Today I pray for parents of handicapped children. I can’t imagine the challenges and have no idea what they face every day, but I pray for a special grace and mercy for them. I pray for patience and extra oodles of love. I pray for a strong-knit community to come around them in love with help and encouragement. I pray for getaways and breaks and date nights. I pray for financial help and dependable assistance. I pray against bitterness and anger. I pray for a unique one-ness in the marriage relationship. I pray that their marriages will get stronger through caring for these children instead of getting strained and broken. I pray that the marriage will remain a top priority and that it won’t be sacrificed even for the sake of the children.
Today I pray for marriages that are strained by the sadness of children who don’t know Jesus. I pray against finger-pointing and shame and blame. I pray for hope and an understanding that only God can change hearts. I pray for grace toward the children instead of lecturing, pressuring, and rejecting. I pray for the children that they will come to know Jesus. And I pray that the spouses will grow super close as they learn to love their children in effective, Christ-focused ways.
It was a hot, sticky summer day in 1985, and my friend, Elizabeth, and I were running through the sprinkler. As she ran first, squealing when she felt the water, I watched her 8-year-old body jump over the sprinkler head. I remember thinking how beautiful her muscular legs were; she was so strong and agile. She stopped on the other side and looked over her shoulder for me, but I was not with her—I stood where she left me admiring her athleticism. I smiled and jogged over to her.
Her eyebrows were cross by the time I joined her side. “I hate my thighs,” she proclaimed.
“What are thighs?” I asked.
“This part of your leg,” and she patted the big part of her legs that gave her the power to leap so high over the frenetic water spray. They jiggled a bit and I giggled a bit.
“Why do you hate your thighs?” I asked as I picked my swimming suit out of my booty crack.
“Because they’re fat. They get really fat when I sit down.”
Hmmmm. I recalled seeing mine do that, too.
“Oh. Well, I hate my thighs, too.” And I did. Now that I knew what made thighs detestable, I hated mine. Despised them. Was ashamed of them. And began a campaign to hide them and change them.
In the almost 30 years since that pivotal moment in my development of my body image, I’ve weighed a lot, I’ve weighed a little. I’ve been a couch potato and I’ve run half marathons. I have worn short skirts and I have gone to great lengths to cover up. And I have given birth twice.
I remember reading about all the ways a woman’s body changes after having a baby and hearing stories from my girlfriends, like the one who, after breastfeeding all of her children, can roll her boobs up like pancakes. After my first baby, I didn’t notice a lot of changes. I didn’t even have stretchmarks from the pregnancy. But the second baby, a little porker, wreaked havoc on my body. I carried her low and she weighed down, heavy. Gravity kicked in in ways I had never imagined, dragging my body parts with it.
My daughter’s birth was perfect and beautiful, just like in the movies. She was placed on my belly, red and bruised and squishy. As my husband and I cried and exchanged meaningful looks across our baby, she nuzzled up my body to find my breast, latching hard and hungrily.
Unlike my son, who was a NICU baby, my little girl stayed with me in my hospital room. We had an extended stay, and I would watch the clock ticking away the moments until I was permitted to take her out of the hospital bassinet, unbutton my pajamas, and draw her to me, our skin touching and mingling and trading hormones. Her front would be warm from the lamps, but her back would be chilly. I would wrap us in blankets to keep her warm, cuddling her against my bareness and delighting in her perfection.
During that time, I did not see how my thighs spread fat as I lay back in the hospital bed or how my abdomen still looked pregnant; instead, I felt how strong my legs and back were from carrying this child for 9 months, and I marveled at what a perfect cradle my swollen stomach was for holding her as she nursed. My big arms were like wings around her spindly baby body, mimicking the womb and protecting her from this strange, harsh world.
When my 18-month-old came to visit, he crawled into bed with me, tentatively curious about the baby but really seeking the comfort of his mama’s body. My wide torso fit both babies snuggled in my embrace, my heart beat the familiar rhythm meant to calm them as their bobble heads lay on my soft pillow of a chest. The anxiety that met my son when he saw the new baby melted away when he found his cradle spot in the crease between my cushy upper arm and the side of my breast. His head rested easy and secure, his heart rested safe.
Six months later I examine my body. Stretchmarks, hippier hips, fuller face, juicy thighs, fat fingers, leaky breasts, marshmallow arms. Some changes will reverse in time and some won’t. And for the first time since that summer of 1985, I am not dismayed at my spreading thighs or my other physical imperfections. When my husband celebrates my body, when my son nestles his head against my shoulder with his arms tight around my neck, when my daughter nurses at my large breast, I look at myself and think, This is the way my body should look. It has experienced and adventured through years of life. It has made life and given birth to life and sustained life and protected life. It should not come out of that unscathed or unchanged or unmarked.
I do not know what happened to Elizabeth or what she thinks of her thighs now. But I know what I think of mine—I love them. I love how fat they get when I sit down. I love how they jiggle when I run after my son at the park. I love how they spread twice to make room for life entering this world. I look at this scarred, changed, strong, lopsided, plump body, and instead of feeling shame for what it hasn’t done, I joyfully and proudly celebrate what it has done.
When we did our 100 Days of Praying for Marriage a couple of years ago, we wanted to pray for couples who have suffered the death of a child but I was at a loss. I couldn’t imagine the depth of the pain and the subsequent emotions after losing a child, much less how it would affect a marriage. So I asked my aunt, whose second son died when he was just five years old. I don’t remember him because I was just a baby, but I always felt like I knew him–our family speaks of him regularly as though it were just yesterday he was running around with a football and telling people about Jesus. I feel blessed to know him even in this way, and I look so forward to getting to spend eternity getting to know him face to face.
