How to Pray When You're Fighting with Your Spouse

Make Prayer a Habit

Every marriage is guided by a set of habits. The question is, are they healthy habits that result in a God-honoring and joyful marriage, or are they bad habits that lead to a self-centered and strained marriage? 

The character of your life and the health of your marriage is not defined by two or three dramatic decisions but in thousands of little moments. The development and deepening of the love in your marriage happens by habits that are done daily.

Grace gives your marriage a lifetime warranty. What this means is that God will give you everything you need to be what you are supposed to be and do what he has called you to do in your marriage. But you must do it. And this side of heaven, there is nothing more important for our marriage than to pray without ceasing. 

If it is true that all the horizontal skirmishes a husband and wife have are rooted in a deeper war for the heart, and if it is true that a marriage must be fixed vertically before it is ever fixed horizontally, then the place where you win the war for marriage is on your knees. Perhaps there is no more important command for marriage in all the Bible than the simple words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

In our marriage, prayer pushes us in all the right directions. It reminds us of the kinds of things we have said are so important to a marriage of unity, understanding, and love. Daily prayer reinforces all the commitments we are tempted to forsake but that are vital to maintain. Prayer opens our eyes and our heart. Prayer is a necessary ingredient of a healthy marriage. On our knees is the best posture for our marriage. Using the Lord’s Prayer as a model, here are some things that prayer does in you and will do through you in the heart of your spouse.

“Our Father in heaven . . .”

Prayer reminds you that you are never left alone in your marriage. 

Are you trying to make it through on your own strength?

“. . . hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven . . .”

Prayer reminds you that God’s purpose for your marriage is always bigger than your marriage. Every time you pray, you are acknowledging God’s rule over you and your life. Prayer is an act of submitting your purposes to God’s. Prayer is all about confessing the self-focus and self-sovereignty of sin. 

How have you shrunk your marriage down to a list of your wants and desires?

“Give us this day our daily bread . . .”

Prayer requires you to see yourself as needy. If your marriage is to be a place where real unity, understanding, and love shape the character of every day, then there are things that you and your husband or wife need to be and to do. But you can’t become these things or do these things by yourself. 

Do you see yourself as self-sufficient and autonomous?

“. . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . .”

Prayer requires you to love others as you have been loved. Prayer reminds you that in your marriage there is never a day when you aren’t called to give one another grace that has not been deserved or earned. 

How can you remind yourself daily of the forgiveness that Christ has shown you?

“. . . and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . .”

Prayer forces you to admit that your greatest problem is inside of you. Prayer calls us to quit blaming our husband or wife for our words and actions. Prayer welcomes us to accept responsibility for our behavior and, as we do, to receive forgiveness and help. 

How often do you point the finger of blame at your spouse or circumstances? 

“. . . for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Prayer ends with the reminder to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God and his glory. Prayer calls you away from the kingdom of self, which is so destructive to everything a marriage is intended to be, and welcomes you to the kingdom of God, where a God of love rules in love.

How can you live for the glory of God this week in your marriage?

There Is Hope

As you commit to watch and pray, God graces you with his forgiveness, protection, wisdom, and strength. He loves you with everlasting love. He never grows tired of you or weary with your struggles. He never throws your failures in your face or uses your sins against you. He shed the blood of his Son so that in your struggles, you would have the forgiveness and power you need. 

When you pray for your marriage, you remind yourself that you are not alone. When you pray, you remind yourself that grace has invaded your marriage, and because it has, there is hope.


Content adapted from What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission. 

Photo of Paul David Tripp

Paul David Tripp

Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries. He has written a number of popular books on Christian living, including What Did You Expect?Dangerous CallingParenting, Sex in a Broken World, and New Morning Mercies. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Luella and they have four grown children. For more information and resources, visit paultrippministries.org.

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