When a marriage has disintegrated here are some of the prayers people say depending on their circumstances:
- Make my spouse come home.
- Make my spouse want to make our marriage work.
- Make my spouse stop_____. (Gambling, using drugs, drinking too much, or looking at porn.)
- Turn my spouse back into somebody who loves me.
- Make my spouse stop the affair and return to me.
- Make my spouse spend more time with our children.
- Make my spouse willing to go to counseling.
- Make my spouse a believer.
- Make my spouse realize what divorce will do to our family.
All worthy prayers, right?
Working toward and praying for a healthy marriage is what I believe God would have us do. We need to give marriage our best effort and prayer is powerful. Turning to God is an act of faith and hope.
So Why Hasn’t Your Spouse Changed?
One thing all the prayers above have in common is a request for God to “make” your spouse do something. After all, God is all powerful and does work in mighty ways. His Spirit can move people.
So what’s the problem?
Expecting God to MAKE someone act in a certain way asks God to override the gift of free will. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. God’s spirit moves in our lives but each of us must willfully accept him and seek him.
Prayers of intercession, that is prayers on behalf of another person, are different from prayers asking God to force another person to act a certain way. I believe God will intercede. The outcome may not be what you want because God will not take away the free will that he gave your spouse. It is up to your spouse to respond to God.
God’s Timing May Be Different
Prayers may also seem unanswered because answers may not come quickly. God’s timing can require waiting on God.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 NIV
The Big Picture
The truth is that God has the big picture and we do not. We don’t understand about answers to our prayers because we can’t conceive the mind of God.
No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” 1 Corinthians 2:7 NIV
Even when we don’t understand, we can trust that God’s wisdom exceeds ours.
Trust that God is at Work
If you are seeking God and his will, you can trust that God is at work in your life whatever your circumstances. God’s vision and ability is unlimited. His strength and guidance are yours for the asking.
If your spouse repents and commits to reviving your marriage, God will be there to show the way. If your spouse uses free will to continue destructive behavior and refuses to return to the marriage, God will be there to show you the way then too.
Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.
Not even divorce.
Renee Smith Ettline, M.Ed. is founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC, author of Peace after Divorce, and creator of the Peace after Divorce Workshop. Her Peace after Divorce Workshop group study is widely offered in churches and reaches across denominational lines. She builds on her background as an educational counselor, her Christian faith, and her own divorce experience to light a path for those who need support for healing from divorce.