Experiencing hardship in marriage isn’t new, yet every time it arrives at our door, it feels new. It feels difficult, stressful and troubling because the “two that have become one” feel more like “two that went back to two.”
Yet we learn that a house divided cannot stand (Luke 11:17).
Arguing, avoiding, debating, bickering, ignoring, blaming and leaving are the world’s way of working through marital issues. God’s way involves healing the heart, and it happens through love.
How do we get there when we feel miserable? Why would we pray for our marriage?
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
-1 John 5:14
Pray to Become a Better Spouse
This sounds hard, but it yields good fruit. Read on…
1. Pray for Change
Instead of starting a prayer with “Change him/her,” start off with “Change me.” Wow, feel that? As we open our hearts for the Lord to use us the way He wants, we remember that His plan is the best plan.
2. Pray for Open Eyes
Sometimes we see what we want to see, or we turn a blind eye to what we don’t. When we start seeing with spiritual eyes, we see truth that can’t always be explained in worldly terms. “Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.’” (Luke 10:23)
3. Pray for Ears that Hear
According to Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love & Respect, during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved. We can pray that we hear what is intended and not fall victim to needless confusion.
4. Pray for Clear Speech
Going along with ears that hear, we can help our spouse understand our true intent when we communicate clearly. While the enemy might revel in confusion, God brings order, especially in matters of the tongue. “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
5. Pray for a Gentle Heart
We want to deflect pain, problems and annoyances, but we can end up growing hard as a result. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).
6. Pray for Patience
Pray for patience instead of returning evil for evil. Instead of letting emotions take over. Instead of getting in that last word. And while we pray to remain patient with one another, we have to learn patience with our marriage. It is a “process” that develops over our entire lives. (More here for Impatient People.) “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness” (Proverbs 14:29).
7. Pray for Love
The love we need for our spouse isn’t just erotic love or friendly love — it’s agape love, which means sacrificial, unconditional and selfless love. Without the Lord, we couldn’t understand this love because in our sinful nature, the bible says, “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jer. 17:9). Only with Him can we love when the “feeling” is gone. Here is a powerful online sermon from John Piper called Staying Married is Not About Staying in Love.
8. Pray to Mature in Long-Suffering
We want any kind of suffering to end as quickly as possible, so why pray to be long-suffering? As God works in the hearts of our spouses (and us), change will occur, but it doesn’t always happen over night. “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
9. Pray for the Ability to Forgive
Some trespasses are easier to forgive than others, and even the most mellow among us may wind up in situations where certain words, actions or behaviors “cross the line.” But we’re called to forgive the same way we have been forgiven. It’s in the Our Father: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” It’s in the bible: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt 6:14). It’s a beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt 5:7). And still there are times when nothing in us will budge. That is when we pray. God will give us that ability by His grace and mercy.
10. Pray for Perseverance
Do you know the number of long-lasting marriages has actually risen? This 2011 Washington Post article cites census data that three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary–an increase from couples who married in the early ’80s. No doubt these couples have learned to persevere through prayer!
11. Pray for Respect
Wives are told to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), and we’re all called to respect others. “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7). For women, part of respecting their husband comes in the form of submission, and husbands must also understand what it means to be spiritual leaders in their home. (One of the most popular posts on this site: What Does It Mean to Submit to Your Husband (Biblically) — for husbands and wives!)
12. Pray for the Ability to Honor
Do you honor your spouse? Do you honor your marriage? Hebrews 13:4 says, “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.” By praying for the ability to honor our marriage, God will show us what that truly means.
13. Pray for Courage
Anyone can give up, it’s easy. It frees us from momentary stress, for now. But to stay together when everyone else would understand your marriage falling apart, that takes courage. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). And if you haven’t seen the movie Courageous… So Where are You Men of Courage?
14. Pray for Faith
We pray for patience, respect, perseverance and courage, but what is it all worth if we don’t have the faith to believe God delivers? “‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’” (Matt 17:20).
15. Pray for the Mind of Christ
Being human, it’s hard to grasp the mind of Jesus. We don’t fully understand the divine capacity of never-ending and all-powerful love. But here’s a start: Don’t compare yourself with others, compare yourself with Jesus Christ. And read more about how to do that here (complete with video sermon).
16. Pray for a Reinvigorated Attitude
Yes, it’s something to pray for, especially when we don’t think it is our attitude that needs to change. Jesus said to forgive not seven times, but 77 times (Matt 18:21-22). Have you ever felt (inside) like Rocky in the last round with Apollo after an encounter with a grouchy spouse? Only by God’s spirit can we keep coming back fresh!
17. Pray for the Ability to Hold Your Tongue
Saving the best for last on the self-prayer list, I’ve heard over and over and over the miracle of holding your tongue. Ohhh… it’s hard. Such a good one to pray for! “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28).
