Not long after I got married, I formed a group for women to get together to pray for our husbands. I knew the statistics, the threats against marriages today. I didn't want mine to become one of the statistics. So I talked to the director of women's ministry, got her permission, and started telling others about my idea.
Before long, five to ten of us met each week before Bible study. I had a handout we used to pray over various aspects of our husbands' lives: their roles in the house, their spiritual fervor, for them to walk with integrity, and so much more.
Although our numbers were little, our prayers were anything but. We prayed with a reckless abandon, asking God to shape the men we adored into people who more and more portrayed his goodness, grace, and mercy to those they met.
We quickly had to change the format of our prayer time because we could no longer pray for God to cleanse our hearts and then dive into covering our husbands: We first had to stop and give praise reports as every week we witnessed our husbands doing things that we had prayed about the week before.
I became more eager each night for Allen to get home, anxious to hear about his day. One morning our group had been praying for our men to be bolder in sharing about God to others.
"Stacy, you wouldn't believe it. I was in that gas station that I always deliver the mail to and I just had the strongest sense that I was supposed to stop and tell the owner about Jesus. Remember the guy I told you about? The one who is Muslim? Well, we had the most fascinating conversation about Christ for 30 minutes. I decided just to call that my lunch break. I've never been that courageous before, but something just came over me and I…I…hey, what's that huge grin on your face for?"
But while half of us were announcing incredible praises, the other half did just the opposite. You see, the thing I never could have predicted when starting my little prayer group was that it would attract both those who had strong marriages and wanted to see them improve even more, as well as those who were turning to corporate prayer as their last hope. The time of crying, complaining, wishing, and whining filled what was supposed to be set apart for prayer. When I tried to curb it, some said I was insensitive and didn't allow them to share their pain. Each week our time with heads bowed lessened. At a loss for how to handle the dichotomy in the group, I decided to pray for Allen on my own.
At first I did so with the same passion and fervor as I had in that group. I continued praying through the verses on that handout, asking God to strengthen and grow my man. Yet without my realizing it, the time dedicated to praying for my husband and our marriage fizzled.
Sure, I still prayed for Allen over the years: the "God, it's really late and it's cold and snowy out. Please keep him safe while he delivers the mail" or "help him have a good day" kind of prayers. The stance of using prayer as a defensive tactic to protect our household turned to mere crumbs of afterthoughts or petitions made only when crises arose.
Or should I say the things I thought were crises but really weren't.
You see, it was the real crisis, the crumbling, the unraveling, the fear that the sacred might not remain that rekindled the early flames of prayer.
Early in our marriage, Allen and I had to spend a lot of time strategizing over how to counterattack various threats that were made against us. Some would say we held a common enemy. Years later our unified front changed. There were still enemies in our midst, and we were them.
Like a snowball gaining speed as it barrels down a mountain, we found ourselves in a place where everything the other did was wrong or hurtful. Remnants from our food fights were replaced with piles of used Kleenexes. "The end of all things is near" haunted the recesses of my mind as I peered into the face of something that seemed too insurmountable.
Yet something caused me to recall the story of a young man who dared to fight someone much older and stronger than him, who taunted him and his people. He was so enormous that the men in his community chose to be subjected to him rather than bother to try their hand against him. But that didn't stop that boy. In fact, it somehow emboldened him, but not for reasons of arrogance or naiveté. David asked of Goliath, "Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26).
That he should defy the armies of the living God.
Could it be that the giant in my marriage was nothing more than something that dared to defy the armies of the living God who resides within my husband and me, and who had, at least at one point, resided in our marriage? Could it be that the thing that could turn it around was found thousands of years ago?
We all know David took Goliath down with nothing more than a sling. Can you picture him at the side of the stream, kneeling down to choose the five smooth stones, bending, humbling himself before the Almighty, asking for God's provision while telling God of his outrage that someone, even someone nine feet tall, dared to oppose the living God?
I can, because it's what I do on a regular basis now. I don't have a Goliath to cast a stone at, but that won't keep me off my knees, pleading for God's grace and mercy while telling him how furious I am that something threatens to destroy that which was ordained by God.
There are days when I feel like the other Israelites, wanting to shrink back in fear. I want to look at the years of heartache, the poor coping techniques that have become so automatic I'm not sure they can be undone. Yet there are just as many days when I strap on the attitude of that brave young man, fall to my knees, and remind myself that what David said way back then remains true: "This is the Lord's battle" (1 Samuel 17:47).
I'm beginning to think the strongest marriages are the ones forged on their knees.
Subscribe to TCW at this link for exclusive access to all web content and our weekly iPad issues, and sign up for our e-newsletter to become part of a community of women striving to love God and live fearlessly in the grit of everyday life. Also check out our new and updated Media Library, where we upload weekly Scripture verses, videos, polls, and quizzes.
Stacy Voss is an author, a speaker, and founder of Eyes of Your Heart Ministries. She lives in Colorado.