Everyone looks forward to that day they will be joined to the person they will spend the rest of their life with. Marriage is one of those things in life that has God’s involvement, backing and approval. God was the first person to declare marriage a good thing when He said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Most times, in our excitement to have that ring on a finger, we focus more on the wedding day and overlook the real issue which is life after the wedding day. The fresh wedding bouquet will dry up and lose its colour, the guests no matter how great the music and MC are will return back home, but you and your partner will have to discover all by yourself what it means and takes to spend the rest of your life with someone with some habits you find quite annoying. This is why when thinking, praying and hoping to get married, we should think, pray and hope for more than just a good talk-of-the-town wedding, but a union that can withstand the test of the time.
Here are three important things to pray about as you prepare for marriage:
- Lord, I need a divine encounter
In Genesis 28:1-5, Isaac gave his son Jacob some good fatherly advice. He told him not to marry a Canaanite woman; a woman that doesn’t know God. Isaac directed his son where to go and pick a good wife; a wife who knows God, a wife from a good family. Jacob excitedly set out on this journey in search of a good wife. Something significant happened to Jacob before he got to the place and family he was to pick a wife from. He had an encounter with God. He saw God. God spoke to him (Genesis 28:10-17). What does this have to do with marriage? Jacob’s marriage was fraught with different challenges. He was deceived into marrying someone else; when he eventually married the woman of his dreams they battled with years of barrenness. His father-in-law was a liar, manipulator and a big pain in the neck, but Jacob was able to survive all of that because he had a personal, life-changing experience with God before he said “I do”.
Situations you never planned for will arise when you get married. Your in-law could be your worst nightmare. Sometimes you will actually feel like walking away from your spouse. What can keep you going during such tough moments won’t be beautiful thoughts about your wedding day or even how lovely and handsome your spouse is. It is your personal revelation of and relationship with the Lord that will help and strengthen you. That’s why it’s a dangerous thing to head into marriage without knowing God on a personal level or receiving direction from God about your life and where He is taking you. The Jacob that tricked and manipulated his brother Esau to get his birthright wasn’t the same Jacob that arrived at Paddan Aram to pick Rachael as a wife. That Jacob was a liar, schemer and an opportunist. Imagine what life would have been for Rachael if that was the Jacob she married. Those weaknesses in him would have destroyed their home. Thank God for the encounter Jacob had with God before he got to Paddam Aram.
So what’s the pre-marriage advice? In this very crucial aspect of your life, you need to be guided by God and it’s hard to be guided by God when you don’t even have a close relationship with Him, when you haven’t met Him personally, when all you know about Him is what some pastor or priest says about Him on Sunday. More than your relationship with your spouse is your relationship with God. Your relationship with God will affect the quality of your relationship with your spouse. If you are looking to have a good relationship with your spouse, then start with having a quality relationship with God.
- Father, fill me with discernment
We have all heard this relationship advice: don’t let third parties interfere in your marriage, third parties destroy homes. When talking about third parties in marriage, it’s common to list parents, siblings, in-laws, colleagues and friends as third parties. In some cases, the fear of third parties is so intense that some people enter marriage perceiving every family member or in-law as a potential enemy to the success of their marriage.
My advice isn’t that you open up your marriage to every tom-dick-and harry or that you don’t set up boundaries in your marriage, but it can be risky to enter into marriage with the assumption that you know it all, can cope on your own, and don’t need advice from anyone but God! Many times in life, when you are at a crossroad, on the verge of giving up, or have made some costly mistakes, God’s wisdom can be heard through the voice of another person.
There are two types of third parties. Destructive third parties. Supportive third parties. Destructive third parties are unhealthy relationships. You don’t need the influence of a destructive third party in your home. An example of a destructive party is anyone that loves gossip and takes sides. Destructive 3rd parties interfere, intrude and encroach on your life and privacy. They demand too much attention from you to the detriment of your relationship with your spouse. Their interference aggravates and compounds issues. For example, they lay so much emphasis on some minor mistake or weakness in your spouse. They make you see and think about nothing else but this mistake or weakness of your spouse.
When Esther got married to King Xerxes, going by society’s definition of a third party, Mordecai her uncle became a third party in her marriage and so had no business advising her about what to do or not do with her husband. But for the advice of Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish nation would have been wiped out (Esther 4). Naaman had a slave girl in his house. She was a ‘third party’ in his home and marriage. But for the advice of this slave girl, Naaman would have languished away from a deadly disease (2 Kings 5:1-5).
We have a tendency to over emphasize one aspect of a truth and leave out or ignore the other truth. Yes, it’s true that third parties can destroy your marriage but it is also true that not everyone who is a third party would have a destructive effect on your marriage. Some may be the ‘Mordecai’ or ‘slave girl’ your relationship needs. We must understand that not all relationships are toxic and destructive, not all advice is harmful. So what’s the pre-marriage advice? Ask God to fill you and equip you with the spirit of discernment as you prepare for marriage. We need discernment because we can’t completely cut off and severe all links with our parents, siblings, in-laws and other family members. We won’t all work or be involved in a one man business. Even if it’s a one man business, you still have to interact with people at some point. Even when you don’t go to people for advice, people will still come to you with unwanted and unsolicited advice. There will always be third parties in our lives. What we need is the discernment to know when to talk, when to be silent, who talk to about an issue, who to never open up to about that issue, which advice to throw down the trash can, which is a pathway to a breakthrough or resolution of a conflict or problem.
- Lord, remove every trace of selfishness in me
A number of marriage counselors have described selfishness as the number one marriage killer. I believe to a large degree we are all selfish people in a selfish society. There’s a lot of selfishness in most of us, we just haven’t yet noticed it. We have this ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude to basically everything we do. We are looking out for how it will pay us, how it will help us. The focus is on self. Unfortunately, people get married with this attitude and a few days, months or years down the line things go sour.
Now is the time before you say “I do” to ask yourself some hard truths. Look at all the relationships in your life. Are you always on the receiving end? How much of your time, support and resources do you give back to people? Are you always looking for someone to listen to your problem and pray for you, someone to help you with an assignment or responsibility, or support you with a financial need? Do you give as much as you receive from people? Are you always looking out for yourself? Are you always complaining about everything and everyone? Do you find it hard to forgive; do you remember and still hold on to things people did 3, 5, 10, 15 years ago to hurt you? Do you usually believe you own understanding of an issue, or your opinion or suggestion is more meaningful and carries more weight than that of other people? Are your prayer points all about you?
It’s not easy to take our eyes of self and look out for another person’s needs, interest or opinion, but that’s what the Bible encourages us to (Philippians 2:3-4). It takes getting rid of selfishness to salvage, build and strengthen any relationship. May the Lord help us to do away with all those selfish tendencies in us that can ruin relationships.
With the understanding of how important it is to have a personal encounter or revelation of God, the need for discernment, and the grace to overcome all forms of selfishness, please say this simple prayer. O Lord, my relationship with You is the most important relationship in my life. If I don’t know You personally today or my relationship with You is erratic; hot today, cold tomorrow, please draw me into an intimate walk with You. Let my relationship with You have a positive influence on every other relationship in my life especially my marriage. Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Please don’t let me fall into error. Help me not to foolishly give my hands and heart to people that will pull me in the wrong direction. Grant me the discernment to see beyond the surface and know Your will. Father, destroy selfishness in my life and fill me with the genuine love of Christ so I can be a truly selfless and loving spouse.
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