Marriage has a lot of different reputations. Some people view it as the ultimate comforting relationship, some view it as a big “ball and chain,” and some view it as a constant roller coaster of emotions. I believe God intended it to be a representation of His relationship with us. He clearly lays out marital guidelines in Ephesians 5:22-33 telling men to love their wives as Christ loves the church and telling women to submit to their husbands and to respect them. He didn’t tell men to love their wives when they are attractive, adorable, easy to get along with, and when they have dinner ready on time. God simply told men to “love your wife.” Likewise ladies, God didn’t say to submit to your future husband only when he has good ideas or when they make perfect sense; He said “submit to your own husband.” Additionally, He didn’t say to respect your husband when your husband has earned respect. He said “the wife must respect her husband.” The fact that he is your husband is all the criteria required by God for your future husband to be respected.
You might be thinking, I know of several marriages where the woman is unlovable and the husband is a lazy jerk, unworthy of a slug’s respect. How can you expect these men and women to love and respect their spouses? It is true that the world is full of unhealthy marriages and the vast majority of mankind is living outside of God’s will as prescribed in His Word. As believers, we have God to give us the strength to love and respect our spouses. We can’t always muster that strength on our own. This is why it is essential to pray for one another. Did you ever have someone that hurt you or that annoyed you constantly and your mom or dad told you to pray for them? If so, do you remember going tense on the inside thinking, “I’d rather kiss pigs than pray for that idiot!”? At some points in your future marriage, there will likely be times that you’d rather walk through fire than pray for your spouse. Very few people have the ability to hurt us as deeply as our spouse. He or she knows us better than almost anyone as our spouse is often familiar with our deepest weaknesses and when angered can occasionally use those weaknesses against us. It will not be easy to pray for your spouse when they’ve deeply hurt you, but it is essential for a God-centered marriage. The enemy would love nothing more than to put a wedge between you and your spouse and damage a publically Christian union.
When we were first married, Eric made a statement that was incredibly hurtful. My temptation was to slam doors, sob loudly, call my mom, and complain. Before I could do any of these, the voice inside of me said, “Pray.” It was clear that the way Eric treated me in that instance did not fall under the “love your wife” heading, so I asked the Lord to convict him and I went about my business. A few minutes later, the bedroom door opened and he came out with a sheepish look on his face and told me he was sorry. A potentially huge fight ended by a small prayer. In another case, Eric and I got into an argument and I retreated to the basement to pray (or complain to God about my husband). The more I prayed, the more convicted I became. God showed me gently how I had disrespected Eric and how I was in the wrong. After a few minutes, I went back upstairs and apologized for my attitude and he apologized for the part he played in the argument. Another potentially huge fight averted thanks to the convicting and healing power of prayer.
I wish I could say that every marital fire we have had was put out by prayer. We have taken matters into our own hands on many occasions and we have said things we both regret. Praying before speaking angry words or taking hurtful action is always the best idea. You will be the most powerful prayer ally your spouse has on Earth. Get in the habit of praying for your future spouse daily (whether or not you currently know him or her). Assuming you’re over the age of ten, there is a great likelihood that the person exists – he or she is somewhere! When you’re finally in the relationship, covering each other in prayer will make petty fights break out much less often and it will bless your spouse in ways that you will never know. When life gets your spouse down, nothing is more effective and loving than your fervent prayers on their behalf. Some days you will feel helpless when your spouse is going through turmoil, but you always have the Father to go to on his or her behalf. Sincere, selfless prayer is the best thing you can do for your spouse and your relationship.