Tag Archives: praying for marriage

Asking Others to Pray for Your Marriage

One benefit of being in Christian community is having other people pray for you when you’re in the midst of a struggle. There is both comfort and power in praying for one another.

There is both comfort and power in praying for one another. #marriage Click To Tweet

But when my husband and I struggled in our marriage, I don’t recall asking others for prayer. Our problems seemed too personal, too private, and too risky to share with others. What if people looked at us differently after learning how close we were to divorce? What if they responded not simply by praying but offering ongoing advice? What if they shared our problems with others — that is, gossiped about us?

Good relationships require vulnerability and trust. I talk a lot about that in marriage and specifically the marriage bed, but you also need those traits in friendship. And they should be present in a loving church.

Of course, should be doesn’t equal is. Some church communities provide a safe and supportive environment, but some of you have been burned, so to speak. I ache for you, and I pray that you don’t blame God or the Church at large for the failings of some of His people.

But Christians should intentionally create an atmosphere in which individuals and couples can present their concerns to fellow believers and know that they will be covered with prayer, support, and compassion.

To get the support you need, however, let’s think practically about how you can ask others to pray for your marriage and even the sexual intimacy in your marriage. How much should you reveal? And to whom? How can you effectively request the kind of prayer you need?

Blog post title + small group of believers praying together

Determine who to speak to.

Easier said than done, right? But generally speaking, you have two good options:

  1. A person or couple who knows you and your spouse well, and will therefore be invested in maintaining your privacy, following through with prayer, and going to God on behalf of not only you individually but your marriage.
  2. A ministry leader, including a pastor, whose calling is to care for the individuals and relationships in the church. Oftentimes, people in such positions have established policies about how to handle information shared in confidence and a sense of accountability to pray for parishioners.

Be clear about what you’re asking.

Dumping all of your marriage concerns, especially if they involve sexual intimacy, on someone can overwhelm them. What does someone do with that information? They want to help, but what role should they fill?

Make your parameters clear: “For the time being, I’m just asking for you to pray about our situation.” If you’re pursuing other avenues of improving your marriage, tell the person what those are, so they don’t feel like they have to be your marriage’s personal champion. For instance, “we’re seeing a marriage counselor, but I could really use additional prayer” or “I’ve been reading up on the issues in our marriage bed, and I’m still figuring out which path for healing to pursue. Could you help by praying for our marriage’s direction?”

It’s a good idea to let supporters specialize according to their spiritual giftedness (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Peter 4:10). Some people have deep compassion and a heart for prayer; others have excellent practical advice for your marriage; and yet others have a calling and training to deal with serious marriage problems. Be clear that you’re not burdening a single individual to fulfill all of these roles. You just want this person or couple to be your prayer ally.

Don’t reveal more information than you should.

Explain what’s happening on a need-to-know basis. What specifics do these advocates need to have when going before God? You don’t want to a friend or church leader to know details that make them highly uncomfortable or that make them see you or your spouse in an unnecessarily bad light. There’s a reason why TMI has become a well-known acronym; don’t make your prayer advocate want to use it about you.

This is especially important regarding struggles in the marriage bed. No one needs or wants to know your specific sexual activities, the size or nature of anyone’s body parts, or what you two have privately said to one another in your bedroom. At least no one that you recruit to pray for you. If you need help with such issues, take them to a qualified individual, whether that’s a physician, a pastor, or hey, a Christian sex blogger. Dump them on people ready and able to address those problems, but give your prayer pal just enough to pray with some specificity for your marriage.

Keep your advocate(s) updated.

Has God answered one of your prayer requests? Tell the person or people who are praying for you! Let their next prayer be thanking God for His presence and goodness. Have your prayer needs changed? Tell your allies what you and your spouse need now, so they can adjust their prayer requests. Do you feel like things are just getting worse? Tell them so they can add hope and perseverance to the list.

Prayer for your marriage will likely to be a long-term undertaking. Stay in contact and let those praying for you know when and how the prayers should be modified to stay current. In doing so, you’re also showing your gratitude for that prayer.

