The Power and Purpose of Prayer
I can still remember being sequestered in the “bride’s room” of our church just moments before the organist began to play for the early arrivals. As I sat in front of an oversized gilded mirror, trying not to wrinkle my dress, I daydreamed about the man who would become my husband by day’s end. He was everything I had ever hoped for: handsome,
smart, ambitious, and strong. And most important, he had a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus.
My delicate white gown fit snugly around my upper frame, and a flowing satin train trailed behind. A veil rested on a nearby table, ready to be positioned on my head. My bouquet of white roses stood at attention, waiting to be placed in my hands. The most important people in my life gathered in the sanctuary to witness the “I do’s.”
Yes, this was a good day.
As I stared at my reflection, my heart so full of hope and promise, an unwelcome thought interrupted my musing. Doesn’t every woman feel this way on her wedding day? What could go so terribly wrong that such a high percentage of marriages end in divorce? Am I fooling myself ? Am I that much different from the thousands who have walked the aisle before me?
I decided right then and there that I would do everything in my power to make my marriage a success. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the words in my power were a problem. “My power” was not enough.
Fairy tales always end with the words “And they lived happily ever after.” But if we could read the epilogue to those rides off into the sunset, we’d most likely find daily struggles, potentially divisive decisions, and angry arguments sprinkled throughout. Fairy tales stop short of telling us about tension over whose turn it is to wash the dishes, pay the bills, or put the kids to bed. They leave out the part about stress over holidays with in-laws, frequency of intimacy, and who gets to spend what when. We naively repeat the words “for better or for worse” and then are shocked when the first hint of “worse” rears its ugly head.
Prayer Can Change Everything
If you’ve been married for more than a few days, then you have most likely figured out that the blessed union doesn’t stay so blessed without a lot of work. And I dare say, the most important “work” we can do as wives is on our knees. The psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Only God can truly protect your marriage and your man. And He invites you to participate in the unleashing of His power by praying for your husband and turning the key to the storehouse of heaven’s door for blessings outpoured. Louise saw this happen with her husband, Allan, in a miraculous way.
Allan was a tough man. Raised by a single mom with five siblings during the Depression in the early 1930s, Allan learned how to scrap his way through life and climb to the top of humanity’s heap through sheer determination and grit. He married at nineteen, had his first son at twenty, then a baby girl at twenty-five. Over the next two decades he advanced from driving a delivery truck at a lumberyard to becoming part owner and president of a building supply company in eastern North Carolina.
Allan drank heavily, fought with his wife physically, and terrorized his children emotionally. He gambled, dabbled in pornography, and had questionable relationships laced with a host of unsavory vices. But when his teenage daughter became a Christian and began praying for her family, God grabbed the chisel of grace and began chipping away at Allan’s proud heart of stone. Three years after his daughter’s decision to follow Christ, his wife, Louise, became a believer as well. His wife, his daughter, and a host of other prayer warriors began interceding with God on Allan’s behalf.
When Allan was forty-six years old, his life took several hairpin twists and troublesome turns. Because of a business deal gone terribly wrong, he was sued for breach of contract for breaking a noncompete clause with a former employer. Fearing exposure in court and, more important, in his small community, Allan teetered on the brink of a nervous breakdown. From man’s perspective, it appeared he was on the verge of losing it all. From God’s perspective, Allan was right where he needed to be.
One day, in a surge of panic, Allan drove home from work, only to remember his wife was at a meeting in Pennsylvania. He got back in his car and drove five hundred miles to try and find her. As he drove into the town where he expected to find his wife, he passed a church. Immediately, Allan made a U-turn, parked his car, and ran inside the ornate building.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I need someone to pray for me. Is the preacher available? I need help.” “I’m sorry, sir,” the church receptionist said. “He’s not in, but I know a man who can help you. Here,” she said as she sketched out directions on a scrap of paper. “The pastor of the Baptist church down the street is out doing some construction work on their new church building. Why don’t you drive on over there? I bet he can help you.”
So Allan got back in his car, followed the receptionist’s crude map, and found the country preacher out in the woods working on his church. With a hammer in his hand and Jesus in his heart, the pastor turned to Allan and asked, “What can I do for you?”
“I need you to pray for me,” Allan explained as tears ran down his weathered cheeks.
“Let’s sit down on this log while you tell me what’s going on.” For several hours Allan sat with a fellow builder and told him all he had ever done. When he had finished his confession, the pastor put his arm around this broken man and said, “Now, Allan, let me tell you what I’ve done.”
The way Allan later explained it, “I told this man everything I had ever done. Then he told me he had done the very same things. And I knew if God could forgive him, and he could be a preacher, then God could forgive me too.”
