How to Pray During Marital Conflict
This article is part of the How to Pray series.
Be Armed and Ready
Young couples are often inadequately prepared for the conflicts that they are sure to encounter in their marriages. Learning how to resolve conflict is one of the most vital skills to develop in marriage. The potential causes for conflict are virtually limitless; among the most common are issues related to sex, finances, and in-laws, not to mention parenting (for couples with children). Paul’s words to believers, in general, are applicable to both spouses as well:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11–13)
Husband or wife, any struggle in marriage is ultimately not against your spouse! You’re engaged in a joint spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of evil—the devil and his demons—who are bent on destroying your marriage and poised to exploit any weakness or chink in your marital armor. Therefore, it’s vital that you put on the whole armor of God, both individually and jointly, and that you regularly pray with and for each other.
God's Design for Man and Woman
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger
Husband-and-wife biblical scholars set forth a robust biblical theology of gender, examining key texts, employing sound hermeneutical principles, and considering important historical influences related to the Bible’s teaching on manhood and womanhood.
Here are some things you can pray:
Pray for Protection
Pray that God would build a spiritual wall of protection around your marriage and family that Satan won’t be able to penetrate or destroy.
Made up of fallen creatures redeemed by Christ, married couples are in desperate and continual need of spiritual protection. Pray, therefore, that God would build, not merely low hedges, but towering walls of protection around your marriage and family. Pray that he would build an impenetrable spiritual wall as you put on the whole spiritual armor of God. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught” (Col. 2:6–7). Wives, pray for your husbands, that they will take his responsibility as spiritual leader in your relationship seriously. Husbands, pray for your wives in areas where they may be vulnerable or need encouragement and support as “the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), and nurture and protect them. Also, pray for marital unity, as unity provides protection. As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).
Pray for Unity
Pray that God would grant you spiritual unity in your marriage and (if you have children) your parenting.
Conflict is a recurrent reality in this redeemed yet fallen state, even among Christian couples. Therefore, pray that there would be genuine contrition, repentance, and humility where your spouse has sinned against you or you against your spouse. Pray that God would graciously enable you to forgive each other and for genuine and thorough reconciliation to take place. In this way, you’ll grow even closer and your marriage will become more intimate and tender as you’ll realize that we all fail at times and need each other’s forgiveness. Pray for unity of purpose in your marriage: that you pull in the same direction and have the same desires—to please, revere, and honor God with your lives and the decisions you make. Ask God to enable you to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), looking to the Spirit to unify you and to transcend differences in background, gender, temperament, and other areas. As the psalmist exclaimed, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters!) dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1).
Pray for Purity and Kindness
Pray that God will strengthen your spouse when he or she faces temptation and that he will enable him or her to be considerate toward the other.
It’s vital that you put on the whole armor of God, both individually and jointly, and that you regularly pray with and for each other.
Jesus warned his followers not to yield to lust which, he said, was tantamount to adultery (Matt. 5:28). He also taught them to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one)” (Matt. 6:13). Wives, therefore, pray for your husband that God would strengthen him by his grace when he encounters sexual temptation. Pray that he would be like Joseph who remained strong in the face of persistent temptation and even ran from it when needed (Gen. 39; see especially Gen. 39:12). Husbands, pray that your wives would be pure, holy, and godly (1 Tim. 2:9–10; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:2, 5), staying away from gossip, slander, and any other sin or spiritual defilement. Pray for each other—for wisdom, for relief from stress, for kindness, just as Peter wrote that husbands should be considerate toward their wives (literally, treat them “according to knowledge”) so that their “prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Wives, pray that by God’s grace your husband will treat his sisters in Christ “in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2).
Pray for Wisdom and Direction
Pray for wisdom, guidance, and direction individually and jointly.
“If anyone lacks wisdom,” James urged, “let him ask God who gives generously” (James 1:5). Later, he wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask,” and added, “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4:2–3). Your marriage is meant to be a steady ship, secure amid the high waves and torrents of the culture and the spiritual enemy threatening to engulf and entangle you. Pray, therefore, for wisdom, guidance, and direction, both individually and jointly. Remember, you’re no longer two but one (Gen. 2:24; cf. Eph. 5:31)! While spouses don’t lose their individuality—in fact, a healthy marriage encourages each spouse to develop his or her unique identity to the fullest—they are to be one and unified in jointly moving in the same direction. This calls for wisdom and a sense of God’s calling. Again, pray that God would show you how to partner in your joint mission for him. Pray for unanimity. Pray for your husband to lead well or for your wife to be able to respect you. Pray that God would enable you to honor each other by living out your God-given roles toward each other.
Pray for Fruit
Pray for lasting fruit to result from your marriage.
At creation, God charged the first humans, male and female, to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). In fact, being fruitful and exercising joint dominion as God’s representatives is a big part of what it means for humanity to be created in God’s image and likeness. Normally, such fruitfulness and multiplication will mean having children and raising them to love and serve God (Eph. 6:4). If you don’t have any children yet, pray that God would allow you to have children. If you do, pray that God would allow you to be devoted parents and to lead your children to trust Christ and follow him in committed discipleship. In addition, pray for spiritual fruit to be borne through you and your spouse individually and jointly. This includes growth in godly character and the pursuit of Christian virtues, which Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23). Pray that your home, marriage, and family be increasingly characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret E. Köstenberger are the authors of God’s Design for Man and Woman.
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