave me “intel” against the enemy so that I could pray with intelligence. Also, when she was in very real danger, listening gave us clues as to where she was and how she was doing. She tells us that when we (me particularly) stopped trying to rescue her and convince her that what she was doing was wrong, that she was able to feel loved. It was that unconditional love, no matter where she was or how she was doing, that started breaking down the walls in her relationship with us.

    1. Amen, sister. I learned of God’s unconditional love for me and for my prodigal. He had to teach me how to love my child unconditionally even when she was ugly and hateful. It really wasn’t her at her core. In her spirit she was a nurturer and encourager, a sweet spirit that always sought out the outcasts. But, the enemy hijacked her soul and turned her into someone we didn’t recognize. But, redemption has pruned and polished her into someone who has a heart for the lost and the needy. She is the most patient young mommy to her little one. It is beautiful to see God’s hand in her life.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me such hope. I’m just starting to release my daughter and trusting that God has her. I’ve come to realize that it’s the Holy Spirits job to convict her, not mine. I’m letting God fight this battle. It’s so hard but so necessary.

    1. I found that as long as I was the person giving advice, trying to rescue or convince, quoting Scripture, using reason or logic (HA!) the Holy Spirit has no room to move in her life. I was like a blanket blocking the Spirit’s work. The Lord actually told me that He was surgically removing her from my life for a season because she was my idol and I was in the way. He put a muzzle on my mouth to stop me from talking. Yet, once I said NOTHING spiritual, when she was in AZ, she would ask me to pray for her and she even engaged me on spiritual conversations. But, it was all Spirit led. Yes, it is hard but necessary. The Spirit will lead you as He led me.

  7. Thank you SO much for your story. This could have been written about my daughter and oldest son. I’m so frightened for both of them that I can only pray for their salvation constantly. My daughter is hanging out with and close friends with a young woman who has familial ties to the drug cartel. I was forced to cut all ties with her to protect our family. I am so afraid that she will be trafficked. She doesn’t even seem concerned about the danger she is in.

    1. She’s blinded by the enemy, as my daughter was. I didn’t go into a great deal of detail regarding all of the situations that she got into but the potential for harm and death were very real. We didn’t cut ties with our child (our safety was not at stake) because we wanted her to know that she could always call us if she was in trouble and she could come back in whatever condition she was in. We did visit her in AZ for a week but she refused to leave her situation. Someone said to me “you let them go with dignity and welcome them back with grace”. One thing I did do was contact law enforcement and Polaris and A21 organizations and gave them all of her information. They couldn’t have done anything about it as no crime had been committed and she was there on her own will. But, she was on their records in case we lost track of her. I wanted a record of her in case she disappeared. I will pray for your situation. It is SO hard!

    1. Yes, indeed it is. My daughter will be going to a Christian college in the fall to pursue a BA in Human Services. One of my strong prayer warrior friends told me this week. Do you find yourself pinching your arm to make sure that this is real and that all of this is happening? Praise God!

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