Allan knelt in the woods of Pennsylvania with angels hovering low. Heaven’s host celebrated as he gave his heart to Christ and made Jesus the Lord of his life. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” But for me, this is more than a sweet story. It is a miraculous memory. Allan was my dad.
From my earliest years as a Christian, I experienced the power of prayer to change a man’s life—to strengthen a man’s resolve, to protect a man’s heart, and to mature a man’s faith. My firsthand encounter with God’s faithfulness to hear our pleas began with my father and continues today as I witness it in the lives of my husband, my son, and a host of husbands whose wives call out to God in prayer.
As a wife, you have the power to open the floodgates of heaven through prayer on your husband’s behalf. Whether your husband hasn’t yet decided to follow Christ, has a lukewarm fledgling faith, or lives a fiery firm faith, there is no one more qualified to pray for his relationship with Christ than you. No matter where your husband is on the continuum of faithlessness to faithfulness, I encourage you to pray with “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, nasb).
Before we jump into praying for our husbands, let’s take a look at your position as a prayer warrior, the power and purpose of intercession, and the promises of persistent prayer.
We’ll begin by looking at the first married couple ever: Adam and Eve.
Then God Created an Ezer
“In the beginning…”
Those three little words are pregnant with anticipation, and God does not disappoint. Genesis 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God said, “Let there be,” and there was. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). God decorated the sky with the sun, moon, and stars, separated the seas from the land, scattered seed of every kind in the soil, and released flocks of birds into the sky, swarms of insects into the air, and schools of fish into the sea. On the sixth day, God created all the creeping animals. And He wrapped up His work with a masterful flourish. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). Then, as if the writer really wanted us to fully grasp what transpired during the first week of the earth’s existence, he picked up his pen and told the story again. In Genesis 2:4, he starts over: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.”
This time when the writer got to the part about God creating man, he interjected God’s musing after He formed Adam and breathed the breath of life into his lungs. God sat back, considered the lone male, and decided, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This is where you come in.
“I will make a helper suitable for him,” God declared. So God set out to fashion His final masterpiece. The crowning touch of His creation. Woman.
Up to this point in the creation account, we have no recorded words from Adam. However, when he laid eyes on the fair Eve, I imagine he said, “Now this is good!” His exact words were, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). Woman—the inspiration of man’s first poetry and the grand finale of God’s creative genius.
Let’s back up, replay the scene, and take a look at one particular word God used in the creation account. God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word translated here as “helper” in reference to the woman is ezer. This term is derived from a Hebrew word used of God and the Holy Spirit: azar. Both mean “helper”—one who comes alongside to aid, assist, or rescue. The ESV Study Bible notes that the “helper” is one who supplies strength in the area that is lacking in “the helped.”
Ezer appears twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Two times it is used of the woman in Genesis 2, and sixteen times it is used to describe God or Yahweh as the helper of His people. The remaining three references appear in the books of the prophets, referring to military aid. Interestingly the sixteen times the word ezer is used of God, it also carries military connotations. “O Lord, be my helper,” David cried (Psalm 30:10, nasb). “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh,” Moses proclaimed (Exodus 18:4). Clearly, the word ezer suggests a role of great honor. It is a portrait of great strength. Theologian William Mounce painted a poignant picture:
With so many references to God as our helper, it is obvious that an ezer is in no way inferior to the one who receives help. This is important because this is the word that God uses in Gen. 2:18, when he says about Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God then forms Eve as his ezer. According to God’s design, therefore, the man and the woman, the husband and the wife, have been designed by God to stand together and help each other fight the battles of life. And God is there as the divine ezer to fight with them.1
I was surprised to discover that even the Proverbs 31 woman, the model for godly wives and mothers through the centuries, was also referred to in military terms. “An excellent wife, who can find?” the passage begins. “Her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10, nasb). The New International Version calls her “a wife of noble character.” The Amplified Bible describes her as “a capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman.” The Hebrew word that is translated “excellent” or “virtuous” can also mean “wealthy, prosperous, valiant, boldly courageous, powerful, mighty warrior.”
2 Did you catch that? Mighty warrior.
In my book What God Really Thinks About Women, I noted the following:
God did not create woman simply because man was lonely.… He [fashioned] woman to complete man—to love with him, work with him, rule with him, live life with him, procreate with him, and to fight alongside him. She was a female image bearer in this mysterious union of marriage. Woman was and is a warrior called to fight alongside man in the greatest battle that was yet to come—a battle not fought on the battlefield with guns, but on our knees in prayer.3
I’m not suggesting you replace your jeans with battle fatigues and your cute shoes with army boots. But I am suggesting that God has given you an amazing role as a prayer warrior on your husband’s behalf. The apostle Paul urges believers to enter into spiritual battle armed and ready with the Word of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions.… Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10–18) A spiritual battle is going on all around us, and Paul urges us to be prepared, spiritually armed and physically alert. He emphasizes this again in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).