Intimacy Revealed book ad - click for more info or to buyFinally, let me share a personal story showing why it’s important not just to confess your struggles but to ask specific people for prayer.

Years back, when my husband and I were going through the Crap Fest part of our marriage, I shared what was going on with a friend in our church. I didn’t tell her what I needed or wanted, but rather vomited my concerns and feelings right at her feet. About a week later, I was standing in our church gym after worship, where people milled about and children — including mine — played. An elder walked right up to me and said he’d heard that our marriage wasn’t doing well.

As you might imagine, I felt blindsided. Not only did my friend break my confidence and tell someone, without any warning, but this church leader chose a public area in which to confront me. I was disheartened, angry, and ashamed.

I wriggled out of the conversation as quickly as possible, grabbed my children, and left. It took longer for me to pursue further help within my church, because this one incident had left me feeling betrayed.

For a long time, I’ve placed all the blame for that inappropriate encounter on my friend and the church leader. But I think I was at fault too. I didn’t go to the right people for the right things. I could have availed myself of some resources to help our marriage and let the church leaders know, at an appropriate time and place, what was going on. But all I really needed from my friend was her support and prayer. And I think if I’d asked for that, she’d have obliged.

What advice do you have for asking others to pray for your marriage?

Praying for the Victims of #MeToo

On Saturdays, I’ve been posting about prayers that involve sexual intimacy in your marriage. With my recent Q&A post, and one I have planned about that issue next week, I thought it would be a good time to pause and pray for those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, and harassment.

Blog Post Title with close-up of woman praying in background

The current wave of allegations and the many #MeToo stories have prompted our nation, and others, to take a look at the culture that has far too long overlooked, dismissed, or opposed those who have been victims of sexual mistreatment.

Sometimes I hear people say this is a recent problem, but it’s not. The Bible mentions sexual harassment and assault. For instance:

  • Dinah’s brothers took revenge on the man (and his family) who raped their sister, saying that she was “defiled” (See Genesis 34).
  • Boaz told his men not lay a hand on Ruth as she gleaned in his fields, indicating that he knew overseers used their positions to approach and even harass women. (See Ruth 2:1-9).
  • King David’s son Amnon lied to his half-sister to get her into his room (sound like any of the “come to my hotel room” harassment stories?) and then raped her. (See 2 Samuel 13:1-22).

What’s recent is the ongoing news headlines and the tangible consequences befalling perpetrators of harassment and assault.

In the wake of all this, plenty of women have felt triggered by the news, by the personal stories, by the discussions. Some have responded with anger, some with sorrow, some with numbness. Some have had to step away because bringing up the memories makes the wounds sting once again.

For all of you — in whatever way you’ve been abused, assaulted, or harassed — I want to offer a prayer.

For all of you—in whatever way you've been abused, assaulted, or harassed—I want to offer a prayer. Click To Tweet

Lord, Father,

We know it breaks Your heart when Your children mistreat Your other children. May it always break our hearts too!

In this time of #MeToo, we are like Jeremiah who proclaimed, “What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city” (Lamentations 3:51). So many women have come forward with stories of sexual  assault and harassment they endured, and it brings grief to our souls. Men too have been victims and struggle to tell their stories as well, and for them our hearts ache.

God, the sexuality that You created for good, Satan has twisted and nudged others to use for their own pleasure and their own gain. People in positions of power, financially or culturally or physically, have abused those to whom they owed honor (Matthew 20:25-28, Luke 14:7-11). At times, it seems that such people prosper without consequences, that they are getting away with mistreatment and even evil toward others.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand” (Psalm 10:14). We commit all victims to you, the helper of the fatherless and defender of the oppressed (see Psalm 10:-13-18). 

We pray for Your justice — that You will “call the evildoer to account for his wickedness that would not otherwise be found out” (v. 15). Make us Your vessels of justice, giving us the courage to speak out against oppressors and to seek justice for those wronged.

We pray for Your mercy — that You will “hear the desire of the afflicted,” “encourage them,” and “listen to their cry” (v. 17). Blanket them with Your presence. Make us Your vessels of mercy, giving us compassion to reach out to those oppressed and to provide comfort for their hurt.

