A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 4- Prayer for the Married yet Sperated

The phone rang in the middle of the night, and she* was going to just let it go to voice mail. Who calls this late anyway? And she glanced at the screen to see who dare make a phone call at 10:46pm on a Tuesday. With an intense urgency, she forgot all annoyance and picked up the phone. It was her best friend, who she knew was having some pretty serious marital issues, and who she had just offered to have call her anytime, no matter the hour, if she ever needed to talk. This must be important.

“Hey girl, I’m sorry to call so late. I just… I just need to tell you that I put him out tonight. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tired of crying over someone who doesn’t want us to work. I can’t even look at him without getting so angry, and I can’t hear God’s voice anymore… maybe I’m wrong for it, but I told him to go away and come back in a few days….”

She stood, speechless with the phone in her hand. What do you say to that? What can you say to that? She began to feel her friend’s pain in a way that she never knew before. She felt just as angry with her friend’s husband and just as hopeless. How was God going to change this around? How was He going to work this to good? Her friend was one of the most passionate and positive people she knew, one of the most strong and patient and long-suffering women around, and she felt a deep anguish at the injustice of it all. Why was she being left alone to fight for her marriage? Why was she at the point of giving up when she had followed God and had been faithful? Why wasn’t it working out the way she wanted? Why? Why? Why?

The fuzzy silence on the other end of the line prompted her to speak again. She silently asked the Holy Spirit for words for this situation, and then uttered the words “okay dear friend, let’s pray…”

*For the sake of privacy, the names in this story were not included and some of the details were changed.


splitThe topic of marriages separating is deeply depressing to me. I’m just going to be honest. I know more than a few people who this has been a reality for, and while I have not experienced it first hand, when it has happened to the people I love dearly, I feel that pain with them in very real way. I know that God’s word tells me that marriage is a holy covenant, meant to mirror His divine relationship with us, and that marriage is one of the most effective tools used to show Christ’s love, and so it honestly breaks my heart to see a marriage end or be put on hold for even a short period of time. The Lord puts certain issues and pains in our hearts so that we are motivated to pray for them or do something active about them, and this is one of the major issues He has placed on my heart. It is a burden that I do not take lightly and so I very solemnly dedicate today for these marriages that are separated.

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I am not condemning any divorced or remarried people in this post. This is very sensitive topic, and while I personally have decided that divorce is never an option in my own marriage, I know that we live in a fallen world and mistakes have been made to lead to this in many people’s lives. I know divorced people who have divorced for the reason given in the Bible as the only grounds for divorce, and I know people who have divorced for other reasons, and while it hurts my heart when any marriage ends, I do not pretend to know these circumstances that lead to these divorces, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. So please know that this post is not meant to shame anyone. It is only a hope that marriages which desire reconciliation, even if it’s only on one end, will come to be stronger and thriving despite these struggles.

With that being stated, today is obviously day four of my fasting and prayer for marriages. To be honest, I am very weary. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I feel discouraged when I think about the people in my life who have chosen to separate from their spouse. It feels like this week has already been a long and draining journey, and yet there have also been some moments of incredible energy and assistance that I know were gifts from God during this time of focused prayer. The Lord has granted me supernatural patience with my students when they are antsy and ready for summer vacation to start. He has granted me energy to continue my marathon training, which was scheduled this week, despite my fasting, and he has strengthened me to run even faster than I have in the past because of my focus.

I tell you these things not to brag about my experience or make you impressed at my dedication, but to share with you the hard parts, and also the amazing benefits that God gives when His children respond to his prompting. I can’t even take credit for my obedience, as that too has been a precious gift from Him.

This entire process reminds me of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the Shadow of the Almighty”, because when I devote an entire day to focused prayer, even during the daily activities I do, I am dwelling His “secret place”, since no one around me can tell I am in prayer even as I speak with them. And because of this, I know The Lord is protecting me with His comforting shadow. I pray that you too are called to dwell in the secret meeting place of prayer with God, and that you feel the power and strength of his protective Shadow.

