I’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).