In the Bible, God commands, “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8). Paying heed to these ﬁve directives can change your life and your marriage and make you the man and husband God wants you to be. It’s deﬁnitely something well worth praying about.
1. Be of One Mind
It’s horrible to have strife in a marriage. It makes us miserable. It affects every area of our lives. And it’s probably the closest thing to hell we’ll ever know on earth. If it goes on long enough, it can destroy everything. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). Those are frightening predictions. But prayer is the key by which unity in the marriage relationship can be maintained.
A man and wife cannot live entirely independently of one another without paying a steep price for it. It makes them incomplete. “Neither is a man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). But because men and women are different, it’s quite easy for them to get off onto completely separate paths. Even in the closest of marriages, the two partners are still not joined at the hip. You and your wife may have separate work, interests, and activities, but if you are praying with and for one another regularly, it will keep you in tune and on the same path. Without this unity of mind and spirit that prayer provides, it’s too easy to get used to the other one not being there. And if resentment about that creeps into the heart of either one of you, you can begin to hold yourself apart from one another mentally, physically, or emotionally, without even realizing it.
It is especially important to be of the same faith and beliefs. In fact, this is a good place to begin praying. Your entire relationship is compromised if you are not on the same page in this area. For example, going to separate churches, or going to a church where one of you is not happy, or one of you going to church while the other one consistently does not, all promote a lack of unity.
If you can think of other issues such as this that have caused division between you and your wife, pray speciﬁcally about them. Ask God to change your heart where necessary to bring you into unity with your wife. Where your wife’s attitude and perspective need to change, pray for her to be able to change them. Your marriage will be a strong force for good if the two of you are of one mind.
2. Be Compassionate
Have you ever seen your wife suffering, but you don’t know what to do about it? Some men become impatient with that. Others feel so at a loss or overwhelmed by it that it causes them to withdraw. If you recognize that happening to you, ask God to give you a heart of compassion. To be compassionate toward your wife is to have a deep sympathy for any area in which she suffers and to have a strong desire to alleviate that suffering.
Part of being compassionate has to do with simply listening. That means being able to listen without having that faraway look in your eyes that says, “I have more important things to do. Let’s get this over with quickly.” Your wife is not expecting you to ﬁx everything. She just needs to know that you hear her heart and care about how she feels.
In the past my husband would stand still and listen to me for no more than three seconds (I timed this) before he would walk out of the room. If I wanted him to hear a complete sentence, I either had to run after him or ﬁnish the sentence the next time I saw him. Even when I did get him to actually sit down and look at me while I was speaking, I still had to ask him to give me some indication that he comprehended what I was saying. Usually I said something like “Blink if you can hear me.” When he blinked, it meant so much to know he had heard my voice. Now he has a heart for my struggles, and he listens with care. Those moments of listening and indicating compassion have been healing to our relationship.
Pray that God will give you a heart of compassion toward your wife and the patience to listen to her when she needs you to do so. It’s a ﬁne art worth cultivating. It can get you places with her where you’ve dreamed of being.
3. Be Loving
Jesus loves us with ﬁdelity, purity, constancy, and passion no matter how imperfect we are. If a man doesn’t love his wife in that same way, he will abuse his authority and his headship and as a result will abuse her. Because you are one with your wife, you must treat her the way you would your own body. You wouldn’t do anything to deliberately hurt or destroy it. You love it and care for it. “Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself” (Ephesians 5:33).
Jack Hayford, our pastor for 23 years, always said he could tell when a woman was truly loved by her husband, because she grew more beautiful as the years went on. He recognized an inner beauty that doesn’t fade, but rather increases with time when a woman is loved.
You have no idea how much your love means to your wife. Don’t withhold it from her, or one way or another you will lose her. The Bible says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so” (Proverbs 3:27). Ask God to increase your love for your wife and enable you to show it in a way that makes her beautiful.
