Everyone knows prayer is hard. As in, really hard.
Sometimes, the reasons are obvious: we’re tired or apathetic, running from God, or so busy that we’ve failed to make time with the Lord a top priority.
But today’s post, in response to a question from a reader, gets at a hidden root of our struggles in prayer.
It’s aimed specifically at us husbands from this cryptic verse in 1 Peter 3:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (verse 7)
Peter says that husbands who don’t live with their wives ‘in an understanding way’ will not have effective prayer lives.
I’m not sure about you, men, but I don’t want anything getting in the way of God answering my prayers.
So, let’s take a few minutes and figure this out by breaking it down. Let me say up front that I’m stealing a lot of this from John Piper and the excellent ‘lab’ he does on this very topic.
A Formula For Answered Prayers
If we want God to hear our prayers, Peter says, we need to treat our wives with understanding. He goes on to tell us what that means.
- Show them ‘honor as the weaker vessel’. Commentators differ on what ‘weaker’ means. Some think Peter is referring to delegated authority (see verses 1-2, 5-6), others emotions, and still others physical strength. On the whole, the last one is most likely.
- Treat them as co-heirs of God’s gracious, eternal life. Regardless of what ‘weaker’ means, it cannot mean that women are anything less than fully equal with men. God has created us equally in his image (Genesis 1:27-28), and graciously gifted us with eternal life through Jesus Christ.
So, husbands, we need to honor our wives by living with them in this kind of way. If we do, we won’t:
- use our strength or physical presence to intimidate them or get our way;
- abuse the biblical principle of ‘submission’ (see 1 Peter 3:1-6; Ephesians 5:22-24);
- treat our wives as anything less than fully equal.
To put it more positively, we’ll be kind and tender. We’ll use our strength to serve and protect them. We’ll remember that Jesus has paid for their sins as much as ours, so we’ll be patient when we face their sins and shortcomings. And we’ll be in awe that we get to live with someone who will one day share eternity with Jesus.
When we live like that, our prayers will not be thwarted.
A Moment Of Honesty
I’ve got to be honest with you for a moment. There are many days where I don’t do this very well. Sometimes, it’s more obvious like a lack of patience, and becoming easily annoyed.
Usually, though, it’s more subtle. Like failing to see just what a privilege it is to be joined with someone Jesus loves without limits.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I don’t feel like many of my prayers are answered.
Your Prayers Depend On Your Marriage?
You may be wondering, though, why do our prayers depend on our marriages?
Piper gives us three possibilities:
- Our prayers are obstructed because they get in the way of our relationship to God. Peter himself suggests this in 3:12 by quoting Psalm 34:12-16, where God says he hears the prayers of the righteous.
- Our prayers are hindered because sin disrupts the unity of a husband and wife when they pray. In Matthew 18:19, Jesus says that ‘if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.’ By extension, if husbands and wives are living in disunity, God is less likely to grant what they ask.
- Our prayers are blocked because disunity in our marriages makes it harder to pray in the first place. Prayer is an intimate act, and marital distance and tension make prayer unnatural.
It’s hard to know which one Peter is thinking about in our passage, but they’re certainly all true. Husbands, we can’t treat our wives poorly and expect our Father to bless our prayers.
Two More Reasons Our Prayers And Marriages Are Connected
Other human relationships work this way, too.
For example, if someone treats one of my kids poorly, they’ve got a problem with me, too. As their dad, you can’t treat my kids like garbage and expect me to throw you a party. The analogy breaks down at some point, but the principle is clear.
Furthermore, marriages are supposed to showcase the relationship between Jesus and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). And husbands in particular are supposed to sacrificially love their wives like Jesus loved us, his bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
So it stands to reason that, if we’re dishonoring our wives, it would be dangerous for God to grant our prayers. As if the most important human relationship in our lives – and a mirror of the gospel – doesn’t matter very much.
Thankfully, God is often – no, always – incredibly gracious. If he drew a one-to-one correlation between our husbanding and his answers to our prayers, we’d all be sunk.
Peter isn’t saying, ‘be perfect – or else!’ But he is saying there’s a real relationship between the way we love our wives and God’s answers to our prayers.
Four Ways Toward Honoring Our Wives And Answered Prayers
So, what do we do with all this, men?
Let me throw a few suggestions against the wall so you can prayerfully decide which ones should stick.
- Think about the way you see, and treat, your wife. Are you really trying to live with her in an understanding way, and treating her like a daughter of the King? (I’m not asking if you think she deserves that based on her actions.)
- Ask God – and your wife – for forgiveness if you need to. Don’t make excuses when you ask. God might use your repentance as a new beginning in your marriage. Pray for that before you talk.
- Invite your friends to pray for you, and hold you accountable. If you are, let them know you’re struggling to love your wife well, and that you’re worried it might be getting in the way of your relationship with God. Be honest, be specific, and ask them to pray for you regularly. (If you don’t have any real guy friends, here are 5 ways to get started.)
- See what God might do! I’m not saying that, if you treat your wife well for a week, you’ll experience an avalanche of answers to your prayers. God isn’t a vending machine, but this is a promise, and we can trust him to honor it in real ways, even if they’re not always clear.
Guys, as we live with our wives in an understanding way, they will be blessed and our prayers will not be hindered.
Let’s live it out: Take a few minutes, and work through the four possible action steps just above. Then, decide what you need to do (if anything) in response.
PS If you’d like more help for your marriage, I’ve gathered some of my most popular posts and free resources together on my marriage page.