Category Archives: The Bible and Sex

Who Are You Praying to Change in Your Marriage?

Blog post title + woman praying with light shining on herI’ve been aiming this year to pray more and encouraging y’all to do the same. Specifically, I’m hoping we can grow into praying more intentionally, more openly, and more fervently for our marriages and marriage beds.

So then I started thinking about how I prayed so often during the worst years of my marriage. In case you haven’t been following me long, let me explain that my husband and I had some bad years of marriage, during which I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. Thankfully, we have moved past those difficult years and are in a season of genuine commitment and happiness that makes every one of those moments worth it.

But the truth is that we really didn’t have to go through all those moments. It took way too long for me to listen to what God wanted to tell me.

Because here’s an example of what my typical prayer looked like during those flailing years:

Dear God, I know that You brought me to my husband and that You believe in marriage. You want us to have a holy, thriving marriage. But we’re in a mess, and I’m so unhappy. I have tried talking to him nicely, then more forcefully, and even pleading with him, but he isn’t listening. Lord, please save my marriage. Help us get back on track. Tell me what I need to say to get through to him. Help him to see what I’m going through and to do what he should be doing to build our marriage. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Sounds good on the surface, right? I start by remembering that God brought us together and that God Himself is the maker of marriage and wants us to thrive. Then I’m open about my struggle and explain where things are for me. I ask for God’s wisdom in talking to my husband and for a change of heart. I even finish with “in Jesus’s name” (see John 14:13-14).

But read between the lines and you’ll see what I’m really asking: God, change him.

Even when I asked for wisdom on what to do, it was really so that I could get my husband to see my side of things. I wasn’t asking for the ability to hear his side or to view him in a better light or even for the desire to meet his needs.

When I look back now, I think: No wonder God didn’t answer that prayer — it was so selfish!

You know when things started changing in my marriage? When I focused on fixing me. When my prayers sounded more like:

  • God, even though I believe he needs to change, start with me. Point out my faults and help me to fix them.
  • Lord, show me how to love my husband with 1 Corinthians 13 love. Guide me into becoming patient, kind, honoring, selfless, and forgiving. 
  • God … just help me.

Many of you have been praying for your marriage, and specifically your sexual intimacy. You have poured out your heart to God and you’ve begged for help. But, given my own experience, I have to ask: Who are you praying to change in your marriage?

If the answer is anyone but myself, then you might need to rethink your approach.

Jesus told this parable in Luke 18:9-14:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Are you “confident of your righteousness” compared to your husband? I certainly was. And frankly, maybe you are far more righteous. To this day, I think I was 70% right about what I was arguing my marriage. But I was a supremely self-righteous wife, which made me a sinner in God’s eyes. One who needed to stop looking at the speck in someone else’s eye and notice the plank in my own! (See Matthew 7:3-5.)

As some have said, “You can be right, or you can be married.” You can’t always be both. And since you gave your vow and have that ring on your finger, I think you already picked married.

Now the question is where do you need to change to make things better in your marriage? To reach harmony in your relationship? To improve not only the sex itself, but the intimacy that sex within marriage should have? How can you make your marriage a safe place for your mate to express their concerns and find support?

Even if they are 80% the problem, how can you stop looking at that 80% and focus on the 20% God really wants you to work on? By the way, you’ll often discover by the end of it all, you’re more than 20% of the problem.

I was a 100% wrong. Not in the relationship necessarily, but I was 100% wrong in believing that he was the one who had to do the changing. When I let my prayers become about God working on me, He started answering. In big ways.

I need to do more of that. Because God’s work in me isn’t finished. I still think I’m right more often than I should, and I’m far from having perfect, Christ-like love for my husband. But God has changed me. Because I asked Him to.

Who are you praying to change in your marriage?

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

A Prayer for Our Priorities (Including Sex)

A Prayer for Our Priorities (Including Sex) with woman praying and light from Heaven shining on herOne powerful enemy of regular sexual intimacy in our marriages is time.