Dear Lord,

Today the burden of separated marriages lays heavily upon my heart. I grieve for them and weep for them and I ask you for Your comfort and strength to get through this day. There are a few couples for whom I have a special desire for today, and I pray that these individuals be blessed by the prayer I have to offer and the fast that I dedicate to them. At this point in time, I desire nothing more than to see them joyfully reunited in an even stronger and dedicated bond of marriage, and I pray that You can make this happen in the future Lord, or even instantly right now– nothing is too miraculous for You, O’ God!

I pray for those marriages that have decided to go their separate ways for the time being. I pray specifically for those marriages that desire reconciliation on one or both ends, but are struggling to come to it. May they experience peace and restoration in their relationship Father. Yet while they are apart, a I pray you strengthen them individually with Your Word, and Your Holy Spirit. I pray You convict them, shape their hearts, soften their conscious, and break down their walls of pride and indignation. I pray You turn them back to one another, and remind them of the vows they made to one another the day they made their covenant with You and with each other.

I pray also for the children of these couples who are separated. Lord, I can only imagine what it’s like to see two parents separate. You have blessed me with parents who have stuck together, even though financial difficulties, job losses, addictions of many kinds. Thank you for the example that they have set for me in my own marriage– one of dedication and devotion, no matter what the struggle. I know that my parents have done the best they can to show me what true marital love looks like. I praise them and You for that. I pray for those who did not grow up with that example, and who are creating a legacy of brokenness for their children without even being aware of it. Lord, separation can have terrible effects on children, I have seen it in my own father, my husband, and some close friends. I know it can be detrimental even for older children who understand imperfect relationships, and so I pray that You bring healing to these children and their families. I know from the examples of my family members and friends that You can do this! You can unite new families together, creating a better and safer environment for the child, and you can also unite formally separated marriages, and restore the child’s life in that process. I trust that You know what that looks like for each individual family, and I trust that You desire restoration and healing to bless those that seek you in this time.

Lord, I pray for unity. I pray for strength. I pray for Your presence to be made known for all of those who are separated from their spouse right now. Give them support by way of prayer, petition, fasting, and also by good friends who listen and invest time and energy. Use us all as tools to cultivate their hearts towards repentance and reconciliation and atonement. Lord, we know that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven by You, Perfect You, and so that we could see an example of what true sacrificial love looks like. I pray for that understanding to come into the hearts of those who are married, yet separated. Save their marriages, in the name of Jesus Christ! Only You can. Amen.

What has God laid on your heart as your burden of prayer for the married yet separated?

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 1 – A Prayer for the Newly Married

20140602-183113-66673526.jpgMy heart is pounding as I grab the groomsman’s arm and walk down the walkway, between pews of wide-eyed guests. Somehow we make it down the aisle in one piece, and both assume our positions on opposite ends of the alter. I watch as seven bridesmaids follow me, all carrying bouquets and on the arm of a gray-suited groomsman. Then, the music changes and all of the guests stand and look towards the back of the chapel. From where I am, I cannot see my best friend walking down with her grandpa. But honestly, I don’t want to. Besides the fact that I’ve helped her get ready for the past six hours (so I know what she’s going to look like), I’m more interested in something in plain sight from where I’m standing. So, I’m staring at the groom’s face, to see his reaction when he catches the first glimpse of his bride in all her beauty and then again when they lock eyes, knowing that this is the moment when their whole lives change.

It’s this moment when you can see all anticipation, all love, all excitement, all fears, anxieties, and “am I enough?s” in the groom’s eyes, and you know that his bride has equivalent emotions running through hers, sometimes even in the form of tears. It’s then when I start tearing up as well, because I know what a huge commitment this is. I know what an amazing decision this is. I know these feelings, and I am so excited when others make the plunge into the incredible life-long commitment that is marriage.

In my week-long fast and focused prayer for marriage, it made sense to start with a prayer for the newly married–the newlyweds— mostly because I just was in a dear friend’s wedding this past weekend, and my eldest cousin was also married the same day.

I don’t have to imagine the excitement, joy, weight, and anxiety that this new commitment entails– I felt it on my wedding day and I feel it every time I’m at a wedding. It’s something that you don’t easily forget, especially when you take marriage as seriously as it is meant to be taken. Yet I don’t pretend to know these couples’ stories or how they came to this decision, or how it will effect them and shape them as a unit in the time to come. What I do know is that these newlyweds will need prayer. A lot of prayer.

