When Praying to Restore Your Marriage Isn’t Working

When Praying to Restore Your Marriage Isn’t Working

It’s dangerous to even imply that prayer isn’t enough. That seems to go against what any “good” Christian believes. And yet I speak with husbands and wives all the time whose prayers for their marriage seem to go unanswered. What are you to think when praying to restore your marriage isn’t working? How long are you supposed to “wait?”

There’s little that has a bigger impact on your wellbeing than the health or lack of health in your closest personal relationships. When your marriage is not well, nothing in life can make up for it. God cares about your marriage. And He can do miracles. So aren’t you supposed to believe God to restore your marriage, and pray for that?

Yes. But what you mean by “restore your marriage” may not be what God is after. Here are some important things to understand about the nature of marriage and the nature of love that will change your praying.

What Restoring Your Marriage is NOT

I’ve noticed a dangerous but common sentiment in the people who contact me for help, hoping and praying that God will restore their marriage. Too often what they want is for God to make their spouse change so they can go back to the way things were “before.”

If their spouse has left, they want God to make them come home. If their spouse has withdrawn from sex, they want God to make their spouse have sex with them. Or if their spouse is addicted or angry or withdrawn or selfish, they want God to “fix” them so they can have the marriage they want. That may be a bit oversimplified, but that’s the bottom line.

That’s a dangerous sentiment because marriage never was intended to be about getting your needs met. In a healthy godly marriage many of your needs are likely to be met, but that’s not the purpose of marriage. Believing marriage is all about you is really the antithesis of love.

God is never pleased with your pain. But He won’t “fix” your spouse so you can have what you want. If that’s what you’re after when praying to restore your marriage, be glad God is not answering your prayer with a Yes! You don’t want things to go back to the way they were before; that’s what got you into this mess in the first place.

What Restoring Your Marriage IS

So what is God after?

Your pain is an indication your marriage is broken, and you don’t want to go back to the state of affairs that led to things being broken. What you need is a new marriage – with the same partner.

That’s an important distinction, and it will change the way you pray. Whatever was unhealthy in your marriage previously needs to be dealt with. Yes, that involves your spouse changing, but it also involves you changing. The ways you relate to each other may need to be completely rebuilt.

If you previously enabled your spouse’s bad behavior, accepted abuse, or didn’t make your voice heard, you will need to learn how to speak up, set boundaries, and stay engaged through conflict. If you are accustomed to manipulating, controlling, belittling, or trying to force your own way, you will need to learn how to let go, listen, apologize, and serve your spouse. For your marriage to become what God intended, it’s likely you will need to renegotiate much about communication, intimacy, power, conflict, and more.

None of this minimizes your spouse’s need to change. But the point is that you yourself will have to change for you to be able to experience the kind of healthy marriage you desire and that God desires for you. Without you becoming someone new from the inside out, you will not be able to have a new marriage.

Love is Dangerous

And there’s something you must remember about love. The nature of love being what it is, love is dangerous. Love makes you vulnerable. Love someone and you give them power to hurt you.

Think of God, and how He loves. His love is overwhelming, endless, perfect, incorruptible, unmixed. Love is His very nature. He is the very definition of Love. No one, nothing, can stop Him from loving perfectly.

And yet He has failed.

Failed in this sense. The very human beings He created out of love, and placed in the absolutly perfect environment, turned against Him. When He came to earth in the Person of Jesus, He lost one of His closest companions (Judas who betrayed Him). His desire that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9) will not be fulfilled; some will be lost.

And that’s because He is Love. True love does not wish to manipulate or control, but to be loved freely in return. And love cannot be commanded or forced. Love is only love when it’s freely given. Unrequited love is perhaps the most painful of emotions, even for God.

Loving your spouse means you cannot “make” them into the person you desire. Not even God will force them (or you!) to become whole. What God does is invite them, and you, into a process of becoming the person He created you both to be. And you can be a big part of that invitation for your spouse, without any guarantee of what the response will be.

How to Pray

You love your spouse. And you want restoration for your marriage. Or perhaps more wisely, you want your marriage to become all that God intended. So how do you pray?

Here’s what that can look like.

  • Ask God to let you see your marriage as He sees it. Ask Him to show you how He sees your own heart, your spouse’s heart, and your relationship. “Lord, what’s going on here?”
  • Who does God need you to be to your spouse in this season? Does He need you to take your grubby hands off so He can work? Or to step up and fulfill a role you’ve been holding back from? Or to pursue your spouse in a way you haven’t before? Perhaps He needs you to “suffer well,” being His “hands and feet” to your spouse in their suffering.
  • Regardless of what He needs you to do, it will take courage. It takes courage to listen when you’d rather talk, or speak up when you’d normally withdraw, to learn new skills of communication, or to pursue intimacy in the way your spouse can respond to.
  • You can’t control the outcome. You can’t control your spouse’s vote, or the process God takes either of you through. You’ll need to open your clenched fists and learn what trusting God is all about, even if the outcome looks different than you want.

So keep praying for God to do in you, in your spouse, and in your marriage what only He can do. And keep listening to understand who He needs you to be along the way.

Your Turn: Are you praying for God to restore your marriage? Are there some of these elements of prayer that you need to incorporate going forward? Leave your comment below.

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  • If in praying to restore your marriage you are hoping your marriage will go back to how it was “before,” you may be praying for more harm. You need a NEW marriage – with the same partner. And that means YOU must change.   Tweet that

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