Although we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, let’s face it: We’re not all at the same level of busy. For instance, while I am swamped with work at times, I get healthy doses of sleep that I could only imagine when I had a toddler and an infant in the house. I readily admit that you stay-at-home parents of young children are busier than I am. Or at least more exhausted.

But the truth is that like space in our houses, we tend to fill our days. We stuff them full of to-dos and tasks and activities. We add volunteering to our work schedules and children’s extracurriculars to their school days. We say “yes” to events, committees, and social invites.

And then we wonder why we don’t have enough energy to rev ourselves up for a night of sexual intimacy with our spouses.

Well, duh.

And I say this to myself as much as I say it to you.

In C.S. Lewis’s inimitable book, The Screwtape Letters, senior demon instructs the junior tempter: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Satan doesn’t want you to think about those experiences that will strengthen your bond and draw you closer to one another and to God. He wants you to focus on anything that makes you neglect your marriage bed.

Satan wants you to focus on anything that makes you neglect your #marriage bed. Click To Tweet

As someone else famously said, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” (Often attributed to Corrie Ten Boom, but I was unable to confirm.)

By contrast, God wants us to set the right priorities for our marriage. For our Saturday focused on praying more, I offer this prayer for our priorities (including sex):

My glorious Heavenly Father,

Each day you give me is a blessing. Each morning that the sun rises, the Earth turns, and all the intricate parts of Your creation work together, I am reminded that You are on Your throne. You grant me my hours, my weeks, my years, and I am a steward of the time You have provided me.

I know of Your warnings to be productive rather than lazy (Proverbs 10:413:4, 21:25), to be diligent in work. Whatever my hand finds to do, I want to do it with all my might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). But sometimes I’ve chosen to put effort into so many activities, even good endeavors, that my marriage—and my marriage bed—have suffered. 

Your Son, my Lord Jesus, reminded us that You commanded, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” and then said, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:5-6, ESV). Yet my misguided priorities have separated what You joined together when I’ve neglected my relationship with my husband and the intimacy we should have in our bedroom. Please forgive me.

Help me to remember the example of the noble wife of Proverbs 31, who “watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27). Sometimes I flip even those priorities, intent on not being idle without attending to the affairs of my household. Give me the right perspective to put my family, and specifically my husband, above my desire to stay busy. Enlighten me on where I have been a poor steward of my time, and lead me onto the right path.

Help my husband to positively encourage and support me toward the right priorities. Bless our conversations about household duties, outside obligations, and personal choices so that we can find unity. Show me where I need to let go, and give me peace about not getting everything done. Instead, bring to mind Your principle that “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). I want to sow bountifully in my marriage and my marriage bed, so that our marriage, our family, and our community will reap the rewards.

And above all, that we will experience Your glory and it will be seen by others in the strength and joy of our marriage.

Today, God, I want to begin this journey of re-prioritizing my time. Give me wisdom for where I need to make changes. Infuse me with a desire to invest in my marriage bed, knowing that this one-flesh experience is part of Your perfect plan (Genesis 2:24Ephesians 5:31-32).

In Jesus’s name,

Amen.

When You Don’t Know What to Pray for Your Marriage

On Saturdays, I’m encouraging us all to pray more for our marriages and marriage beds. But yesterday, I was in a chat window with Chris of The Forgiven Wife and said: Will you write my post on prayer for tomorrow morning? I got nothing.

Yep, as much as I have to say and love to write, there are still times when I stare at the blank page and what comes out is a big fat zero. Thankfully, Chris is a smart and encouraging friend who wrote back: No, I won’t write it. But that’s exactly what you can write about: how to pray when you got nothing.

Well, there is this scripture: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). So I guess groaning is an option. 😉

But as I chatted more with this friend, we discussed one of the best approaches for when we don’t know how to pray: Just pray the Scripture.

Title with woman praying, sunrise in background

For instance, you can open up the Psalms, find a relevant chapter, and simply make the words your own as you pray to God. But I also want to show you how this is easily done with marriage and intimacy verses.