While we don’t have authority over our husbands, we do have authority over the Enemy who seeks to harm him (Luke 10:19). Through prayer, the Enemy’s plans are intercepted; the principalities and authorities are defeated. Through prayer, the power and provision of God flow into the lives of His people.
Paul tells us that marriage between a woman and a man is an earthly example of a heavenly relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22–33). So of course the devil, Satan, wants to destroy that microcosmic snapshot. He began with the first couple in the Garden of Eden, and he continues his all-out assault on the God-ordained institution of marriage today. The words of Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent,” continue to slither into marriages just as surely as they did with the first couple of all time.
But here’s the good news. Jesus said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” ( John 16:33). Not only that, Jesus said He has given you power and authority to “overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You are an ezer, uniquely fashioned and supernaturally equipped to do battle on your knees in prayer for your marriage and your man.
The Purpose of Prayer
“Well, I guess the only thing left to do is pray about it.” How many times have I heard those words? How many times have they slipped past my lips? But what if we looked at prayer from a different perspective…God’s perspective? What if we viewed prayer as our first course of action rather than a last resort?
The vast majority of the e-mails I receive through my ministry center on marriage problems. Women struggle with husbands who aren’t living up to their expectations: men who work too much and love too little, men who withdraw emotionally and advance sexually, men who initially appear to be Prince Charming but later reveal the villain within.
Some wives describe their husbands as hardhearted, meanspirited, and verbally combative. Others complain that their husbands are aloof, passive, and emotionally withdrawn. Perhaps your man fits one of those descriptions.
On the other hand, perhaps you have an adoring husband who cherishes you, cares for you, and encourages you to be all that God has created you to be. Praise God for such a man!
Regardless of where your man or your marriage falls on the continuum of terrific to tolerable to terrible, there is always room for improvement. Prayer can make a bad marriage good and a good marriage great. Before we start, I want to make this very clear: Prayer is not a means of gaining control over your husband, to whip him into shape and make him the man you want him to be. Prayer is a means of relinquishing control of your husband and asking God to shape him into the man that He wants him to be. Prayer involves turning the finger that points out your man’s faults and folding it along with the others in prayer.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 29:16, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’? Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing’?”
God is the Master Potter, and He certainly doesn’t need you or me to tell Him how to shape and mold that marvelous piece of pottery called husband. Oh, we’d like to. That’s for sure. But God’s ultimate goal is for that lump of clay to be fashioned according to His design and for His purposes, not ours. “We are the clay, you are the potter,” Isaiah writes,
“we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). I am. You are. Your husband is.
God shapes and molds. You pray and intercede. James warns about the danger of praying with wrong motives ( James 4:3). Check your desire to control at the door of the prayer closet and don’t let it in.
Prayer is not for the purpose of getting your husband to do what you want him to do when you want him to do it. Let me take that a bit further. Prayer is not for the purpose of getting God to do what you want Him to do when you want Him to do it. It is not for twisting God’s arm to convince Him to do your bidding. He already has your best interests in mind. He already has your husband’s best interests in mind. Amazingly, He invites you to play a part in the miracle of making your husband into the man He created him to be. Your role is not to nag, manipulate, cajole, or control. Your part is to love him and pray for him. And as you pray, God aligns your desires with His desires, your thinking with His thinking, and your heart with His heart.
God is not hoarding His blessings, waiting for us to say the right words to pry those blessings out of His stingy hand. He longs to lavish us with His goodness! (Ephesians 1:7–8). And yet He often waits for us to ask. I am not saying I understand it. Prayer is simply how He chose to engineer the flow of His power and activity from the spiritual realm into the physical realm. Prayer is the conduit through which God’s power is released and His will is brought to earth as it is in heaven.
It is not that God cannot act without the prayers of His people. He can do anything He pleases (Psalm 115:3). However, He has established prayer as the gate through which His blessings flow. James reminds us: “You do not have, because you do not ask” ( James 4:2).
Ezekiel gives us a glimpse into the heart of God regarding prayer.
Israel had sinned in every possible way, and her people were doomed for destruction. God said, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). God looked for someone to pray, to intercede, to stand in the gap for Israel, but there was no one.
Today God is looking for women who will stand in the gap for their husbands, wives who will pray for their men to experience the fullness of God’s blessing. I’m so glad He has found such a woman in you.