Our 100 days of praying for marriage have come to an end. It’s funny how at the beginning I struggled to come up with things to pray about, but now I have a list of ways to pray that I didn’t get to. Obviously we’ll all continue to pray individually as we are led, but I will miss the communion of praying with my sisters in this way. Thank you for joining me, encouraging me, and praying for me. This has been a blessing, and so have you!
Today I am praying for marriages in which one spouse is chronically or terminally ill. I pray for humility for the caretaker and humility for the sick person as they learn to love each other by serving and accepting help. I pray for patience, tenderness, openness, intimacy, honesty. I pray for others to come around the couple and help! I pray against despair, resentment, exhaustion, entitlement, bitterness. I pray for utter dependence on Jesus and a deep understanding of His character and of God as Sovereign healer, tender father, compassionate protector. I pray for hope and miracles and healing, both physical and emotional. I pray for a heightened joy in understanding our bodies are temporary and our pain is temporary. I pray for excitement for what the sacrifices of illness bring in intimacy with each other and Christ and relationships that would never be close to how amazing they are after suffering together and leaning in Jesus’ everlasting arms.
I am praying for the rejected. Those who are rejected by their spouses either emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically, sexually, etc. Those who have been rejected by their children, in-laws, church, friends. Those who have been rejected by a potential spouse, thus denying them the blessing of marriage. I am praying that the rejected believe their value in God’s eyes over their value in others’ eyes. I am praying that God reveals himself to them in a mighty but tender way, shouting his love from the rooftops in the most intimate manner, convincing their hearts beyond a doubt that his love for them is worth a million times the love of all earthly kings.
I also am praying for those who are alone in their marriages, whether they’ve been abandoned physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I am praying for people who have no one to share their burden, for those who are alone in figuring out how to make ends meet and how to raise the children and how to even face the next day. I am praying for those whose spouses have checked out emotionally and no longer interact meaningfully, who use poor substitutes for love, who give up on their marriage, who refuse to acknowledge marriage is not about them, but about Jesus Christ. My heart aches for those who spoke their vows with the joy and hope of a life-long partner and who have been heart-breakingly disappointed both by choice and by death or illness.
And I pray that those of use around these alone people will not turn a blind eye toward them, but will have the courage to reach out, to surround them in love and mercy, to make sure that they are not alone any longer.
A friend emailed me a prayer for marriages that have been tainted by pornography. There are so many reasons to pray for these marriages. So many marriages are affected by pornography whether it’s a spouse who is currently struggling with it or it’s something that was struggled with before the marriage but still pops in occasionally to bring shame or temptation or anger. Pornography never enters and leaves someone’s life without a negative impact. There are so many ways it affects both the husband and the wife, as well as the children in the family. Men become ashamed and angry, feeling helpless and embarrassed to seek help, thus spiraling deeper down into the sin. Women feel rejected and hurt, abandoned and ashamed in their perception of inadequacy. As I’ve walked through this issue with several women and read a lot about it, what stands out to me are the lies. The lies the man has to tell himself to justify the sin, the lies he tells his wife, the lies he tells his friends who want to love him. The lies the woman believes about herself and her value, the lies she believes about why her husband is doing this, the lies she puts on her face before meeting with her friends so she doesn’t have to endure the embarrassment of sharing the truth. And the other thing that stands out to me is the shame–walking through life believing you are slave to sin or unlovable. Shame that prevents you from remembering who God says you are despite your fleshy struggles. Shame that prevents you from looking up from your own depraved state to the cross–to the Lord who loves you dearly and wants to deliver you from your misery. And while I talk of pornography as being a sin men deal with, we know that it is increasingly an issue for women as well. Again, there are so so so many things to pray for, but my main prayer today is deliverance from sin, deliverance from shame, deliverance from lies; protection of the marriage and healing between husband and wife; open community where couples can share freely and without embarrassment; a true understanding and confidence in their true identity in Christ and the ability to live in that identity instead of the flesh every day; a growing love for one another as they struggle through together; and an understanding of the sinned-against spouse to understand that their spouse’s sin is not a reflection of their own value.
When I was a girl full of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Janette Oke books, and the romantic comedies of the 90s, I thought the most romantic fate was that of a minister’s wife. Of course, to me that meant living in a parsonage next to a tiny stone church, having ladies over for tea, wearing white dresses and wearing lavender in my hair, gathering heather on the moors, and having roses in my garden all year long. My mother wrote the following in my baby book:
Blythe declared that she will marry a minister, live in a pink house with white shutters and a white picket fence, have six children, and name two of her sons Ashley Graham and Ellery Prescott. Will her plan come to reality?!
Praise God my plan did not come to reality! For that would mean no Rockstar (in fact, when we were dating, I made sure he didn’t feel called to the ministry–that would have been a deal breaker for me!), and a difficult life of self-sacrificing, selflessness, and sharing my husband with an entire church. Women who marry men in the ministry have a very demanding, high calling, and I think we often think that their lives are lovely or everyone likes them or they have all the support they need or their marriages are perfect.
I have had a few readers request prayers for ministry marriages, and so I asked a very close friend of mine whose husband is one of the pastors of a local church for some help. So today, I am praying for these marriages in these ways that she suggested, which have given me such a better understanding of what these couples face every day:
- Protection from spiritual warfare
- Stewardship of time and energy
- Ability to handle graciously and with love criticism from church members
- Stress from the sacrifice of long hours, low pay, and little medical or personal benefits
- Implications of constantly being under a microscope with people always monitoring their behavior and looking to them as an example
- Wisdom to set appropriate marriage boundaries to protect against over-working
- Quality time as a couple (and dependable babysitters if living far from family)
- Practical help for the family
- Grace to respond in love and forgive a church culture often lacking in gratitude for their pastors and families
Graciously, my friend also shared with me ways to support and encourage our pastors and their families:
- Take care of your pastors (sadly, after a decade in ministry, this friend can count on one hand the amount of times people have remembered them during pastor appreciation month [October])
- Respect your pastor’s boundaries
- Pray for your pastor and his family
- Remember that in many cases, your church has hired the pastor and not the wife; pastors’ wives can easily feel immense pressure to be at church all the time, fill in the missing ministry gaps, etc. Pray for pastors’ wives to feel grace and freedom.