We know that You understand the pain so many have gone through. High-ranking people used their power to mistreat Your one and only Son. Jesus Christ was disrespected, dishonored, and abused in so many ways. He was stripped and mocked (Matthew 27:27-29), mercilessly beaten (John 19:1-3), and crucified on a cross (Luke 23:33). Because Your Son has been there, Lord, You understand and know the pain so many have felt.

When it comes to marriage, some with #Me Too stories have brought bad feelings about sex, or even men, into their relationship. They struggle with wounds and triggers and baggage that don’t seem to go away. Lord, lift that burden! We pray that they will take Your yoke instead, the one that is easy, and thus find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). Help these victims to see Your plan for sexual intimacy and to view it as a beautiful gift. Give them Your perspective of their husbands and/or their sexuality, so that they can fully enjoy the blessings you have in store, both for them and their marriage.

For those who have assaulted and harassed, Lord, we pray that You will to prick their hearts. Show them that confession and repentance is the way to healing. Help them avoid sexual misconduct in the future and to “learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Do not let them be deceived by the lure of power, but rather turn their hearts to showing respect and care for those in their midst.

God, make Your Church the community that can lead the way. Help us to promote the biblical command to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17), to be the light of the world and the city on a hill showing what should be (Matthew 5:14-16) in how we treat one another and those we encounter. Help us to see clearly what is happening in our midst and to take action when we should.

Your Word tells us that “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). Be ever-present in this time in our history, this “#MeToo movement,” when wrong deeds are coming to light and we as Christians have an opportunity to join the path of righteousness and justice.

And God, right now, this very moment, someone is being abused, assaulted, harassed. Give them a voice. Guide the faithful to be there to listen and to support the victim. Help us to stop these cycles as much as we can. Lord, we know that evil will be with us until You come again, but each person we can help matters to You. May every one of them matter just as much to us.

In the name of Your blessed Son, and through the Holy Spirit,

Amen.

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Praying When You Don’t Know What to Pray

As I contemplated what to say about prayer this Saturday, as part of my ongoing series about praying for your marriage bed, I felt empty. What else could I possibly cover? But then a passage from Romans came to mind—in that pushy way that scriptures sometimes do, as if the Holy Spirit is whispering, “Listen up, this one’s for you.”

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. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)

Question mark with blog post title

And that, I suppose, is our prayer when we don’t know what we ought to pray for. It’s that moment of saying that we feel weak when it comes to our sexual intimacy, that our own strength isn’t enough to deal with the problems in our bedroom or to simply foster what we know our marriage should have.

It’s wishing that the Spirit would search our heart and see the good motives yet the heartache or exhaustion we feel surrounding this issue. Or simply seeing the few hangups that remain, even when we have good sexual intimacy in marriage overall.

It’s needing to know that God has it covered — that He’s working for our good. It’s trusting that God can and will care for those who love Him.

Yes, I know this passage is about salvation and living out our faith, about persisting through earthly struggles that threaten our relationship with God and our belief in Christ. I agree with those who say we need to consider the clear intent of any scripture in the Bible and not mistakenly apply something where it was never meant to be applied.

However, I also believe in underlying principles in the Bible — that the character of God, the virtues extolled in Scripture, the calling we have remains constant in every area of lives. Whether you’re in a Bible class, a boardroom, or the bedroom, your faith should be there with you.

So even this passage speaks to who we are in the marriage bed — about our need admit our weakness, to trust God’s goodness, and to just go before Him, wordless and knowing that He understands where we are and will be there with us.

Maybe that’s what you need to do today. Maybe your prayer is simply admitting that you don’t know what to pray for, but you want God involved in your life and in your marriage.

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How Should You Pray for Your Spouse?

