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Jesus, Husbands, and Prayer

prayerWhen it comes to prayer, wouldn’t it be convenient to plug in the right formula and ka-ching, out comes the answer we want? Sometimes, even though I know better, I catch myself pondering how to approach God “more effectively.” I’m a creature of conditioned response mechanisms. Like the behaviorist’s pigeons, I act as if I need to figure out how many times to peck at the heavenly lever before the universe responds to my needs.

Most of us, if we’ve been Christians for a while, understand that God is no geni. We trust His sovereign control and at the same time believe that He wants a real relationship with us, that He listens when we pour out our hearts to Him. But I’ve seriously questioned: Do I have genuine input; am I really being heard? Or am I just a pawn in God’s cosmic game with the universe?

For me it’s come down to faith. Believing that God is good. Believing that He’s in control. Believing that the “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). And letting go of the need to figure it all out so I can simply live these truths from the heart.

How does this work on a practical level? I want to share some thoughts with you that are still formulating in my mind, so they are not perfectly organized or fully developed. However, these are thought processes that have helped my prayer life.

When thinking about prayer, it’s been most helpful to me to reflect on Christ as the head of the church, husband to bride. As I read the Bible’s instructions to men on how to interact with their wives, an image of Jesus emerges. These instructions must somehow reflect His bridegroom’s heart toward me as well:

Husband, love your wife just as I loved [insert your name] and gave myself up for her.

Husband, love your wife as you do your own body as I love [insert your name] as my own body.

Husband, love your wife and do not be harsh with her as I love [insert your name] and am never harsh with her.

Submit to one another out of reverence for me as I submit to the Father out of reverence for Him. Scriptures from Ephesians and Colossians.

Despite God’s reassuring words here, we women may still struggle in relating to Jesus as our bridegroom. We may not have experienced the perfect husband (who has?) or may have had some very negative relationships with men in the past. What kind of fears might we unconsciously transfer to the Lord?

  • We may fear being controlled by our husband.
  • We may fear that he won’t treat us like an equal.
  • We may be concerned that he won’t be considerate of our limitations.
  • We may fear that he won’t act in ours or the children’s best interest.
  • We may be afraid that our husband will make important decisions without consulting us.
  • We may fear that he will be harsh or unkind.
  • We may fear his anger.

Do any of these resonate with you? You could probably add to this list. Do any of your fears transfer to the Lord? We might see God’s sovereignty as controlling instead of being in control with our best interests at heart. When God doesn’t answer our prayers right away, we may accuse Him of not caring. When bad things happen we may believe that God is harsh and unkind. Our experiences take place in a fallen world under less than ideal conditions, and this impacts our view of God.

As I began to picture the ideal biblical husband, I saw how I had bought into lies and distortions about God. Let me show you what I mean by attempting to define a godly husband. Keep in mind this is a limited conception, just a sketch hampered by subjectivity and cultural assumptions. However, this mental process did lead to some fruitful insights:

A godly husband would lead, not lord it over his wife. Never out of pride or selfishness would He say, “It’s my way or the highway.” He would serve the family’s best interests unselfishly. In order to serve effectively, He’d know how to listen, to really be able to hear his wife’s heart, not just her words. He would take her opinions seriously, allowing himself to be influenced. He would take responsibility for making final decisions, but he’d want his wife involved in the process. He would be extremely loyal and faithful in heart, mind, and body. At all times, He would think of his family and how his actions affect them.

Like I said, this is my vision of a godly husband, shaped by scripture. Why not write your own definition and see what this reveals about your picture of God? Be sure to write your sketch around Biblical principles of husband-wife relationships.

As I pondered my definition, I asked myself, Does Jesus invite me to talk with Him and then essentially relegates my words meaningless because he has no intention of ever considering my viewpoint? Most of us believe that this is not how good relationships work. When God gave us the picture of bride and bridegroom, or father and son, wasn’t He giving us a healthy model of reciprocal intimacy so that we’d understand how to relate to Him better? An authoritarian model does not fit with this image.

When wrestling with prayer, we get hung up on the tension between God’s sovereignty and our free will; however, I’ve decided to tackle this conundrum in strictly practical terms. I no longer need to understand how prayer works—how can a mere human ever figure this out anyway? Instead, I want to focus on doing what the Bible tells me, trusting the whys and hows to God. There are many commands that tell me to pray. Pray without ceasing, for example.

The image of bridegroom gave me a most helpful framework in understanding the Lord’s good intentions toward me when I pray:

I now choose to approach Him at the very least as I would a loving husband—one who invites me to eat my meal at his table, not relegated to another room as in some cultures, to walk side by side, not following several paces behind as a demeaned, undervalued possession. I choose to believe that He will take my input on important matters seriously, that He truly hears my heart. I come knowing He is irrevocably and forever bound to me, with a completely loyal heart. I believe that He’s in control, not selfishly controlling, that at all times my loved ones and I will be foremost in His mind, and that He carefully considers how His actions affect us.

Unlike an earthly union, we are not equal partners with God. And our prayers need a Spirit-translation before they reach our heavenly husband’s ears. But Jesus always elevates those He loves as when He said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Now there’s another picture to study as you think about how to approach God in prayer: Friend!