Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Stormie Omartian's new book, Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage, (Harvest House, 2008).
Do you and your spouse keep stumbling over a difficult issue that you just can’t seem to resolve? Maybe it’s your husband’s anger problem, or your wife’s depression. It could be your husband’s addiction to pornography, or your wife’s addiction to shopping. Perhaps it’s financial debt, trouble with your kids, or any one of host of other issues.
Even if you and your spouse’s best efforts haven’t resolved the issue, there’s real hope for change: prayer. Praying about each deep issue you face will release God’s power into your marriage, changing it for the better in ways you’d never thought possible before.
Here’s how you can pray through the deep issues in your marriage:
Ask God to help you see clearly. Pray for the ability to view the situation from God’s perspective, so you can understand how both you and your spouse contribute to the problem, and how you each need to change.
Approach God with a repentant heart. Rather than blaming the difficult issue on your spouse or trying to change your spouse, accept responsibility for your own part in the problem, and be willing to change your attitudes and actions in order to help solve it. Invite God to use the struggles you experience in your marriage to help you grow into a more spiritually mature person.
Pray about communication. Realize that healthy communication is absolutely vital to your marriage. Ask God to help you and your spouse: be nice to each other by having your words and actions express love and respect, build trust with each other by being honest, communicate well with Him so His love will flow through you to your spouse, understand your spouse’s body language, find enjoyable activities to do together, grow closer to your spouse with each new stage of life, honor each other, learn to listen to each other well, and fight evil that seeks to harm your marriage.
Pray about anger, rudeness, or abuse. God cares deeply about the way you and your spouse treat each other, and He will call you both to account for it. Ask God to help you and your spouse: control anger so it doesn’t control you, prevent using anger as a weapon to hurt each other, open your hearts to God’s love and peace so there’ll be no room for anger, pray about stressful situations rather than arguing about them, see the best (not the worst) in each other, find things to praise about each other regularly instead of complaining, exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), and love each other from pure hearts and a good conscience.
Pray about forgiveness. Since God has forgiven you, He expects you to be willing to forgive your spouse, no matter what he or she has done, or how often you need to forgive him or her. Realize that by choosing to forgive, you’re honoring God, blessing your spouse, and freeing yourself from bitterness that will poison your soul if you allow it to remain. Rely on God’s power to forgive, and trust Him to help you do so, despite your feelings. Ask God to help you and your spouse: always be willing to forgive each other, be humble enough to ask for forgiveness whenever necessary, let go of offenses, love each other the way He loves you, be merciful to each other, and protect you from hurting each other by making you aware of your sins and helping you confess and repent of them.
Pray about depression or other negative emotions. Keep negative emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, rejection, and loneliness from harming your marriage so you can enjoy the joyful relationship God wants for you both. Ask God to help you and your spouse: read the Bible daily and incorporate its encouragement and promises into your lives; replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; seek professional counseling from trusted Christians if necessary; pray often – both to talk to and listen to God; praise and worship God whenever you feel a negative emotion so it will lift off you; and place your hope in God, expecting Him to do wonderful things in each of your lives.
Pray about your children. Protect your marriage relationship from becoming dominated by parenting demands. Realize that, as much as you love your children, you need to make sure your marriage stays a top priority. Pray regularly with your spouse for your children to take the parenting pressures off your marriage and give you both the peace that God is looking out for your children. Ask God to help you and your spouse: agree on how many (if any) children to have, agree on what your children are and aren’t allowed to do, agree on discipline, enjoy time together without the children regularly, stay emotionally connected even during extremely busy seasons, honor your parents and in-laws, avoid blaming each other if something bad happens to one of your children, make a habit of praying for each of your children in specific ways every day, and release your children into God’s hands.
Pray about your finances. Don’t let your finances get out of control, because if they do, the resulting stress can drive a dangerous wedge between you and your spouse. Ask God to help and your spouse: realize that all your wealth (and the ability to earn it) is a gift from Him, trust Him to meet your needs, be completely honest with each other about income and spending, give you the wisdom to make good financial decisions without rushing them, enable you to get out of debt and remain debt-free, live simply and below your means, plan ahead for future expenses, find good work that’s secure, bless your employer so you can be blessed as well, give generously to glorify Him and help other people as He leads you, invest wisely, avoid gambling and other foolish uses of your money, and be content and grateful for whatever you have at any given time.