In my last post on prayer, My Biggest Problem with “Pray for Your Marriage”, one wife left this thoughtful comment:

Another problem I have when people talk about praying for one’s marriage is the advice that you shouldn’t pray for your spouse to change, you should pray for God to help YOU to change. This may be right in many cases, but if one spouse is cheating or abusing, or addicted to something, or I could go on, the other spouse SHOULD pray for the one in the wrong to change (along with taking appropriate action, like you said). I get sick and tired of the the burden of needing to change being put on the spouse who is already faithful, committed, and trying so hard.

True. I’ve written about how you’re the only person you can actually change in your marriage and how we shouldn’t focus prayer on our spouse doing all the changing. But I also believe it is very important to pray for your husband.

Now if we’re not supposed to be just praying for God to change our husband, yet we should be praying for him, what does that look like? How should you pray for your spouse?

close-up of woman praying + blog post title

Gratitude.

How about thanking God for your husband? In Ephesians 1:16, the apostle Paul says this about his friends in Christ: “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Marriage author Gary Thomas had a wonderful post recently sharing how he kept a gratitude journal about for a year and how it changed his approach to wake up each day thanking God for her. When you make gratitude a focus of prayer, your perspective of the person you’re praying for alters: You tend to see them in a better light.

Thanking God regularly for your spouse — with specifics about why — means you’ll focus on your beloved’s positive aspects, you’ll look for the blessings of being married, and you’ll find less to complain about.

If you’re in a rough patch, you might find this a tall order. But I bet you can find something, no matter how small, about your husband that you can show gratitude for. Start where you are, and let your thankfulness and positivity grow.

Wisdom.

Oh, this is where my prayers about my husband have lived for a long time. When I stopped praying, “Hey, God, could you fix my husband while I sit over here with a front-row seat for the transformation?” I replaced many of those prayers with, “Hey, God, could you give me the wisdom to understand my husband better? To communicate effectively with him? To show him Christ-like love?”

Now, this is praying for myself, but it’s also praying for my husband. Because as part of those conversations, I ask God that my husband will be open to what was happening with me — that my efforts will be received in a positive manner. I need wisdom and guidance from God, but I also want God to pave the way with my husband.

Pray for wisdom in how to love your particular husband the way he needs to feel love. Pray that your husband will be open to the love you express through Christ.

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His life.

I distinctly recall going through a small-group study of the popular book, The Power of a Praying Wife. The author, Stormie Omartian, walks participants through praying for different areas of their husbands’ lives, such as His Work, His Finances, and His Sexuality.

Since I went through the study around the second half of The Worst Years of my marriage, I’d like to revisit that study and see what it would reveal about myself, my husband, and my prayer life now. But I remember enough to believe that it was a great idea to go to God specifically with concerns about your husband’s life and ask for His divine guidance.

Think about what issues your husband faces and pray for his protection and wisdom in those areas.

His heart.

Yep, it’s perfectly fine to pray for your husband to have a change of heart. Paul said in Romans 10:1: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” That’s an apostle praying to God that people’s hearts will be changed.

What’s important about this prayer is to make sure you’re wanting God to change your husband for his sake. That is, your prayer shouldn’t be that God make your husband into the image you want him to be, but into the image of God. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And we must heed Christ’s words about confessing our sins and asking God to change us as well:

 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42).

Pray for a change of heart, especially when your husband is steeped in sin, but also recognize that God will not force that change. In Revelation 3:20, we have this promise: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Pray for God to knock (hard) on your husband’s door, but recognize that God won’t wrench the door open — as part of his free will, your husband must open that door.

So keep praying for his heart, but also pray for those other things. And especially pray for God to show you where you can change for the better, where you can have a positive influence, where you can wisely pursue intimacy in your marriage.

Same image as above, sized for Pinterest

My Biggest Problem with “Pray for Your Marriage”

It’s October, and I’m still talking about prayer! That’s because my goal this year has been to pray more, especially for marriage.

I’ve encouraged you to be praying for your marriage and your marriage bed as well, including unity with your spouse, sexual temptation, and perspective. And I’ve been encouraged by you sharing your prayer habits and thoughts. But today I want to tackle one of the problems I see with the ongoing appeal to “pray for your marriage.”

blog post title + black-and-white image of woman praying (close-up)

Sometimes prayer is touted as the cure-all to every ill in marriage and life. You’re arguing with your husband? Pray for unity. You’re struggling with your sex drive? Pray for its awakening. You’re battling a porn habit? Pray for release. You’re two steps away from divorce? Pray for restoration of your marriage.