Let’s take verses from the “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

How do you make that into a personal prayer to God? Here’s one example:

Oh Lord, please help my love to be patient and kind. God, I know that love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. But I struggle with these things. Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Yet, I have done all of those in my marriage. Please forgive me and help me to love more perfectly. Never let me delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. Help me to welcome honesty and truth in my marriage. Guide me to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere in my marriage. Give us a love that never fails — a love that resembles Your love for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You can leave some of the language as is, change other wording around to apply directly to you, and insert your own thoughts as you go.

What about a scripture that applies directly to your sexual intimacy? Let’s look at the oft-cited 1 Corinthians 7:3-5:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

And here’s my rendering of a prayer with that passage:

Dear Father, I pray that my husband will fulfill his marital duty to me, and I will fulfill mine to my husband. Help me to embrace that I do not have authority over my own body and to yield my body to my husband. In the same way, remind my husband that he does not have authority over his own body but should yield it to me. And help us to be responsible and loving with that authority You’ve given each of us. May we never deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that we may devote ourselves to prayer. Then bring us together again and keep us from Satan’s temptation. Strengthen our self-control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

These aren’t the only ways to pray the Scripture — just my examples. I used this approach somewhat in A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy and A Prayer about Sexual Temptation. For other scripture ideas, here are some that work for marriage:

Ephesians 5:21-33

Proverbs 5:15-19

Philippians 2:3-8

Psalm 128

If you have other scripture suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

Also check out my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed, which includes 52 prayers for the sexual intimacy in your marriage.

Intimacy Revealed Book CoverWhat does the Bible say about sexual intimacy?

Quite a lot actually. From marriage-specific scriptures to biblical principles, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage guides Christian wives through weekly devotions that shed light on God’s gift of marital sex.

Each week includes a Bible passage, application, questions, and a prayer. These short devotions will deepen your understanding of God’s design of sexuality and encourage you toward a holier, happier, and hotter marriage.

Ebook:
Amazon / Kindle | Barnes & Noble / Nook |
Kobo Books | Scribd | iBooks

Print:
Amazon

Praying for the Right Words

There’s been a theme in my head this week: Using the right words.

Not only was it the topic of my Thursday post (Q&A with J: “What Should We Call Persistent Porn Use?”), it’s also been on my mind because of a disagreement I had with husband (yes, we have those, just like you do) and because of hours of conversations with customer service representatives about a mobile phone issue. It’s easy to become careless with our words and say something we shouldn’t or to choose words that trigger the reactions in others that we didn’t intend.

Doesn’t this happen to many couples when they try to talk about sex in marriage? We get careless and rattle off something we shouldn’t, or we settle on a word that means something different to our husband than it means to us. And then we’re trapped in a Word War, both of us sparring with language in ways that don’t bring resolution or unity.

How can you make sure your words convey what you mean? What can you say that will get your spouse to understand what you want them to know about sexual intimacy for you? What words will open up the doors of communication and promote well-being in your marriage bed?

What words will open up the doors of communication and promote well-being in your marriage bed? Click To Tweet

title with woman praying

The Bible has a whole lot to say about our words. It’s really pretty amazing how concerned God is with how we use language. Or maybe not, since He’s the one who spoke the world into existence (“Let there be light…“). Perhaps He knows best how words hold power. Here’s just a sampling of what the Bible says about our words:

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Given how important our words can be, do we pray about them? Before we verbally react to our spouse’s rejection or requests in the sexual arena, or before we even say not now or ask for something different in the bedroom, do we ask God to guide our words?

When God tasked Moses to lead His people to freedom, the first step was talking to Pharaoh. Moses prayed about it: “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’” (Exodus 3:13). The rest of the chapter is God answering that prayer with specific guidance to Moses on what to say.

Speaking to your spouse likely isn’t as worrisome as speaking to a murderous Egyptian king, but we should definitely take great care in how we speak to our beloved! In Song of Songs 2:14, the husband says, “Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet.” I’ll be the first to admit that my voice hasn’t always been sweet in my marriage. At times, I might have resembled Pharaoh more than Moses in how I spoke.