4. Be Tenderhearted
Is there anything about your wife that bothers you? Is there something that she does or says, or doesn’t do or say, that irritates you? Do you ﬁnd yourself wanting to change something about her? What happens when you try to make those changes occur? How does she respond when you show your irritation? Have you ever just given up and said, “It’s no use. She’s never going to be any different”?
The truth is, we all have a hard time changing. Try as we may, we can’t change ourselves in any signiﬁcant way. Only God can make changes in us that last. Only His power can transform us. That’s why prayer is a more tender and more certain way to see changes happen in your wife.
For example, does your wife always run late, while you like to be on time? She’s probably not doing it on purpose. She may either be a poor judge of time or else she is trying to do too much. Pray that God will help her to organize things better or not take on more than she can handle, or that she will gain a clearer concept of time. Above all, don’t let anger, harshness, or demeaning attitudes creep in. Criticism intended to make your wife change doesn’t work. It will never give you the results you want. The only thing that works is prayer.
So rather than be impatient with your wife’s weaknesses, ask God to give you a tender heart so you can pray for her about them. Ask Him to show you how they are a complement to your strengths. And remember that, though the ways you and your wife are the same can unite you, the ways you are different can keep things interesting.
5. Be Courteous
Do you ever talk to your wife in a way that would be considered rude if you were speaking to a friend or business associate? Are you kind to everyone all day at work, but then you take out your frustration, exhaustion, and anger on your wife when you get home? Do you ever allow criticism of your wife to come out of your mouth in front of other people? If so, as a sister in the Lord who deeply cares about both you and your wife, allow me to give you your ﬁrst serious assignment in this book:
Marriage is hard enough without one of the parties being rude, cruel, or inconsiderate. Nothing makes a marriage feel more like hell on earth. Nothing is more upsetting, defeating, tormenting, suffocating, or emotion-provoking, nothing does more to bring out the worst in us, than a marriage where one of the partners is lacking in common courtesy. I have heard of more marriages dissolving because the wife had been treated rudely for so long that she felt herself becoming resentful, angry, bitter, and hopeless. In other words, she was turning into the kind of person she never wanted to be. We have to care enough about our mates to stop doing things that hurt or upset them.
There is nothing more wonderful than the male voice. It is strong and deep and rich. And the sound of male voices singing together is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth. But the male voice can also be terrifying, especially to women and children. Most men have no idea about the power of their voice. When a man speaks, his words have the power to create and the power to destroy. His words can be like a sharp knife that wounds and kills, or a soothing balm that heals and brings life.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk honestly and openly with your wife about the issues in your lives. By all means, put your thoughts and feelings on the table. But don’t let your words turn into weapons of criticism that destroy what you want to preserve. Even when we don’t mean to, our impatience or exhaustion can make our words seem less than courteous. Remember that “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). It’s not the words you speak, it’s the power of God behind them that will make the difference. Praying ﬁrst, before you talk about a sensitive subject, will give your words power and ensure that you speak them from a right heart.
Your wife was created as a gift from God to complete you. “Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9). But she must be treated as the gift from God that she is, in order for that complete blessing to happen in your life. Your wife will prove to be your greatest asset if you value and honor her. The Bible tells us that “whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). Pray for God to help you speak to your wife in a courteous way that is pleasing in His sight, and to convict your heart when you do not.
Praying about these ﬁve simple biblical directives will transform your life and your marriage. And no matter how great your marriage is, God wants it to be better. Since God tells us to “be transformed,” that must mean there is always room for improvement (Romans 12:2). Therefore it stands to reason that, as we improve individually, our marriages will also improve. Next to your love for her, the greatest gift you can give your wife is your own wholeness. Her most fervent desire for you is that you become the man God created you to be. It must be your desire also. God has given you strength, brilliance, power, authority, and the wonderful and admirable traits that come with being a man. Ask God to help you use them well and to His glory. Ask God to make you everything He created you to be so you and your wife will always be a winning team.