How should Christians prepare for marriage? Should Christians expect to be married? How do Christians in China understand and live out their marriages differently from non-believers? In this post, Pastor Chen Fengsheng offers prayer points for Christians who desire to marry and for spouses already married.
How Should You Pray For Your Marriage?
July 13, 2018 by Chen Fengsheng
Christians are eager to teach on praying for their marriages, and see this is an important task for the devout believer. By definition, this task can apply to two groups of people: those not yet married who are praying for their future marriages, and those already married who are praying for their current relationships as husband and wife. Today I would like to begin by discussing the first group. How should unmarried people pray for the marriages they so eagerly await?
We all agree that praying for marriages is a holy and important task that we must not neglect. The writer of Proverbs instructs us to “trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways,” including marriage, “acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). But there is little consensus on how to actually do it, and everybody has their own theory. Here I only hope to discuss my own understanding of praying for marriage, and submit it to the reflection and consideration of my brothers and sisters.
First of all, we must not view God as a sort of heavenly matchmaker.
He is our God, and while he indeed gives and blesses marriages, he has not promised to do everything for us. Very few marriages in Scripture were directly arranged by God; the majority had no direct divine intervention. Therefore, we can ask God to prepare us, and trust him to prepare the right person for us, but we must not blindly demand that he satisfy our idea of who the “right person” is. He has not promised to do the work of marriage for you, nor has he promised to guarantee a happy marriage. Rather, he has commanded that we approach and conduct ourselves in marriage according to his will.
Next, we should pray that our marriages glorify God.
Modern society understands love and marriage in terms of one focal point: “me.” These days, you hear over and over about “my love,” “their love for me,” “my happiness,” “the one who loves me,” and on and on. As a result, it has become too common to see people break up, divorce, and keep looking for their predestined lover when a relationship fails to meet their expectations for “me.” When others criticize or doubt their approach, people simply retort, “mind your own business.”
But God created marriage not just so that people would be happy, but so that humanity would complete its mission. When God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him,” his goal was not just to make Adam happy, but it was to help Adam complete his commission from God. The purpose of marriage is inseparable from God’s will for humanity and the world. If we agree that God’s will for human life is to glorify him, then we cannot but affirm that marriage, too, exists to glorify him.
Furthermore, we should ask God to make our marriages witnesses of him.
A marriage whose goal is to glorify God will not aim to satisfy our individual desires or focus on romantic love. Rather, it will aim to testify to God’s name. Does that sound too idealistic? Is that just some utopian fantasy? Of course not! Glorifying God in our marriages must be not just a slogan, but a way of life, so that our marriages witness to a watching generation that has lost any hope for real love, and indeed has come to regard marriage with dread. We need to pray that the world sees real people in real life living real marriages that testify to a real God. We need to pray that God makes our marriages testimonies of him, thereby reestablishing and protecting the sanctity of marriage in our generation.
Finally, pray that God prepares us and makes us mature as we enter marriage.
Someone who blindly exalts romantic feelings and demands that someone “love me,” but has not yet learned how to truly love another person is not fit for either romance or marriage. Someone who shamelessly dallies with women and sings gushy love songs, but does not understand how to take responsibility for a family, is both shallow and tragic. We should pray that God allows us to experience things in life that temper and mature us, so that we are actually ready for marriage. The first sign of wisdom and maturity is that you are able to take responsibility for things, and if you want to learn to really love, you must be willing to serve and give of yourself.
The second group of people who pray for marriages are those who are already married. Their prayers will likely emphasize things like asking God to preserve and sustain the marriage, solve problems, remove difficulties, and so on. But if a married person’s prayers go no further than, “He doesn’t love me enough,” “he’s not good to me, so I won’t be good to him,” and “I do so much already,” then I’m afraid such prayer is not only useless but actually damaging to the marriage.
First of all, pray that God will be the Lord of the marriage and family, and the one who sustains the family.
I remember not long after we were married, I left to pursue more advanced studies, leaving behind my wife of not even six months. We texted, made phone calls, and sent letters every day. One day, my wife wrote something in one of her letters: “Dear, I feel like God’s work in our marriage is more evident all the time.” Oh, how this made my heart so thankful, that God was giving strength and stability to our relationship!
“Christ is the Lord of this home.” This is not to be just a Christian family slogan, but something we actually practice. Of course, we will not immediately attain to it, and we need time to learn and practice. Making God the Lord of our families means submitting our wills and desires to his will, and practicing Paul’s teaching: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). This command is especially germane to Christian marriages today which, polluted by a secular view of marriage, suffer from sexual promiscuity and divorce. To refuse to “conform to this world,” we resolve in our hearts not to be like this world. To “be transformed by the renewal of our minds,” we must seek a new, biblical view of marriage, and thereby seek God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will. God’s work in marriage manifests more and more when the husband and wife delight in keeping his commands and seek that his will be done in their marriage.
Secondly, ask God to give you and your spouse complete satisfaction in your marriage.
Hollywood has made romantic love a thing reserved for one-night stands and extramarital affairs, demeaning the marriage relationship as dry, dull, and dispassionate. Many adulterers try to defend themselves with appeals to this definition of love: “There is no love between us,” “I don’t love him anymore,” “We have sex but no love,” “Our temperaments don’t match,” "There isn’t that passion anymore.” These arguments may seem reasonable, but only from a wrong view of marriage and love. They limit marriage to passion and romance, and limit love to feelings. Without the Lord in their lives, they have no way of being satisfied with married love.
However, the Bible clearly teaches that we are to be satisfied with our spouse, for this is what the Lord blesses. Proverbs says, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (Proverbs 5:16-19 ESV)
Thirdly, ask God to help us learn sacrificial and unconditional love.
We are accustomed to demanding love and unaccustomed to giving it. In the husband-wife relationship, we are constantly seeking to “break even,” lest we give too much and end up too far in the red. I remember when my wife and I were just falling in love, a good friend advised me: “You should definitely not give too much in this relationship—if you guys end up breaking up, it’ll just hurt even more.” This sounded like the wisdom of experience, but something in me doubted. Does love really require such reservation? If you hold back like that in marriage, not fully giving yourself or your love to the other person, then is that really true love? Are all those marriage vows just a fraud? There is a common phrase posted on the sides of many cars: “Love is a lie, and feelings only come from sleeping together”? Is that true?
However, the Bible portrays God’s relationship with his people as a marriage relationship where God requires his people to love him “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” I believe this relationship serves as the archetype for human marriages. As husbands and wives, we are to love each other with all of our mind, emotions, and will power. God loves his people unconditionally. He never forsakes them, and he loved them even unto death on a cross. Likewise, our love in marriage is to be unconditional and self-sacrificing. For this reason, Paul says, “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:24-25).
There are many things we need to pray for in marriage, but we must always be aware of the most central prayer needs. In this article, I have discussed three prayer points for married believers, but I realize that they are three among many. Given my limitations in both space and knowledge, I cannot hope to be comprehensive, but I humbly submit these points to the consideration and judgment of my readers, who doubtlessly will have even more valuable thoughts and insights.
Original Article: 怎样为自己的婚姻祷告?, Chen Shengfeng
Image Credit: Traditional Chinese wedding ceremony kanegen via Flickr.
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