James 3:2 says, “ We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” Preach it, James! We need God’s guidance to keep our words loving, effective, and Christ-like.

We need God's guidance to keep our words loving, effective, and Christ-like. Click To Tweet

That doesn’t mean that our words will never be strong or insistent. If your spouse is in the midst of sin, you need to speak up with loving firmness. But those are times when you need God’s guidance for what to say even more.

How about we pray for our words? Pray that we use the right words that can get through to our spouse? Pray that we listen to our spouses in how they hear us and adjust our speech accordingly? Pray that we guard our lips, avoid empty words, and build our spouse up?

Let’s pray for the right words.

Praying for Grace in Your Marriage

Praying for Grace in Your Marriage with woman's hands holding heart

I talk a lot on my blog about how to address sexual issues with your spouse, how to speak about your longing for physical intimacy, how to pursue a stronger bond in the marriage bed. It’s often about making sure your interactions with your spouse are calm, unselfish, well-considered, loving, and respectful.

If only I took all of my own advice. Rather — like you — I have those moments in marriage when the stress of the day and the frustration of the moment and the pain of my heart all come together and I blurt out something completely unhelpful. Even though I know that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1), I opt for the harsh word.

Or maybe I keep the words in my mouth, but they come out in an eye roll or a snort or turning away. I’ve also been known to mutter to myself, the tone of which could hardly be mistaken for anything but complaints.

This is not my pattern, but it is a failing of mine from time to time. And probably for you too. Likely you say something in a way you didn’t mean to say it, or you just lose your composure in a bad moment and declare something like, “For heaven’s sake, I need sex and you owe it to me!”

Or maybe it’s your spouse who does that.

In marriage, sometimes we blow it.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” As my father used to say, “Even perfect people use pencils with erasers.” Because we all make mistakes. We all fail. We all sin.

And so, we all need grace.

Grace can be defined as “the unmerited favor of God toward man” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology). But we have in our Christian vernacular begun to talk more and more about giving one another grace, that unmerited favor. Certainly, as we seek to be more like Christ, we would want to approach people as Christ does — with an attitude of grace.

How do we adopt an attitude of grace? We pray for it.

Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Our time of need may be grace we need from the Father, or grace we need to give to our spouse. But when we approach God’s throne, we come there in prayer.

We ask God to help us show favor toward our spouse, even when they blow it. Just as we’d like our spouse to show favor toward us when we blow it.

So instead of immediately reacting to what your spouse says, or does, or how your interpret the words and actions, you take a step back. Feeling a sense of peace as you let God’s grace fill you, you can then ask questions about what your mate really meant. Or simply consider the possibility that their day went badly and they’re super-stressed. You can stop taking everything personally, like how he left things out that you would have put away. You begin to see better interpretations. You remember that your beloved chose you, loves you, and is still here with you — and that counts for something.

Looking at this in terms of your marriage bed, even a sexual rejection is often not personal. It’s not about you. It’s about the bad day he had, the exhaustion and stress he’s feeling, the testosterone that isn’t working quite like it used to, or maybe even the insecurity of feeling he can’t satisfy you completely. It could be about sexual baggage your spouse still carrying. Or that wayward glance at a pretty woman in the restaurant, while a poor choice, might have been a momentary lapse back to his pre-devoted-to-you days and he might be internally kicking himself for that one. Even in that heated argument when he finally erupts and says what you think he really believes deep down — that all he really wants from you is sex, sex, sex — it might not be what you think. It might just be his foot-in-mouth, we-all-sin moment.

How about we give each other some grace?

How about we pray for grace for our spouse?

How about we give each other some grace? How about we pray for grace for our spouse? Click To Tweet

One way to start is simply to ask God to help you see your beloved with the same unmerited favor God gives His children: Lord, help me to see my husband the way you see him. Help me to show grace in this situation and in our marriage. Give me your eyes, your heart, your love for my beloved. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When your spouse blows it, try something like that. Pray for grace. You might be surprised how that will help you see things in a different light.

♥   ♥   ♥

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