A few weeks ago, I shared how we should start our years off on the same page as our spouse. We don’t have to be the same person, but we do have to make an effort to compromise and share goals with each other.
The best way to get on the same page as your spouse is through prayer. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share how to pray for your marriage in specific circumstances. Before praying to change my spouse, I always want to examine my own heart for anything that needs to change in me.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to look at our own lives before we judge others:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
This is not to say that we should not judge others, but that we should do so only after making sure our conscious is clear. Applying this to marriage, if I judge Lenny for leaving his dirty socks on the floor, and yet I leave my dirty socks on the floor, I need to get my priorities in order. If you don’t leave your dirty socks on the floor, but it bothers you when your husband does, there is a way to bring it up to him. We will talk about that in the coming weeks.
This week, we want our prayer to be three simple words: Start with me. The temptation is to try controlling our spouses, but in reality, we simply cannot control anyone but ourselves. No matter how much you nag or complain or even pray, you cannot change your spouse’s behavior or attitude. But you can bring your concerns to God.
I personally like to journal, so if you’re looking for a nice format to bring your concerns before God in a written prayer, here are some tips:
Be honest with God about how you feel. It may actually bother you if your spouse leaves his dirty socks on the floor, to the point where you can’t even sleep at night. If so, take it to God first! Your husband may not understand why it bothers you, but God does. Write down exactly how that action your husband does makes you feel. You’ll be surprised about what comes up.
Ask God to bring up any past hurts that could contribute to why something bothers you about your spouse. Looking back at the feelings you wrote down, think about why your husband’s actions invoke these emotions in you. Maybe your little brother used to leave his socks on the floor and it would stink up the whole house. Maybe you have an obsession with keeping your house clean. Maybe you want to control your spouse because you’ve put him on a pedestal and you don’t want him to disappoint you. Whether or not you know the reason why his actions bother you, ask God to reveal the meaning behind your feelings to you. If needed, ask God to bring healing into these hurts so that you can see past the faults of your spouse.
Confess your sins to God. This really should be before the other points discussed, but usually when we pray about our marriage, we pray to try to change our spouses or our situations. Now that your guard is down, and you’ve realized that whatever problems you have in your marriage are also your responsibility, you can deal with your own sins.
Ask for (and received) forgiveness. God wants a relationship with us. We can check off the list of sins we’ve committed, but unless we know that God forgives us, and we accept His forgiveness, we can’t fully, intimately connect with God. Don’t rush through this. Take time to receive the grace and forgiveness of God in your life.
If your marriage has problems, you are not the problem, but neither is your spouse. Before you blame your spouse for the chaos in your life, make your prayer, “Start with me.” Whatever you want to see changed in your spouse, ask it for yourself as well.