I cannot imagine the heartbreak of infertility. It’s such a private, deep pain. Even though I have children of my own, my first thought on Mother’s Day when we celebrate mothers in church is for the men and women in the pews (or chables, if you’re at my church) who are struggling with infertility. This article is so insightful and heart breaking all at the same time, but it helped me greatly. Let’s pray for these families together today.
I can’t imagine surviving an affair. We have friends who have done just that, though, and the redemption and restoration of their marriage has been beautiful. While I love that, I think avoiding an affair in the first place is wise. Today I’m praying against affairs and appreciating these wise words.
A few years ago, someone I love got a divorce. The sad irony is that when this person got married in the first place, they were counseled to wait for many reasons. After the divorce, they said that they never should have married in the first place, and they cited the reasons given to them all those years ago before the wedding. It was awful and ugly and caused widespread pain and hurt. My understanding was this person was not happy and hadn’t been in a long time. I think we can all relate to that on some level. Which is why I appreciate this article very much.
There are so many great books on marriage. I have a few that I’ve read and loved, but sometimes you don’t have time or energy for an entire book. In those cases, I’m grateful for articles like this.
One of my All-Time-Favorite People in the world is going through a really tough season in her life right now. Really tough. I am clumsily trying to walk this struggle with her. I say all the wrong things and misunderstand and trip over my words. And yet she still invites me in to her heart, and I love her for it. We have a recurring conversation lately: how do you pursue healing without making health an idol? In other words, when you are navigating a broken world and are in a dark, hurtful place of pain, how do you respond in such a way that you do not get distracted by wanting deliverance more than you want the Deliverer?
In my head, I want to offer a solution, to fix her situation: If you just do this, then this will happen and all will be well and you can get on with your life! But I keep my mouth shut because I don’t actually have the answers, and saying those things would just serve to demean her problems and cause further hurt. Instead, I pray with her and seek Christ with her and hope in our good God that this season will be short.
A friend recently posted an answered prayer to a health crisis on her Facebook wall. The first comment read, “God is good!”
Yes, God IS good. But when I see that kind of response to good news, I always think, what if the health crisis had ended in tragedy? Would that person have commented, “Horrible news. God is bad.” No, of course not. Yet I can’t help but think what we really mean when we respond with “God is good” is “Hooray! We got what we wanted—isn’t that awesome?! God is good because he answered our prayer the way we asked him to.”
I often hear the argument, If God is so good, why does he let bad things happen?
I’ve experienced enough struggle and sadness to know the answer: I don’t want a God who is limited to my understanding of Good. I actually want a God who works in mysterious ways, who uses suffering to produce beauty, who understands that Good always trumps Evil, who won’t let me be satisfied with a surfacey goodness that I measure by how happy I am in the moment. I want to trust a God who fights for Goodness in my life by providing journeys that walk through muck and mire. I don’t want to be satisfied with quail and mud pies. I want to hurt, yearn, and suffer so that I can experience the depth of peace and hope and eventual redemption. That is Goodness!
Or so I say.
And now one of my All-Time-Favorite People is hurting. I have cried out to God on her behalf—deliver her! Please, Lord, save her! Please, Lord, help her to escape. I picture her alone in a deep well. I am at the top, trying to reach her, but my arm is pathetically short. I wonder if I should try to tell her how to get out of the well—maybe there are footholds she could find if she looked hard enough and she could climb out. Maybe there was a rope down there somewhere and she could throw it up to me.
Here I am—wanting deliverance for her more than the Deliverer.
I’ve forgotten the context, but our pastor recently asked in a sermon if we are okay with being mediocre. That question took my breath away. My parents were very high achievers, very hard workers. And they pushed us to achieve and perform well. It’s in my genes to want to be awesome. But it may not be in my genes to actually be awesome. This question made me examine my heart. And I see that when I am sick, my heart desires health over the Healer. When money is tight, I scream for provision over the Provider. When I am sad, I beg for relief rather than the Reliever. When I am scared, I call out for safety rather than the Savior. I am a fair-weather, flighty follower of Jesus.God never promises that we will be awesome. He never promises health. Or that we’ll accomplish our dreams. Or that if we work hard enough, everything will turn out the way we want. Or that if we apply ourselves or pray hard enough, we’ll have what we want on this earth—a beautiful house, an ideal job, moral children. That is karma. Instead, God promises Grace. In his Goodness.
So here is my sister, in her dark well, and I am praying that God will deliver her. Yes, that prayer is okay—the Bible teaches us to ask our Father for what we need. But I am realizing that if I could throw her a rope and hoist her out of her well, her heart would still be broken. She doesn’t just need deliverance—she needs her Deliverer. Only God can heal her heart, draw her close, shower her with unconditional love, provide hope for her weary heart. Isn’t that what I really want for her? Isn’t that what I really want for myself?
This All-Time-Favorite Person’s struggle doesn’t mean God isn’t good. It means the opposite—that is God pursuing her, drawing her to him, proving his love to her, wiping the tears from her eyes, filling her heart with hope, calming her spirit with peace. This is Grace. And what is gooder than Grace?