And so, without further ado, here is my prayer for all of you newly married couples out there:

Lord,

I pray for the newly married couples that have entered into a covenant with You and with one another. I praise you and thank you that they have chosen monogamy in a world that says you can have it all and never have to be satisfied with one person. Lord, we know that You have made marriage a beautiful image and reflection of Christ and the church, and that as husbands are to love their wives sacrificially as Christ does the church, wives are to submit to their husbands respectfully, as they do to God, never sacrificing dignity or the quiet strength and beauty that you created so many women to have.
Lord, I pray that you encourage these young men and women in their decision and their commitment to love each other. Allow them to keep their vows in their hearts and minds so that they work hard to keep those promises. Give them grace when they don’t keep them, and teach them how to forgive one another. Show them your character so that they may become more like you in their marriage, as they learn more about one another, and as they learn more about themselves.

I pray specifically for the husbands. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the man feels that he didn’t ask for the kind of responsibility it takes to be a husband, and the head of a family. There may be times when he is tempted to be unfaithful, or to be harsh with his wife, or to just give up. He may feel like he’s disrespected and unappreciated, and can never win. Show him that these are lies from the enemy, and give him strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called him to. Let him rejoice forever in the wife of his youth, and allow her to become his standard of beauty, so that he is not comparing her to anyone or anything else. Allow him to leave his mother and father completely, whether that be physically, emotionally, or financially, and cling to his wife. Give him the ability to be a servant leader and protector for his family, and give him fulfillment from this role.

I pray specifically for the wives. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the women feels that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she signed up to be her husband’s helper and to submit to him. She may feel that this makes her the “lesser” in the relationship, but Lord, don’t allow her to believe this lie that the enemy tells her! Encourage her in her role as a help meet, fit for her husband, and show her the beauty and strength that you created her to have. Lord, there may be times when she is temped to be unfaithful, or to disrespect her husband, or to just give up. She may feel that she’s unloved and unappreciated, and can never win. Show her that these are also lies from the enemy, and give her strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called her to. Let her be satisfied by her husband, and let her be content with the man that God gave her. Giver her the ability to be her family’s irreplaceable manager, the beating heart of her home, and giver her fulfillment from this role.

Lord, I know that it can be easy, in the euphoric feeling of love for the other, to place the other spouse on a pedestal, and place them above you in their priorities. I pray that both the husband and wife do not fail to make you first priority. I pray that they don’t expect the other to be perfect, because I know that this only sets them up for disappointment, and the other for failure. I pray they instead recognize that they each are only human, and I pray you help them bestow grace upon the other, in understanding that, while the spouse is the top priority among human beings, they can never take the place that only You, O’ God, can fill.

Let those who are just married rejoice and be glad! For the husband has found a good thing in his wife, and the wife has found a good thing in her husband! Your word tells us this O’ Lord. Allow them to examine themselves more closely as a result of this relationship, and in doing so, recognize their faults, as well as their strengths and beauty. Please encourage them to hold onto this joy found within one another and within You, God, so that they will work through the hard times, knowing and trusting that the marriage covenant was the right choice and that they will be blessed. Lord, we know that your word tells us that a cord of three strands is not easily broken, and so I pray that these couples be encouraged to keep you at the center of their relationship. Show them how to love each other in their specific love language, teach them how to spend time together and how to encourage one another. Instruct them about how to speak with love to one another and how to express their deepest desires and fears to each other. Let them be one another’s best friend, and provide them with the deepest level of intimacy to share with each other.

Thank you for the newlyweds in our life Lord! I pray you prompt us to pray for them and prompt them to pray for one another, and to turn to you for guidance and strength.

In your Son Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

What specific prayer has God laid on your heart for newlyweds? Share it here, so we can pray as well!

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“I Resolve to Date More Often”

 Each week my husband and I have a date night.

We work hard to set an entire evening (starting around 6:30 p.m.) to spending uninterrupted time with one another. This is a tradition and will remain a tradition, as I have seen it to be an essential to keeping our marriage happy and healthy.

