At the National Religious Broadcasters Convention (NRB), I had an opportunity to interview Stormie Omartian, author of The Power of a Praying Wife. There’s no doubt that our conversation and the wisdom she offered has had a powerful effect upon my prayer life and my marriage. It is my prayer that she can begin the same impact in your family.
Kimberly Fritts: Stormie, you’ve written this book “The Power of a Praying Wife.” What does it mean to be a praying wife?
Stormie Omartian: It means you have got to surrender yourself to the Lord and say, “God, I’ll do what it takes to be a good wife, to be the kind of wife you want me to be.” That’s a hard decision to make, especially if you’ve had a lot of hurt and… you’ve had a lot of disappointments, anger, and unforgiveness. I have been a Christian the whole time I have been married, so I thought I was a forgiving person. I was working on that all the time, but I realized when I came to an impasse in my marriage that I wasn’t as forgiving as I thought.
I brought into the marriage a lot of insecurity, and my husband brought into the marriage a lot of anger. When those two things came together, it created a lot of strife. There was one point where I said, “I can’t deal with my husband’s anger anymore. God, I am dying in this marriage. This is killing me. The things he says kill me. They are like all these knives in me, and I’m bleeding to death here. I feel like I just want to take my children and leave.”
And God just let me have a vision of what that would be like if I did. A real vision of what it would be like if I did leave – where I would live and how I’d support myself, and most of all what the heritage would be for my children. It was such an unpleasant thought, that I said, “God, if there is any other way, I’ll do it.”
The Lord showed me if I would really lay down my desire to leave and give that part to the Lord, He would show me how to pray for my husband, and in the process He would resurrect this marriage and restore it. That really hurt to say yes to because, first of all, God was saying I had to stop praying my favorite three-word prayer, which is the “Change him, Lord” prayer that I had been praying for fifteen years. I had been praying that a long time, and God was not answering that.
God showed me that He wanted me to pray His favorite three-word prayer, which is “Change me, Lord.” That was really hard, because I didn’t feel like I was the one who needed changing. I thought, “OK, I’ll pray that.” I said, “Lord, change me. Make me the kind of person You want me to be, and change my heart toward my husband.” He began to do that. He showed me that I had to pray for my husband in all these ways that I hadn’t been praying for him before. I had to pray for him like a blessed child of God. I had prayed for him like my husband, you know, “My husband’s not doing this, he’s not living up to my expectations, he’s hurting me,” and all these things.
The Lord said to just forget that and start praying for him as a child of God. “God, show him his purpose. Help him to be strong in faith. Help him to be a good father. Help him to have godly relationships that are a blessing to him. Bless his work. Bless the things that he does with his hands. Help him to find acceptance in the city gates, as it says in the Bible, that he would have respect from people that he works with. Help him to have integrity.”
Those are the kinds of prayers we’re supposed to be praying… not “meet my needs.” I found it was difficult to do because every time I started to pray, I would still have this little wall of irritation that would rise to [about the top of my head] and choke off my prayers. So I’d have to do a confession session before, and say, “God, I just confess my anger over this thing. I confess my unforgiveness over this. I confess I still hurt over this.”
I had to deal with God over those issues every time I sat down and prayed for my husband. Once I got past that, I could pray for him. And then I was amazed that I started seeing answers to prayer. It was incredible! I couldn’t believe the way God would answer the prayers. I’d begin to pray about something for him, like maybe I’d see my husband get irritable about something, and instead of reacting, I’d go pray about what was going on, and say, “God, why is he getting this way? What is wrong? Show me what’s going on in him.” And I’d come back with a different attitude and talk to my husband, and he’d actually open up and tell me things that he normally would never have told me before, the way he was feeling and what was bothering him and things. And that was amazing, how God began to answer prayers like that.
Kimberly: Can you pray for your husband when you’re not totally sincere?
