They pray for a preacher, teacher, evangelist, prophet or pastor to say just the right thing and jolt their husbands from spiritual ineptitude. Or they hope a friend will say something that will shake him from his prayerlessness. At times, they will even buy books or leave the Bible open to a highlighted verse, hoping to reveal the spiritual problems facing their marriage.
Often a wife responds in shocking ways to her husband. She may confront, yell, nag, shame or criticize. She may encourage, plead, beg or push her husband toward prayer. And while he may change for a season, the sad reality is that lasting change doesn't occur, and after a few weeks or months the spiritual wall reappears stronger and more impregnable than ever.
The truth usually is that husbands don't notice the spiritual walls forming between them and their wives because their priorities are misplaced (Matt. 6:33). Too often husbands "seek first" to meet their career goals, financial goals and family goals—all of which are important, but not the highest priority—rather than seeking first the kingdom of God. They spend more time trying to please those who care about them least—bosses, clients or work colleagues—than caring about those who love them most—God, wife, family and the body of Christ.
As a husband works and plays harder, investing himself in everything and everyone else before attending to the Lord and his wife, a spiritual wall begins to form between the two spouses.
At first the bricks in the wall are small obstacles on which the husband stubs his toe and quickly recovers. But later the bricks are cemented together by the mortar of habitual neglect, and a formidable wall is built that requires much repentance to tear down.
Spiritual walls develop between husbands and wives who do not pray and share together spiritually. In counseling with scores of couples, I have discovered that many spouses are willing to allow a wall to remain. Why? There are at least 5 possible reasons:
1. Denial. They refuse to admit it's there.
2. Ignorance. They do not know they can have a more meaningful relationship through prayer and spiritual discipline.
3. Pain. They are unwilling to risk the pain and effort it will take to achieve spiritual gain in their marriage.
4. Lack of faith. They simply do not believe they can change.
5. Fear. The wife may fear becoming vulnerable again to hurt. She may fear rejection and failure. The husband, on the other hand, may fear exposing his own spiritual poverty or barrenness. He may fear that his wife is simply going to manipulate his feelings or attitudes to "get what she wants."
Repentance: Tearing Down the Walls
A husband and wife are two people who have become one in Christ (Mark 10:7–9). The walls we build that spiritually divide us must be destroyed. Who brings them down? How are they destroyed?
Our answer is found in Ephesians 2:14: "For He [Christ] Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility."
Neither one of you can do it alone, but praying together in Christ will shatter any and all walls between you. You may protest, saying, "We don't want to pray this way," or, "We don't feel as if we are one in Christ." However, in marriage, the spiritual reality is oneness in Christ—so you can pray together in spite of your feelings.
God declares that in marriage you and your husband are one. That truth has not changed if you haven't prayed together for a week, a month or even years. Spiritual walls that have been in place for ages can be shattered in a twinkling of an eye by Christ—your peace, the destroyer of the dividing wall of hostility.
Praying With Power and Wonderful Results
With repentance and confession, the spiritual walls in marriage come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Healing is released for the marriage and for spiritual growth. As a couple prays, they encounter the power of God's Spirit working in and through them. Before prayer changes things, it changes people (2 Cor. 3:18).
I encourage you to pray together with your husband. But if he still refuses, don't quit. Find another wife who will agree with you in prayer for your husband and family. Be persistent. Never give up.
One husband I knew resisted the prayers of his wife for more than 20 years. She tried to pray with him but rarely would he pray with her.
She left books out and gave suggestions about prayer. She tried nagging, cajoling, shaming, affirming, exhorting and manipulating her husband to pray—all to no avail. She asked others to pray for him. She read books on prayer. She went to prayer groups.