I was reminded of this fact after having a yes–slightly tipsy–conversation with one of my husband’s close friends. 

He was telling me the importance of “guys night”, and how he really appreciated that I understood that it would be totally awful if I came along. He then explained to me how he loves conversation with Dennis and asked me what my “girls nights” looked like, wondering if they were anything like “guys nights”. To our surprise, the only thing that seemed to separate our idea of a good friend-hang-out session were cigars (the men being fond of those and the women, not so much).

But yes, it’s true, I did understand, as I too would not want my husband awkwardly sitting next to me while I chatted it up with my girl friends and sipped on coffee or ate appetizers….

We, as married people and as dating people, need both “guys/girls nights” as well as “date nights”. Tonight I will focus on the ever important Weekly Date Night

Now, I am well aware that there are many ways to have a date night, and each person has a different idea about what a good date night entails.

Here are 10 good ideas for fun and meaningful date nights for couples of all kinds! 

(Oh! side note: most the these options are “on the cheap” since my husband and I work to budget for a few “All-Out” date nights, but keep the majority of them affordable.)

1. Questionable Dinner – Write down a bunch of random questions, each on a slip of folded paper. Put the papers in a bowl and randomly draw one and answer it over dinner or desert at home.

This is great for new couples who are just getting to know one another, or old couples who want to reminisce  about the past, or learn some crazy-weird stuff about each other! Here is a sample list of questions.

2. Devoted to The Word – Do a weekly Bible study together! This way, you can read scripture together, learn from one another’s interpretations, and share with one another your walk with God.

My husband and I did a devotional study on love and marriage that we could both access from our iPhones. We especially liked the last one, as it helped us both articulate what it was that we first found attractive in the other person (something we needed to be reminded of at the time!).

3. Snack-Central – Make an array of snacky foods for dinner, spread it out on the bed, and watch your favorite tv series together.

Dennis and I LOVE West Wing, and our favorite snacks are smoothies, popcorn, hummus and pita chips/veggies, chips and salsa/guacamole, brie and fruit with cranberry sauce, cheese and crackers (with summer sausage for Dennis), and of course wine!

4. You-Comedy Night!- Each of you make a list of your favorite funny youtube videos. Alternate showing them to each other and vote on with three were the funniest!  We didn’t do this as structured, but one night Dennis and I just watched a ton of funny youtube videos and had a blast laughing together!

This is my favorite one followed closely by this or this. And this couple put together a list of their favorites.

5. Camera Fun- Find a flip cam, or a video camera of some kind and make a funny video. Or, do a photo shoot together.

Since my husband is a rock star, and I’m a person who enjoys taking photos, we have used this to our advantage and have had many photo shoots (mainly consisting of me behind the camera though…). However, we have not done the video portion yet. We were talking about doing a fake episode of “Cribs” to show off our fun apartment with it’s strange idiosyncrasies. I might have to push for that!

6. The Readers- Read a book over the course of a few weeks, meeting up each week to discuss it. It could be a fiction book or a nonfiction book.

Some books that Dennis and I have read and recommend:

The 5 Love Languages
This one is really great for any couple because it has some really great insights into how individuals feel loved. For the longest time, I would write Dennis these cute little love notes, and always wondered why he didn’t write them for me. After reading this book, I realized that words were my love language, and I was trying to love Dennis the way I wanted to be loved. Meanwhile, Dennis was doing really nice things for me to help me out: bringing me coffee when I had stayed up late studying (this was when we were dating in college), or making me lunch when I had a particularly busy day. Acts of service was Dennis’ love language, and he was trying to love me the way he wanted to be loved! Since we know how to love each other better, now I make him dinner and fold his laundry, and he writes me notes and tells me I’m beautiful.

Sacred Marriage    This book is a real earth-shattering one. If you are Christian and you are engaged to be married or already married, I would say this book is a must-read. Without knowing it, we all have notions about marriage in our heads that make us expect the craziest things of one another. This book taught me how to set priorities straight in a marriage, with God being the number one for both husband and wife.

