“If my husband would just go to Promise Keepers,” she said.
We didn’t know each other that well. We’d spoken a few times when at the same church event, but she wasn’t a confidant to me, and I wouldn’t have considered myself one of hers. Yet, clearly, the neon “tell her anything” sign had blinked to life on my forehead, and continued to shine brightly.
For about thirty minutes straight she complained about her mate. What he did. What he didn’t do. What he did wrong. What he did halfway, and never to her satisfaction.
Not one complaint was a serious spiritual issue. He wasn’t abusive. He wasn’t an addict of some kind. Yes, he probably carried a jerk gene, but don’t we all?
“I’ve begged God to change him,” she said. “I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed.”
I continued listening, hurting for her, her husband, and their children.
Then she said, “I wish he’d leave. I’m just waiting until he does.”
“What have you been praying?” I asked.
“That he’ll change.”
She’d been praying God would change her husband.
She’d been praying at her husband. Not for him.
I admit. On more than one occasion I’ve been guilty of asking God to “speak” to my husband, when what I really meant was “Please slap him. Twice.”
And when I’ve been guilty of that, God invariably turns His spotlight on me.
True, at times my husband has been the poster boy for “stupid.” All husbands are at one time or another. All wives are, too.
Summation? We are all stupid at one point or another.
All of us at one time or another will disappoint, irritate, or just plain hurt our mate. That’s how it works when carnal, fallen, sinful folks like you and me are involved.
We make messes.
Yet, here’s what I’ve learned the hard way: even if I had little or no part in making the mess now spreading across the living room floor of my marriage, there’s a right way and a wrong way to pray for my mate.
Praying the right way for your mate requires interceding on your mate’s behalf, for their benefit alone, in light of scripture and God’s work in their life.
Don’t pray for God to change your mate into someone who makes you happier.
Ask God to bless your mate’s efforts at work. In your family. Ask God to show you one thing you can do for your mate today or this week, which will show your love in a tangible way. Ask God to reveal and heal any hurts within your mate. To show His favor. To strengthen your mate. To give wisdom to your mate.
Sure, your mate might have a terrible weakness. A routine screw-up button, where every time a particular situation happens you know the awful reaction your mate will have.
Pray over that. Pray over the wound or ignorance or lie which might contribute to that behavior.
Your mate’s number one need isn’t to change into someone you’re happily married to. Your mate’s number one need is to have a flourishing relationship with God.
Why not pray to be a help rather than a hindrance to that? Why not pray in relation to God’s work in your mate for your mate’s sake, rather than seeking God’s work in your mate, for yours?