Pray For Your Spouse
In the book Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian says that when we pray for another, the hardness in our hearts melts and we begin to move past the hurts. She writes: “It happens because when we pray we enter into the presence of God and He fills us with His Spirit of love.”
18. Pray the Above for Your Spouse
Take a look over the list and pick the ones your spouse could most use your prayerful support. It doesn’t have to be announced in your house; God already knows what areas need to change.
19. Pray for Special Areas of Struggle
Think of everyday challenges your spouse faces. Job stress? Family pressures? Physical pain or illness? Migraines? Whatever it is, pray that these attacks on your spouse end in the name of Jesus Christ.
20. Pray to Break Down Strongholds
These patterns, beliefs or attitudes run deep–so deep that they may seem invisible to your spouse but obvious to you and others. Pray without ceasing for God to break the stronghold of addiction, unhealthy behavior or any sinful attitudes that your spouse is living outwardly or in secret. “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light” (Mark 4:22).
21. Pray for His/Her Walk with God
This one is so important! While God is there with us, we also have free will. Pray your spouse is enabled to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. That he or she walks with God when temptations to step off the path grow strong because “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7:14).
22. Pray He/She Turns to God
Some of us have Christian spouses, others do not. Either way, we pray that they turn to God for their every need. We will eventually let them down; God will never let them down.
Pray For Your Marriage
You and your spouse became one in marriage. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Genesis 2:24). As God works on you in one way and your spouse in another, there is also the “us” of marriage. Beyond praying “Save our marriage,” (which is good to pray!), here are some additional ideas.
23. Pray for Time Together
Date nights are a great idea, especially when you get it right. The New York Times cites research that shows how adding new activities to the usual mix activates the same part of your brain that was ignited when you experienced early romance together. Pray for that time to spend with your partner, and for God to lead you to a new adventure.
24. Pray for God to Transform Your Marriage into a Marriage That Honors Him
In your relationship, is the husband the spiritual leader in your home? Does the wife honor her role as a helper to her husband, or does she contend for headship? Is your family your first ministry? As a personal example, we have prayed this prayer together and have seen miracles happen. I feel like there is an order in our home that would never have existed without God’s guidance.
25. Pray for More/Better Sleep
This might seem obvious, but have you prayed about it?
26. Pray for the Holy Spirit to Intercede
Praying together is an amazing thing to do with your spouse, even when times are hard. If you know you need to pray but don’t have the words, let the Holy Spirit intercede for you. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
27. Pray for Protection Against Spiritual Attack
As you pray for yourself, your spouse and your marriage, don’t be surprised if spiritual attack seems to intensify. Why would the enemy want you to grow closer? Pray for the spiritual armor needed for battle, and for God to step in and offer protection during your weakest moments.
28. Pray for a Marriage that Lasts
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 2-4). I think that covers it completely!
29. Pray to Be On the Same Page
When you know you’re not on the same page and maybe not even in the same book (we’ve experienced this), pray that God breaks down communication barriers and allows you to be on the same page. It makes me think of James 6-8, about how God will grant wisdom to the man who prays for it: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” A double-minded marriage is also unstable.
30. Pray for Intimacy
Pray that God reignites your passion for one another and brings you closer, physically.
31. Pray to Remove Barriers that Keep You from Feeling Loved
When we bring baggage from the past into our marriage, we can be affected in ways we don’t realize. One of them is not “feeling” loved in the right way. Pray God remove any barriers that keep your spouse from feeling loved. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” -1 John 3:18
32. Pray for Fun
Laughter heals the soul. How much better to laugh with your spouse. Pray for opportunities for fun and laughter with your spouse.
33. Pray God will Use Your Marriage for His Glory
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” He also writes that a wife must respect her husband (v33). A covenant marriage is a model of Christ and the church. We need constant prayer for God’s guidance and protection over our hearts.
34. Pray for Your Involvement with Others
Stay involved with friends and your church body. Stay in the word. Stay active in family events. All the while, pray about these relationships that God will work through them to encourage and support your growth together. Stay committed to your spouse and your marriage, no matter what happens.
As a semi-newly married couple who just experienced back-to-back babies with little sleep and alone time, we continue to learn how to make our marriage work when everything in us wants to give up. In the face of negative behaviors, bad attitudes and unforgiving hearts, we’re learning how to cry out to God; how to pray the right prayers.
And it’s something we’ll have to keep learning for the rest of our lives together. Thankfully these ways to pray were passed on to us from God’s word in scripture, sermons, bible studies, members of our church, long-time married friends, talks with our pastor and his wife, Christian books, and … prayer.
May God bless you and your marriage.