In so many ways, Jesus makes life so simple and so clear. If we seek to follow Jesus in our marriages, He even tells us how we should pray. Surely you remember that when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray Jesus responded, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’” (Luke 11:1-2, ESV)
How many marital problems would be “solved” (or examined much differently) if our first prayer was always, “Father, glorify your name and bring your kingdom rule to my heart, our marriage, and this house”?
Seriously: if we made this our first concern, our primary prayer, the starting point for resolution, wouldn’t everything be looked at differently?
Notice, Jesus says this should be our first prayer, but how many couples have never really prayed this prayer second, tenth, or last? How often do we jump over this primary concern—the glory of God and the spread of His kingdom—to our (in comparison) trivial concerns? Our first prayer is far more likely to be, “Lord, make Him notice me!” “Lord, make her be nicer to me!” “Lord, make him stop eating cheeseburgers!” “Lord, make her cut me some more slack…” “Oh, yeah, and then, you know, after that, let Your Kingdom come…”
If our first concern really was the spread of God’s rule in our hearts, and each prayer began with that entreaty, I suspect that most marital “conflict” would be handled 180 degrees differently from how it usually is. The “resolution” that we seek would be an entirely different aim. The tenor of our conversation would be re-focused in some miraculous ways.
What if we tried this? What if, the next time you and your spouse are at a heated point of disagreement, you join hands and pray, beginning with the words, “Father, glorify your name in this situation. Bring your kingdom rule into our hearts. Help us look at this through the lens of what brings the most glory to you and what is evidence of our yielding our hearts to your reign.”
And if, in the listening and talking that followed, we kept this prayer as our goal: how do I, in this situation, yield to God’s reign? What attitude, decision and action will bring Him the most glory? “Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come.”
Even better, what if we prayed this way outside of resolving conflict? What if we prayed to go on the offensive? “Lord, are we missing your will, your purpose? Have our eyes been blinded to something you really want to do through the two of us, working side by side in the day and holding each other at night?”
The apostle Paul has an interesting little aside in his epistle to the Philippians. He warns them that so many “seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (2:21) If Paul were to examine your marriage, would he describe it as one that seeks “your own interests,” or those of Jesus Christ? What are you hoping to get out of your marriage? Who do you truly want to serve in your marriage: you, or Jesus?
I’m not trying to criticize other marriage books out there because there are so many that are better written and more insightful than those with my name on them. But one thing to watch out for is that the driving force behind many marriage books is boldly telling you how to get your own interests better served in marriage rather than pointing you to the interests of Jesus Christ. With such an agenda and by following such teaching, you are likely to find that your marriage is making you less holy and, I would argue, eventually less happy, too.
What are you honestly seeking first in your life? With whose interests are you preoccupied? Which prayer are you praying first?
Gary Thomas (www.garythomas.com) is author of over 15 books, including the best-seller, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? You can follow him on twitter at @garyLthomas, facebook at www.facebook.com/authorgarythomas, or check out his blog at www.garythomas.com/blog.