Pray about addictions or other destructive behaviors. Only God can give you and your spouse the healing, deliverance, and wholeness you need when your marriage is threatened by addictions or other self-destructive behaviors. Ask God to help you and your spouse: come to Him for a fresh filling from the Holy Spirit to empower you each day, crucify your fleshly desires, resist the world’s temptations, choose to live by the Spirit rather than the flesh, open your eyes to the habits you’ve allowed into your lives that have the potential to harm you, bring everything into the open so that nothing is hidden from each other, learn to trust Him to give you peace instead of looking for it in other places (such as through alcohol or drugs) that can’t deliver the peace you need, confess your sins, want to change, break your addictions, and empower you to resist temptation.
Pray about outside influences polluting your sexual relationship. Although the many sexual images and temptations that surround you in our culture may seem harmless, they actually can insidiously harm your marriage by making your spouse seem less attractive and your sexual relationship less enjoyable in comparison. Outside influences will distract you and your spouse from each other more and more over time, and cheapen the sexual relationship that God intended to be meaningful and enjoyable between you. Ask God to help you and your spouse: always put each other first and avoid acting out of selfish disregard for the other, recognize what’s dangerous to your relationship and keep you from anything that would compromise your relationship, keep your hearts from being enticed and drawn away from each other, live in the Spirit so you don’t give into lust, expose your sins so that neither or you can have a secret life, recognize what will lead to temptation for you so that you can take steps to avoid it, purify your desires, and empower you to obey His design for marriage.
Pray about your hearts hardening. Pay attention to what’s going on when you feel so frustrated that you just don’t care about your marriage anymore, and you want to give up. At those times, remember that God has the power to turn your marriage around – no matter how hopeless things might seem. Ask God to help you and your spouse: keep from growing stubborn or rebellious, value the time you have together, take away wrong attitudes like pride or bitterness so you won’t displease Him, soften your hearts toward each other, heal any brokenness in your hearts, and constantly renew your love for Him and each other.
Pray about your priorities. Make your relationship with your spouse your top priority after your relationship with God. Realize that if you neglect to do so, you and your spouse will inevitably drift apart. Arrange your life so that you can devote all the time and energy you need to a close relationship with your spouse. Ask God to help you and your spouse: love each other the way He wants you to, become vessels through which His love flows, establish the right priorities in your marriage and family life and make the daily decisions you need to make to live out those priorities, consider each other’s best interests instead of acting out of selfish ambition or vanity, encourage each other, bear each other’s burdens, set aside time to be together alone regularly, and agree on how to handle especially busy seasons while still treasuring each other.
Pray about protecting your marriage from divorce. Refuse to consider divorce as an option. When you keep your marriage vows, God stands ready to help you in your relationship. Ask God to help you and your spouse: do whatever it takes to get beyond every impasse and solve every problem as they arise, take away any desire in your hearts for divorce, give you an ongoing passion for Him and each other, be affectionate toward each other, honor each other, recognize things you’re saying and doing that are harming your marriage and empower you to stop saying and doing them, learn how to say and do things that enrich your marriage and start saying and doing them, strengthen you as you face challenges together, lead you to outside help (such as from a counselor or pastor) when you need it, be aware of how evil may be influencing your marriage and fight evil, confess your sins to each other and to God, and repent of your sins regularly to stay close to God.
Pray about infidelity. An affair will devastate your marriage by violating the very trust on which your relationship is built. Ask God to help you and your spouse: protect your minds from thinking wrong thoughts that can lead to adultery, recognize and overcome temptation, keep you each away from people with evil intentions, prevent you from becoming deceived, give you wisdom, empower you to live with integrity, and give you contentment and joy in your marriage so you don’t feel any need to look elsewhere.
Pray about separation. A physical separation always starts with an emotional separation. Ask God to help you and your spouse: always maintain an emotionally close relationship, learn to do what pleases each other and not neglect doing so, be kind when you could be stern, be merciful when you could be judgmental, and be forgiving when we could take offense, recognize what is going on emotionally with each other, realize where you’ve become preoccupied with other things and other people – and decide to pay more attention to your marriage, give you wisdom if a separation is necessary to for a season in order to try to work out serious issues (with the goal of reconciling), and keep you each faithful to Him and each other.
Pray for a miracle if hope seems lost. No matter how hopeless the state of your marriage may be, there is always hope for it to improve if you both trust God to help. Ask God to help you and your spouse: commit your marriage to Him, increase your faith in Him and in each other, renew your love, give you patience while He works in both of your lives, and focus beyond the problems in your marriage to trust Him for the solutions to them.
Adapted from Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage, copyright 2008 by Stormie Omartian. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/.
Stormie Omartian is the bestselling author of The Power of a Praying® series (more than 11 million copies sold worldwide), which includes The Power of a Praying® Wife and The Power of a Praying® Husband. Her many other books include Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On, The Prayer That Changes Everything®, and The Power of a Praying® Woman Bible. Stormie and her husband, Michael, have been married more than 34 years and have three grown children.