Praying for our spouse combines the two most important relationships in our lives: our covenant with God and our covenant with our spouse. These two covenants are the bedrock of creation before the fall, and the marriage covenant in particular is the primary illustration for understanding much of redemptive history (Eph. 5:22–33). It is only fitting that our marriages would be marked by that same activity—prayer—that marks Christ’s marriage to the church.
But just as pride was the sin that undermined both Edenic covenants, it skews our prayers for our spouse. So often our prayers for our spouse start with what we want changed about them. But Scripture teaches that we are going to be the biggest influence for sanctification in our spouse’s life. A husband who prays for his wife that she would be loved by a husband who grows in holiness all his days prays a good prayer and is its own answer. The biggest answer God may provide as we pray for our spouse may be to change us, not him or her.
But there is a place to consider what specifically we can pray for our spouse. Second Peter 3:18 is a great place to start: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Pray for your spouse’s growth in the grace of Jesus, that repentance and deep joy in the gospel would mark his or her life. Pray for your spouse’s increasing knowledge of Jesus, that his or her study of the Bible, at home and under Lord’s Day preaching, would reveal more truth to him or her about our great Savior.
Also pray for your spouse to experience the unique grace and growth that are particular to your spouse’s gender and role. We are men and women who in marriage become husbands and wives, and by God’s blessing, fathers and mothers. Husbands and wives experience unique temptations, have different callings, and know particular graces that are unique to their gender. We pray well for our spouses when we consider this and pray for them with these unique gender and role differences in mind.
Last, pray prayers around your spouse’s physical health. One goal of a faithful Christian marriage is for one spouse to attend the other’s funeral, so our prayers for our spouse will often include praying into declining health. Though our outer selves waste away, we pray that our inner selves would be renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). The surgeries, the cancers, the childbirths, and the illnesses—all of these are opportunities for us to learn of God’s care for our souls and bodies.
Never underestimate the power and privilege of praying for your spouse.
Rev. Joe Holland is an associate editor for Ligonier Ministries and a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.