And all of that is great. You definitely should “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). The problem is when we stop there and make it sound like prayer will resolve all of your issues.

But prayer is communication with God, and we have to also listen to what He says in those moments and in His Word and then apply it to our lives.

I know this from experience, because in the pit-dwelling years of my marriage, I prayed. A LOT. Everything from quiet reflection with God, to Scripture-focused prayer, to yelling and crying at Him for help. It felt like He wasn’t answering my prayer, because hadn’t He promised to deliver me? Psalm 91:14 says it this way:

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16).

I was acknowledging His name regularly, loudly, desperately, yet my marriage slipped further and further into a black hole of despair.

Ah, the power of hindsight! It frankly makes me want to kick that younger me who expected God to fix everything while I continued to hold on to my mistaken viewpoints, my poor habits, and my selfish plans.

Let’s flip a couple of pages further in Psalms and learn more the character of God:

Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
  the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
  till a pit is dug for the wicked (Psalm 94:12-13).

Wow, that doesn’t sound nearly as awesome as Superhero God swooping in to rescue me with little effort on my part — just holding on to His caped person while He flies me away from trouble. But that ignores that God wants us to be a part of the plan.

Or rather, that IS the plan. Our Lord longs to rescue us, but He won’t swoop in when He knows that we need to grow more through the experience.

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Imagine God like a father with a toddler learning to walk. If the dad grabs his daughter every time it looks like she might fall, she won’t ever take those first steps. Instead, He’s there the whole time, listening to us, teaching us, scooping us up and comforting us when we stumble, and helping us learn to walk and then to run.

Prayer is inviting God into that experience. It’s reaching out your arms, looking directly at your Father, and walking toward Him. And then, applying what you’ve learned to the life you lead.

You have to act. What actions you need to take depend on your situation. But let’s take the issues I mentioned above:

  • You’re arguing with your husband? Pray for unity. And take an in-depth look at what changes you need to make, speak candidly and calmly with your husband, and consider attending a marriage course or getting marriage counseling.
  • You’re struggling with your sex drive? Pray for its awakening. And see your doctor to determine if there are health issues involved, check out a low libido resource like the online course from Sheila Gregoire or the devotional study from Bonny Burns, and listen to our podcast for regular tips on improving sexual intimacy.
  • You’re battling a porn habit? Pray for release. And confess your struggle to your spouse and a trusted mentor in your church, install filters on your computer or get rid of devices that tempt you, and seek out ministries that can help you break free like XXX Church.
  • You’re two steps away from divorce? Pray for restoration of your marriage. And see a counselor, either with your husband or without, to figure out what you can do to actively work toward reconciliation, and tell a church leader what’s going on and invite their intervention.

Also, let me add that the times when this advice to “just pray for your marriage” make me crazy are when:

  1. A spouse is serially unfaithful. If your spouse doesn’t give a hoot about the damage they’re doing to your marriage with their infidelity, you don’t cower in your closet and simply pray. Yes, you pray mightily, but you also set boundaries and leave if they don’t change their behavior.
  2. A spouse is abusive. You can’t just pray that a spouse will stop smacking you or calling you every name in the book. Jesus Himself said that He was sent here in part “to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Get out, and if he wants to stop being abusive, he can change, win your heart back, and renew the marriage covenant.

Should you pray for your marriage? Absolutely! Just don’t stop there. Also actively work toward resolving the problems you face.

Should you pray for your marriage? Absolutely! Just don't stop there. Click To Tweet

This shift started me on the path to healing and happiness in my own marriage: I stopped expecting God to swoop down and fix it all and started applying Scripture and the insights He showed me to my daily life. I continued to pray, but I also got off my butt and put real effort toward making our marriage better. Or rather, making me better, since I was the only one I could change.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

blog post title + black-and-white image of woman praying (close-up) - sized for Pinterest