Recently, I went back to look at my wedding vows I made almost twenty-two years ago to my wife, Carrie. I remembered all the traditional promises that I had made before God on that day but right there in the middle of all those words like honor, protect, care for and defend… something really jumped out at me.
“I promise to pray for you.”
We made that simple promise to each other on August 19th, 2000. I honestly had forgotten I said it that day but by the Grace of God, I had not neglected to do it.
Twenty-two years later, after having gone through some of life’s “stuff” with her, I understand why it was critical that I vowed to do that for my bride. In 2021 alone, in the United States, about 50% of married couples divorced. We now have the 6th highest divorce rate in the world. If we try to navigate this marriage thing at any point without the Holy Spirit’s help, there’s a good chance it won’t end well.
God instituted the marriage and then family before he ever instituted the church. Our marriage is to testify to the world what the Kingdom of God looks like; and ultimately point them toward Jesus. There will be times come that are designed to take us out. Don’t stop. There will be times come that are designed to put strife in our home; to take out the power of agreement. The power of agreement is a powerful force of marriage.
“I promise to pray for you.”
As a married couple, Carrie and I are on the same team, no matter what season of life we are in. We are either going to win together or lose together. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” Ecc. 4:12 (NLT), “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” Wow, what a powerful picture of the covenant of marriage intertwined with the Holy Spirit. It is almost impossible to break.
Matthew 18:19 says, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” That Greek word for “agree” here means “to sound together, to harmonize.” When a man and woman are brought together in a marriage covenant in pursuit of God and use their power of agreement, there is an accelerated increase in the effect and impact they have on the world around them.
When we see that our marriage has a bigger picture than who put the roll of toilet paper on backwards, we see why the enemy fights so hard to destroy it. We have a spiritual enemy. Satan is real and wants to take out this covenant.
“I promise to pray for you.”
Here is what Carrie and I tell couples with whom we counsel. The following two points are the two sides of Velcro for marriage:
#1 Pray for your spouse. Every day.
The biggest change in my wife came when I long ago read the book, “Power of a Praying Husband” by Stormie Omartian, and started PRAYING DAILY for her; specifically, that the gifts, talents, and abilities that God put in her would be developed and her God-given purpose would be fulfilled.
You see, for years before that time, I had taken on a corporate position that was very demanding, very high stress and required me to travel frequently and be away from our family. When I was home, I was constantly work-focused, answering emails and texts, tense and frustrated to the point of anger when things were not going right at the company. My wife worked hard to handle everything regarding our three kids and her own job so that I wouldn’t snap in the evenings. But hey, we were making money, so it was all good, right?
We finally came to the brutal conclusion that God wanted us to THRIVE as a family and this definitely wasn’t happening at the rate we were going. Carrie and I got really honest before God and asked Him to get us into the right place. We didn’t even know what the right place was exactly. But He knew. God almost immediately opened the door for us to go to bible school and transition out of that job. He provided everything we needed while we were in school and then set us on a ministry path following graduation.
However, those stressful corporate years had taken a toll on my wife. God showed me that my spouse had taken hits over a long period of time. Just like a plant not cared for, she had withered. Working hard is certainly important but praying for my wife and ensuring she has a prayer covering is far more important in maintaining a healthy marriage. I was determined that what I put into her now (my love, my prayers for her, my thoughtfulness toward her) would cause her to thrive. So, I wrote down scriptures to pray over her and I prayed.
If I could shout this next part from the rooftops, I would: Growth in marriage does not come without effort. I actually had to “do” something.
Here’s what I began to pray over her every single morning:
-Eph 3:17 that Christ would dwell in her heart through faith and that her life would be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love.
-1 Peter 5:10 that God would perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish her to be the woman He created her to be.
-1 Corinthians 1:5 that she is enriched in every way, in all speech, wisdom and knowledge, as the testimony of Christ is confirmed in her, so that she is not lacking in any gift, talent or ability.
-I pray every day, that in all those areas that I can’t meet Carrie’s needs as a husband, that HE will do exceedingly abundantly above in her life and meet those needs.
-And then I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His plan to her for her next steps.
Prayer is POWERFUL. As we invite God’s Presence into our marriage, He is able to do more than we ask or imagine.
Carrie will tell you that she had a legitimate fear of speaking in front of people. Even though she was a public-school teacher and used to being in front of small kids, she had a terrible fear of speaking…literally anything…in front of adults. She would almost hyperventilate when she knew she would have to say her name in front of a group of people. Not kidding. I remember holding her shaking hand as we had to introduce ourselves in church and social settings. But as we prayed that the gifts and talents that God had placed inside of her would be developed, a supernatural change occurred. Today, she is active in ministry, speaking boldly to whomever and whatever crowd God puts in front of her.
“I promise to pray for you.”
#2 Together, read your bibles every day and pray. Too simplistic?! Here’s what happened.
We literally saw the greatest growth in our marriage years ago after we read about Brother T.L. and Daisy Osborn reading through the Gospel accounts together and how the Lord gave them direction by doing that. We were desperate for some answers for our marriage, so early the next morning, we pulled out two bibles that had the same translation and sat down across from each other. With our coffee in hand, we began to read aloud the Gospels and Acts; each one taking a turn on a chapter. We had always had our own personal devotional time with the Lord. When we started discussing the scripture together, studying together through God’s Word, a supernatural transformation took place. This sounds simple, but if you’ve always only had devotion time separately, it’s awkward and a bit uncomfortable reading aloud those first few mornings.
But oh, what marked growth this has made in our relationship with God and each other. We were finally seeking God together; we both became really tender toward God. We received direction from Him together. Which ultimately propelled us into ministry. Let me say it again. This causes major growth in marriage. I dare you to just try it for a month. It’s a game-changer.
Here’s a recap on the action items:
1. Commit to praying for your spouse every day. Ask him/her what you can pray for them about.
2. Read through the New Testament together (aloud, taking turns on chapters) and then pray together.
3. And here’s a bonus action item from Carrie! A great conversation starter for your Valentine’s date this month is: “What is your first memory of me?” (Guys, google a list of relationship questions to ask your wife, while you eat dinner—it totally adds some fun!)
No matter how many great marriage principles we know, if we don’t do them, our marriages will never change or grow. We must act.
If you are looking for some resources to help your marriage, we highly recommend, “The Magnetic Marriage” by Eric Wooten and also lots of great resources at XOMarriage.com.