How does the Lord Jesus want you to pray for your marriage?

In part one of this article we began to consider how the model of prayer that Jesus gives us in the Lord's Prayer could guide us in praying for our marriages. We saw that Jesus has us begin by remembering who God is: our loving Father who is in heaven, mighty and sovereign and able to help us when we call to Him. We then saw that Jesus has us continue by praying that God would be glorified: that His name would be treated as holy, that His kingdom would come, that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The implication of all of this is that our prayers for our marriage should be founded on a desire that God be glorified in our marriage. God's glory should be the foundation of our prayers. But our prayers do not stop here, for the Lord's Prayer continues on.

Give us this day our daily bread

After focusing on God's glory, we are ready to ask the Lord for his material provision. Practically, this means:

1. We give thankful acknowledgment to the Lord that He is the source of our material provision;

2. We pray His help and aid in providing for our material needs;

3. We pray that as a couple we would be content with provision of daily bread and that He would protect us from the dangers of materialism.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors

This part of the Lord's Prayer is often confusing to people. Does it mean that we earn God's forgiveness only when we forgive other people? By no means. God grants us forgiveness freely and as a demonstration of His grace. But that is just the point: we cannot ask this of God on the one hand and refuse to extend it to someone else on the other hand!

Jesus illustrates this for us with a parable in Matthew 18:21-35. We read there of a slave who owed the king millions of dollars. When the slave could not repay the king, the king was going to have him thrown in jail. The slave begged for mercy and the king graciously forgave the debt. That slave then went out and found a fellow slave who owed him only a few dollars. When the fellow slave could not repay, he pleaded for mercy. The first slave refused to forgive him of the debt, however, and had him thrown into prison. When the king learned of it, he was furious! He had forgiven the first slave a debt of millions of dollars and now that slave would not forgive someone else a debt of a few dollars! How could this be?!

Jesus' point was very clear: you and I, like that first slave, have been forgiven an incalculable debt of sin by God. In fact, the debt of our sin against God is so great that the debt of others' sins against us do not even begin to compare! And because the debt we have been forgiven is so large, we cannot help but forgive the lesser debts of those who sin against us. If we refuse to do this, we are like that first slave, and risk the anger of God Himself.

How does this impact the way that we pray for our marriage? Here are some suggestions:

1. We must be open and honest before the Lord about our sins, confessing them and repenting from them; this includes the sins that we have committed against our spouse;

2. We must also ask the Lord for His help in forgiving our spouse for their sins against us; this might include asking Him to take away bitterness, to give us a forgiving heart, and to help us to remember the grace that He has shown to us in forgiving our sins.

3. Some helpful resources on forgiveness are: The Art of Forgiving (Lewis Smedes); Bold Love (Dan Allender; deals with anger and forgiveness in difficult relationships); What's So Amazing About Grace (Philip Yancey; full of good stories; touches on forgiveness very well on several occasions).