I remember weeping and praying for days, weeks, even months on end. I was praying that God would somehow save my marriage. I was convinced I could never make it on my own. And I didn’t want to. I wanted to have my husband of 31 years also be my companion to the end of our days. I had invested my whole life into our marriage. And now it was flashing through my eyes. That wasn’t what God wanted for me, though.
So, how do we know when to stop praying for marriage restoration? When we are depending wholly on God’s leading in our life and making our decisions based on doors that God opens and closes, we can rest knowing that we are doing God’s will. When our spouse chooses not to heal after counsel, friends, and others step in, we know that God is leading us to stop praying. When our spouse commits adultery and crimes against us, it is also time to stop praying for marriage restoration.
Let’s talk about this in more detail.
Table of Contents
What God’s Word Says About Marriage Restoration
The Bible never specifically names marriage restoration. But it has thousands of passages about restoring relationships with other people in general. Let’s take a look at a few of them. I am sure as you progress through them you will begin to see a prevailing theme.
Matthew 8:15-17 says, ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
1 Corinthians 7:3 says, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”
Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Ephesians 5:28 says, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
While there are some verses that speak specifically to married couples, so many more speak to how we should treat everyone around us. And if we are to love others with our best love, how much more love, grace, and honesty should we treat our spouse? We should be their safest person.
If two people who are in a difficult marriage seek the Lord together and seek to restore their marriage, then their prayers are answered. But unfortunately, it takes both members of the couple to do this. And often one or the other person is simply not willing to do this. In those cases, I fully believe God will choose to not save the marriage for the sake of extending mercy to the victim spouse in the relationship. This is especially true if the other person refuses to repent of their part in the relationship and do the hard work of restoring the relationship.
What God Says About Praying for our Spouse
We probably all realize that we are supposed to pray for our spouse daily and then some. That is part of the “pray without ceasing” instruction we get in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. But there is more to it.
God expects us to pray for our significant others all the time. In fact, it is critical that we pray for our significant others as well as for ourselves. We are to be in a constant state of prayer. Without doing this, our spiritual lives suffer. But if we do pray constantly for our spouse, God will bless our marriage.
This doesn’t mean that we if we don’t pray God will punish us. It is more about our daily attitude toward protecting and valuing our marriage. If we forget to pray or get busy once in a while, it doesn’t mean our marriage will start to fail. It just means we are human and God understands.
But to go for months or even years without praying for our significant other does cause the marriage relationship to suffer, as well as our relationship with God.
If you read the verses around 1 Thessalonians 5:17, you will see more expectations from God. Let’s take a look. Verses 15-18 say, “
15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we apply all of these verses to how we relate to our spouse, what a difference it will make over time in our day-to-day life!
How You Should Pray for Marriage Restoration
We have so many things to pray for our spouses. We pray for their safety, a good job, a good life with all of those items. We also pray for Christian influence when they are at work, good Christian friends when at church or just around. We pray for peace and for them to feel the love we give them daily. And for a relationship with Christ that grows closer to him and to his family as time passes.
The list is long for all of the things we can pray for our spouse for. But at the top of that list, we should pray that our marriage would be preserved. That God would protect our eyes and ears from being influenced by the world and dragged away from our families and church. That God would protect our hearts toward Him and each other as we go out into the world daily. And that our love for each other will grow over time and not fade. That we will listen to each other and truly hear the needs and desires of the other person. I am sure you can add plenty of things that you already pray on your list.
So, here’s some homework for you. Get a small journal and write your daily prayer for your spouse in that journal. Whatever comes to mind that is affecting your life at the moment. Make sure to leave space so you can go back with an answer and notes later. Then, underneath that, write three things that you feel blessed about in your marriage. It won’t take long before you see how God has worked and continues to work in your marriage.
Make sure to share that with your spouse on a regular basis. They may join in when they see the value of it. But most spouses WILL see the value of it whether they choose to join in or not.
If you are still praying for marriage restoration, you will want to pray this short, 2-minute video prayer. You may even want to pray it daily for some time and meditate on it. It is a beautiful prayer.
When You Should Pray for Marriage Restoration
We should pray for marriage restoration before we even get married. Everyone, even the most naïve person, realizes that eventually down the road, you and whoever you marry will hit hard times. Whether it is money, children, sickness, relationship trouble, or anything. So, maybe it is a good thing to begin praying as soon as we start thinking about a significant other.
Of course, for those of us whose marriages were more difficult than we could repair on our own, we should certainly continue praying. Adding fasting to that could be a great idea too, so you can focus and meditate even more. If you haven’t studied fasting and prayer yet, you really should look into it. It will open up a whole new spiritual world to you!
Once you find yourself in a troubled marriage, you should want to pray until there is nothing left for you to do. But it also shouldn’t be your last line of defense. I know in my own life, sometimes I feel like telling someone I will be praying for them is so insignificant and “less than” I could be doing. But it really should be our first line of action.