Anyway, my aunt had powerful, wise insight into how to pray for these couples. I have prayed her words many times and hope that it spurs your heart to pray for these couples as well. Last year, my aunt went to be with Jesus after a 20+ year battle with cancer. Praying her words brings me comfort now, knowing that she and her little boy have been reunited.
For each person to respect the other way of grieving. Pray that the couple would be able to commit to a prayer time together to help get through this. To set a separate time for the whole family to pray together. Pray specifically for God to help them rely on each other like never before. Pray for them to be open with one another. That they will not feel the need to protect each other from more suffering by not sharing with one another. In other words. Being truthful and open.
Aaron and I do not have a lot of experience fighting. We’ve been married for almost 7 years, and we just don’t fight all that often, for a variety of reasons. So when we do, I’m always taken by surprise. We have friends who have several fights a day, and I can count our fights on one hand. The danger is that if we’re not careful and thoughtful about fighting, we won’t do it well. I don’t want to be caught off guard when conflict does come up; also, we want to make sure we engage in redemptive conflict that prompts each of us toward Jesus and toward each other.
Anyway, I really loved this article, which speaks to why we shouldn’t be surprised when we fight with our spouses. I hope it encourages you!
My friend Jackie suggested today’s prayer, and I love it. She suggested praying for people who realize their spouse is not their best friend anymore–for the devastation that realization brings and the sadness and heart break. I pray for the relationship, that it can be mended and that true pursuit can begin again. I pray against anger and bitterness but for hope and joy in the promise of love. I pray that both spouses will remember why they married each other in the first place and rekindle and nurture that joy of discovery.
Today I want to pray for relationships with in-laws. What a weird relationship–people are forced together to be family by no choice of their own but simply a mutual love for one person. I’ve seen this relationship flourish and bloom immediately and and also struggle and struggle for years. Our relationship with Aaron’s parents has certainly not been easy and has been quite rocky at times, and as the years go by, I pray for God’s redemptive hand to weave beautiful things in our family. But it can be heart-breaking and messy along the way.
So today I pray for in-law relationships. I pray for humility, selfless love, a willingness to release (truly release) any expectations of the other party, the ability to submit to one another, abounding forgiveness, strength against resentment, forgetfulness of past hurts, and a true love for one another that is not tainted by ulterior motives. I pray for creative ways to reach out and relate, insight into how to love each other effectively, healthy boundaries, respect for boundaries, respect for each couple and how their own family functions, and a true biblical understanding of family.
We are down to the last stretch of our 100 days of praying for marriage. I have to admit I have struggled the past 67 days to remember to pray every day. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me, and even then I often turn it off and get distracted before I am able to take a few minutes to pray. It makes me feel crummy and lame. And then I think, there is no expectation here! No one is going to love me less if I miss a day here or there. God is not checking off boxes on my behavior chart to see if I will earn a gold star. There is grace not just in the cracks, but in the big gaping holes. Plus, I have seen some really neat stuff so far, like my husband extending forgiveness to me on the day we were praying for forgiveness in marriage (for the record, he had no idea I was praying for forgiveness that day). Though I don’t understand it, I know God works through prayer, and I am honored to have a way to be a part of that and a way to communicate to the God of the universe.
This last third of the prayers I/we will be praying for specific issues in marriages. So if you have prayer requests or something on your heart and mind, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list. I am going to start by sharing a prayer for marriage by one of my favorite authors/pastors, Scotty Smith.
Lord Jesus, we come before your throne of grace today bringing marriages with us—our own and those of our friends’. Everywhere we look, there seems to be a growing number of friends who are discouraged, disconnected, despairing—even dying in their marriages. This makes us sad, but it doesn’t really shock us, for a couple of reasons.
It makes complete sense that the powers of darkness would assault the one relationship meant to tell the story of your great love for your bride. Of course marriage is going to be a war zone—the front lines of spiritual warfare until the day you return. Satan hates you, he hates the gospel, and therefore he hates your bride and he hates marriage. Of course marriage is going to be difficult—for there is no other relationship on the face of the earth which has more power to expose us and make us vulnerable, and arouse our longings and desires. Of course marriage is going to require your daily mercies and your steadfast love.
Like so many of us, I came into marriage with a little gospel and big naïveté. I had no clue about the depths of my brokenness, the degree of my selfishness, or the devices of my sinfulness. I had no clue about what a “normal” marriage was supposed to look like, much less a healthy one. I had no clue about what it would take to love one person well the rest of my life (or even in the next hour)—a person who needs the gospel just as much as I do.
And I certainly had no clue that only your love is better than life; that only your love can slake the deepest thirst of my heart; that only your love can offer the intimacy we crave and for which we’ve been made. Jesus, only your love can free us to love another sinful spouse the way you love us as your spouse—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. Only your love, only your love is enough.
Lord Jesus, we pray for our friends, and we pray for ourselves. Protect us from the evil one and rescue us from ourselves. Show us how to care for one another in ways that bring your glory. Bring hope to the hopeless, conviction to the foolish, nourishment to the famished, grace to the betrayed, and repentance to the betrayers. When we want to “bolt,” may we bolt to you, quickly and surely. Prove yourself, yet again, to be Immanuel—the God who is for us and with us. So very Amen we pray, sobered and expectant, in your loving and powerful name.