Every marriage faces challenges. And praying is the best thing you can do. God loves to do miracles! He is well able to restore, heal, and transform whenever He is given the chance. So why do your prayers seem to be doing nothing for your marriage? Let me unpack five specific ways to pray about your troubled marriage, with some questions to ask God when your relationship needs help.

Before looking at the ways to pray, a couple things are important to remember. First, prayer is not a way of wielding magic. It’s not getting God to do what you want Him to do. He’s too big to be controlled by you, and you wouldn’t really want that anyway.

And second, marriage is not about your personal happiness, or getting your needs met. Marriage is about learning to love well. Sometimes that brings wonderful happiness, and sometimes it’s really hard. In marriage both people get a vote, and you can only control your own vote. God can work wherever He is given opportunity, and He won’t override your spouse’s vote. Your job is to make sure your vote is Yes.

So, here are some helpful ways I’ve learned to pray that specifically apply when your marriage needs help.

  1. Jesus, Come! HELP!

Yes, ask Him to intervene! Marriage is the union of two sinners, and by itself that’s a setup for disaster. You absolutely must have God as the divine glue holding you together. God has rescued countless marriages marred in ways as bad and worse than yours. You need Him!

James writes, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2-3)

Notice two things here; 1. You must ask! And 2. If you ask only for your own passions (King James reads “lusts”) you won’t receive.

So openly invite Jesus to come right into the middle of your messy marriage. Don’t try to micromanage Him; just ask Him to come into the mess and do His work.

  1. Jesus, What’s Going On Here?

How helpful this will be!

If your spouse has an evil heart, it will require very different responses on your part than if your spouse is acting largely out of their hurts and fears. Your marriage may be messed up because neither of you learned appropriate skills in areas such as communication, sharing power, nurturing intimacy, etc. You may be playing out patterns from your families of origin that have never been addressed. Or you may have dropped the ball in addressing some important elements in your relationship.

Sometimes what’s going on is a direct attack from the enemy against your marriage, and knowing that can help you know how to fight for your marriage. And there are times you are simply experiencing the painful realities of still living in a messed-up world.

So ask Him, What’s going on here?

  1. Jesus, How do You See My Spouse’s Heart?

Again, if your spouse’s heart is evil you will need to respond differently. But there’s more.

There’s always a story behind your spouse’s irritating or hurtful behavior. They may have been deeply wounded, perhaps before you got married. They be living out expectations they’ve never even known how to express. Their responses to their own stuff, to you, and to life may be completely sinful, but there’s a story behind that.

The more you understand God’s perspective on your spouse’s heart, the more you can see your spouse with compassion. Not to enable or excuse bad behavior, but seeing them with compassion. That kind of clarity will be so helpful in knowing what to do next.

  1. Jesus, How do You See My Heart?

Yes, you’ve had have a part to play in how this mess has developed. And this mess also affects you deeply. God knows that. Ask God to let you see you as He sees you.

God does not look at you with condemnation. Remember, condemnation is the enemy’s tactic. But what has your role been? Have you ignored warning signs along the way? Have you made marriage all about your own needs? How have you harmed your spouse? What’s it been like to be married to you? Have you perhaps been looking to your spouse for something they cannot give, something that only God can provide?

You have a story too, just like your spouse does. Jesus looks at your heart and your story with both honesty and great compassion. Your heart matters. Together with Jesus, bring that into the light.

  1. Jesus, Who do You Need Me to be to my Spouse Right Now?

Most of all, seek to understand the role God would have you play in your marriage right now.

If your normal way of handling problems is to get in and try to fix things, God may need you to take your grubby hands off your spouse so He can do His work. If you tend to run away from problems, He may need you to engage in the hard work of setting boundaries or having difficult conversations. This might be a season where He is calling you to show patience and grace when your spouse is deeply hurting. Or if your own behavior has caused your spouse significant wounding, He may need you to focus almost exclusively on dealing with your own stuff right now.

God’s restoration may be deeper and different than you first imagined. There is no situation too hard for Him! Inviting Jesus into the middle of your marriage means that you can experience growth and restoration regardless of your spouse’s decisions.

And praying in these ways will also enable you to be the kind of person God can use in bringing transformation to your marriage.

Your Turn: How have you been praying for your troubled marriage? Which of these ways of praying have you neglected in the past? And how are you going to pray now? Leave a comment below.

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