Everyone has problems in their marriage—situations they’d like God to fix. A nasty addiction. A bothersome personality trait. A financial need. A health concern. You pray and you pray and it seems like nothing is happening. What’s going on?
God may postpone His answer because you have a lesson to learn.
When Roxann and I were praying about whether to get married, I felt God was telling me to wait. She was on an extended trip with a girlfriend at the time. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t give me a go-ahead, but I sent her a letter with the news. As you can imagine, she was devastated. She spent a lot of time talking to friends and to God. Three months later, I felt a clear peace about asking her to marry me. During those three months, God had been speaking to Roxann about the meaning of love. God was giving her a new perspective. It was only afterwards that I found out about it. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, and I wasn’t even the one who needed to learn the lesson in this case, but now I’m glad God told me to wait.
If you’re praying for your partner and nothing is happening, start by asking God if there is something one of you needs to change. It might be your spouse—or it might be you.
The answer you spot first may not be best.
In the mid-1980s, I was working for a law firm that was 50 miserable miles from home. The Southern California travel route was clogged and unpredictable. Roxann was home with three little girls all day and there was no telling if I would be home at 6:30, 8:30, or even later. Roxann was stressed. Our daughters missed their daddy. We began praying for a job closer to home. When a position opened with a firm only three miles away, we knew this must be the answer to our prayers. I got an interview, and we waited. And waited. I never even got a “Thanks for coming.”
Sometimes you want something so desperately. You’re making a good request of God and, frankly, it seems a little heartless of Him not to grant it. The temptation in these situations is to give up, to assume God doesn’t care, to stop praying. That’s the exact wrong thing to do. That is the very time to reassert that God is good and to watch more broadly for His answer.
A month later, a position opened at another law firm only one mile from my house. I got it! I could walk to work! As it turned out, this job offered me a great deal of flexibility. Parent-teacher conference? Sure. Go. Take off for two hours for my daughter’s volleyball game? Go. You can finish what you’re working on in the evening after the game. Roxann was a very happy camper. God hadn’t answered my specific request, but He sure answered the heart request!
God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we ask them. That doesn’t mean He’s not answering. When His answer doesn’t arrive on your timetable, ask yourself what you really believe about God. Do you think He’s up in heaven plugging His ears? Or, is He a good God who hears and cares and is bringing about His best plan for you? If He is good, keep believing, keep waiting, keep praying. Build your faith.
God may want you to persevere.
Roxann brought some wounds into our marriage. (I did too, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) I have prayed for her healing, and it’s been wonderful to see how God has healed many of the wounds. But some of them are still there, and they affect our relationship. Patterns learned in childhood die hard. I wish they were gone, but they’re not. What should I do, give up on praying?
Luke 11:5-13 is the story of the man who had some late-night visitors. When they arrived at his home, he had nothing to feed them. He went to his neighbor’s house and asked if he could loan him some bread. The neighbor told him to get lost. It was late and he and his family were in bed. But the man kept knocking. Finally, the neighbor got up and granted his request just to shut him up. The Bible recommends that you should pray this way with persistence:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
Too many people give up on prayer and God. Sometimes, God wants us to change. Sometimes, what we think is the answer isn’t God’s best. Sometimes, He just wants us to build our faith through perseverance. Hang in there. Keep watching and praying.