You certainly can’t stop praying for marriage restoration when you are in the thick of things. Even when you don’t feel like it. I know I could get so frustrated I wouldn’t want to pray for him, let alone think about him. But God has called us to be bigger people than we think we are most of the time.
Praying for Marriage Restoration Before a Divorce
You may be thinking about separation or divorce because things have become so impossibly difficult in your life. (For more on biblical grounds for divorce with a narcissist or other sinner, click here to read my article.) Before a divorce may be the most critical time to pray for marriage restoration. But that does not mean God is going to grant you a restored marriage.
I couldn’t understand this for the longest time. I felt like God wanted me to be married “til death do us part.” That was what I promised. And I thought I had to keep that promise. What I didn’t think about was that the covenant of my marriage had been broken years before I got to this point. And that, while God may not grant me my prayer to restore my marriage, maybe He was instead ushering me into a better new life.
I still feel the overwhelming loss of my marriage. Almost every day. But I am no longer abused spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, and whatever other ways I was for years. I have a good life. And so do my children.
During a divorce
During my divorce, I continued to pray for the restoration of my marriage. I knew the loss was big. I was losing my lifelong companion (not really, I had lost him years ago). Our household would be shattered. Our family would be spread throughout several churches, so no more family worship and Sunday dinners anymore. Life would be so different. And I was devastated. So, my counselor and I prayed for a miracle. But God knew more than we did. And He said no to restoring my marriage.
This is the case with most marriages when they reach the point of divorce. In the years I have led my local DivorceCare Chapter, there have only been two people who reconciled with their spouse. And I am so incredibly happy for them. But I also pray for them as I know they have hit some pretty low lows. And they certainly need prayer as they do the incredibly hard work of reconciliation.
But then, when you get past this point in your marriage, it is time to stop praying for marriage restoration. Now, you must pray for your own protection, growth in the Spirit, and new life.
If your now ex-spouse comes back to you and you are able to reconcile, then that is a wonderful thing! Unfortunately, in many cases, when a spouse walks away from a marriage (equally in Christian vs. non-Christian marriages now), they tend to find another significant other to replace you. And that permanently destroys your one-flesh relationship.
My ex was dating another woman publicly before he even filed for divorce with me. So when he filed for divorce, I knew it was forever over. Even though he was supposed to be repenting, healing, and coming back to our family home. He wasn’t interested. He had a new life and a new start that he didn’t need to heal from or repent. And he still does all the same things to the new people that he did to us. Except they don’t realize the extent of the damage yet.
You may be interested in these articles that are closely related to this one:
When to Stop Praying for Marriage Restoration
After a divorce
My ex was married a mere six days after we got our divorce decree in the mail. So with that, there was no more hope to pray for marriage restoration for me. I think in most cases, it is pretty much the same. Maybe not six days, haha. But certainly when someone files for divorce it is because for whatever reason, they are more than done.
Here is what God says regarding what happens when a man divorces his wife:
“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
Let’s look at what 1 Corinthians 7 says about divorce and spousal relationships throughout hardship:
“10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
Jeremiah 3:1 says, ““If a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted?” Clearly, God realizes that when a man divorces a woman and “forces” her into another relationship, there is no more chance of restoration of the first marriage.
Malachi 2:16 says, ““For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” God does not look kindly on the man who carelessly throws away his wife.
Mark 10:11-12 says, “And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’” The person who is the victim of divorce is not the one Jesus is talking about. He is talking about the unrepentant spouse who walks away.
Titus 3:10 says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Just know, God does not expect you to have to stay with someone who never gives you peace or safety in your life. This is effectively the desertion grounds for divorce that God talks about in 1 Corinthians 7.
Just Because God Didn’t Restore Your Marriage, it Doesn’t Mean He Isn’t With You
Like I said above, I still grieve the death of my 31-year marriage. My ex now lives with the vast majority of the money I helped him to earn over our whole adult lives. While my children and I live in an apartment trying to pick up the pieces. It is hard to not be angry and even bitter sometimes. I never thought i would be here. But that doesn’t mean God hasn’t had my back the whole time. It means that the life my family is living while my ex lives with his new family is safer and better than what we had before. We no longer walk on eggshells. We don’t fear the time that my ex will be walking through the door, coming home from work, and wondering what will set him off tonight.
Life is not perfect. It never was and it never will be. But that’s okay. God will direct my paths. And He will lead me where He wants me to be. I am still praying. But not for my marriage. I am praying for life going forward. And God hears me and will bless me every step of the way.
Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
I hope that you find encouragement from these words wherever you are along this path of hardship on the way to healing. I hope that you keep praying, even when you don’t have the words to say. God knows your heart. And He knows it is breaking. He knows you are tired.
For those of you who have been through it and see the other side, how did you pray? How did God work through your life? And how has that helped you in where you stand today? I would love to hear your story, as would many others who are reading this. Please feel free to share in the comments below!
Hugs and love to you,
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