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?
Determine who to speak to.
Easier said than done, right? But generally speaking, you have two good options:
- 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.
- 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.
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?