Stormie: Yes. That’s when I would say, “God, I don’t feel like praying for him. I want lightning to strike and convict him of the way he is.” I would just confess that to the Lord and say, “God, I don’t feel like praying. So help me, God, to have the kind of attitude I need to make this thing happen.” And God would do that.
Sometimes the prayers were totally perfunctory. I would just do it because God had told me to do it, not because I had great passion about that particular prayer. But as I got into it and my heart began to soften, I would have passion about it. It’s amazing how God gives you a different perspective if you’re willing to lay down your negative outlook. So, you can pray even though your heart’s not in it. You tell God your heart’s not in it, and ask Him to help you have your heart in it.
Kimberly: In the book, you say that wives should “shut up and pray.” What exactly are you saying?
Stormie: I’m not saying that a wife should never confront her husband, never express her feelings, especially when it’s in his best interest to do so. You definitely should not deny what you feel. Those things should come out on the table. But once you’ve stated your case, to keep nagging or to keep saying it over and over really is counter-productive. It’s better once you’ve made it very clear, either the first time or maybe the second time… then to start praying about it.
One thing I was praying about for my husband was that he was just doing nothing, and I didn’t want him to die of a heart attack when he was 50. I got this new treadmill, and I wanted him to get on the treadmill. I would say, “This is wonderful; you need to do this. You have got to do this.” Nothing I did was working, so finally once I made my case about what the benefits were and why I thought he needed to do it, I didn’t say anything any more.
Every day I would pray, “God, give him the desire to do this; give him the desire to take care of his body. Give him a vision for what it’s going to be like if he doesn’t.” And I remember one time I was in prayer and I heard this roaring upstairs, and I thought, what in the world is that noise? Come to find out, it was him on the treadmill. Of course, I did everything to resist saying, “I told you so.” I know it was just an answer to prayer.
Sometimes he doesn’t change. Sometimes he never changes, but what happens is God will change your heart so that you can either rest with it or tolerate it or it won’t bother you as much. He’ll either change your husband or change you, or both, which is great. But either way, He will answer your prayers, one way or the other.
Kimberly: I know wives ask all the time, “What if he’s not praying for me?”
Stormie: That has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter if he ever says a prayer for you at all. That’s not the point. That’s not why you’re doing it. You’re doing what God asks you to do. He calls us to support our husbands and to intercede for them and to pray for them. So do that and pray that he will want to cover you in the same way or at least in a way that you can perceive.
I think the wife praying for her husband takes a lot of pressure off him. It gives him that support, and it makes him really feel loved. I’ve found that husbands are really appreciative of a wife who will pray for them, who will intercede for them every day. It makes all the difference. You know how you feel when you’re prayed for. You can feel the prayers. You feel like you can just rise above anything when you’ve got people praying for you.
A wife’s prayers have more power than anybody else’s. I always say, “Sorry, moms.” Even a mom’s prayers for her son are not as powerful as a wife’s for her husband, because God has made them one. So when a wife prays, it affects the husband so powerfully, because she’s in effect praying for herself too. I think that’s really important for a wife to realize. Whether you feel like it or not, it’s a ministry that you do to the Lord. You’re doing what God’s asking you to do.
In the Bible, it says how a husband should love a wife, and how a wife should respect her husband. I think it’s worded that way because a wife’s respect for her husband means so much to the husband. If a wife loses respect, it just kills him. The fact that she’s praying for him shows such respect. I think that’s one of the things that makes him feel loved. That’s another reason why it’s very important for a wife to intercede and lift her husband up.
Copyright © 2005 MarriageToday, Used by Permission.
Author & one of America’s leading authorities on family and marriage relationships, Jimmy Evans is Founder & CEO of MarriageToday. He and his wife, Karen, host MarriageTodayTM, a national television program. Jimmy is the author of many resources including the books Marriage on the Rock, Freedom From Your Past, 7 Secrets of Successful Families, and Resolving Stress in Your Marriage. He also travels nationwide presenting life-changing truths for couples through his marriage seminars and conferences. Jimmy and Karen have two children and two grandchildren.