Rocking the Roles     This is the book we are currently making our way through. It is also quite earth-shattering, even though it is slightly dated (I think it was written in the early 90’s). We both were struggling with our respective roles as husband and wife and this book really broke it down. We even had a huge Ah-Ha! moment where we finally realized some of our biggest differences. I would also say this is a must-read for married couples.

The Alchemist     Now, this is a fiction novel with a lot of truth behind it. When we first started dating Dennis told me his entire philosophy was based upon this book, and so, because I was crazy about him, I read it. I LOVED IT! It provides so many philosophical topics of conversation and the entire story could arguably be an allegory for something larger. Read this one or any of this author’s books, all of which would be a good choice.

Captivating and Wild at Heart     Both of these books are pretty great! Captivating is about women and Wild at Heart is about Men. I would recommend women reading Captivating while the men read Wild at Heart, all the while taking notes on each chapter. Then you can switch off and read the one about the opposite sex, and also take notes, comparing them with your spouse or significant other’s.

Other books that I’d like to read with Dennis:

Divine ConspiracyThe Four LovesDietrich BonhoefferEating AnimalsIn Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto , and The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius  

7. Eco-Friendly and Equally Tasty – Start a garden together, then choose a day to harvest, or walk to a local Farmer’s Market and pick out some things. Go cook something up for lunch or brunch together with the fresh ingredients!

If you read my blog over the summer, you saw some sweet pictures of Dennis’ graduation/birthday gift to me, which was a vegetable garden! We even moved that potted garden to the South Side of Chicago when we left Bloomington, and have just harvested the last of the cinnamon oregano and green onions for the year.

Here is a great website where you type in your ingredients and they generate some possible recipes!

Here are some farmer’s market recipes!

Some Garden-growing help!

8. Smart Date with TED – For an intellectually stimulating date that we have yet to try (but may in fact this upcoming Friday!), choose a few TED talks to watch together. I was thinking of choosing from these due to the New Year. But your date could have a theme which you then find TED talks which have to do with said theme (such as work, dreams, technology, money, music, love, self-confidence, faith, inspiration, creativity, family…).

This kind of date would be a great way to expand your way of thinking, get to know each other intellectually, have stimulating and intelligent conversation, or just simply get inspired together.

9. A Bucket List Date –  Honestly, I keep stealing ideas from this blog, so I’ll just provide you with the link! This particular date sounds super fun and really useful for planning:

Create a “Bucket List” (things you want to do before you “kick-it”) separately. Perhaps limit it to 10 things you’d like to accomplish, places you like to go, or things you’d like to do. Share them with one another, then come up with anything else that you’d like to do together!  

This would be a great way to know what is important to your significant other or spouse as well as just have fun dreaming of the future together! You can even pair it with watching the movie The Bucket List as part of the date!

10. Splurge! – Go on an “All-Out” date.

The previous dates are all pretty cheap, which is how, as I mentioned, Dennis and I usually plan our weekly date night. But our numerous low-cost dates allow us to save for a rare and special occasion when we can go “All-Out”.

On our “All-Out” date, we will choose a really classy restaurant to go to, and we’ll get really dressed up to go to dinner. We’ll start with drinks, then slowly order an appetizer (we’re in no rush!). We’ll take our time with the food, and usually we will ask for a box so we can have leftovers later during we week (the portion sizes are usually pretty gigantic!).  We’ll sometimes choose a desert to share, if we’re not too full, or sometimes we’ll order the desert to-go and save it for another date night at home!

During our “All-Out “date, we don’t worry so much about price because we’ve saved enough to indulge. But there are always ways to make your “All-Out” date a little more manageable:  Ask for gift cards to nice restaurants for Christmas and Birthdays, pay attention to seasonal specials like this one a Maggiano’s which we just took advantage of, check Groupon or other coupon websites for deals, or go to a less fancy place and just make it fancy by dressing up and indulging in a 3 course meal!

Dennis and I usually like to try out new places for our “All-Out” dates, but we always seem to choose either Italian or Sushi places.

 

And there you have it! 10 super fun date night options for you and your special someone! I hope that part of your New Year’s Resolution is to take care of your relationships by being intentional with time, energy, and effort. 

What are some of your favorite dates? Can you and your spouse/significant other commit to a weekly date night reserved for only one another? 

Enjoy lovebirds!