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?

“I hate the world!”

How many of you are like Linus over there and totally hate someone? Okay, maybe not hate, but how many of you “severely dislike” someone in your life? It could be a co-worker, a classmate, your boss…a member of your family…

Chances are, there will be some people in your life that you won’t really like. It’s natural right? We’re all so different and sometimes those differences just get in the way….

Okay, another question: How many of you hate all people as a whole?

… Unless you’re a moody teenager or an endangered species, you probably answered “no” to this question. I mean, how can we make a generalization like that?

All people? Well, I’m a person, so no way!”

People often times love humanity and are despicable towards individual human beings. It’s easy to love everyone as a whole because it’s a generalized notion of who people are as a species or a community. It’s a whole lot harder to love our neighbors as individuals, especially if we know them really well.

But the Bible tells us that we must hate the world and love our neighbor. We are supposed to have  great contempt for humanity as a whole, but great love for the individuals who enter into our lives.

Some may object, saying “But God loved the world didn’t he? He sent it only son here!”.

Well, that’s true… which it why it’s difficult to understand why we are called to hate the world that God loves so dearly.

A look at two passages of the Apostle John reveals this intrinsic tension.  On the one hand, as the former argument references, John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).  On the other hand, he tells us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 2:15).

The issue is clear. We are in the world, a world that God loves, and a world in which we have a purpose.  And yet we are not of this world (we were created by something divine, not the the mundane earth), and we should guard against falling in love with this world.

The New Testament often uses the word “world” (“kosmon” in Greek) to refer to culture, or the results of human activity and creativity.  Obviously these different uses also have different connotations:

1.) The first is neutral or maybe even a positive one:  World is seen as the created order, including the actual physical earth (Matthew 24:21), the people living on it (Matthew 4:8; John 12:19), human life (1 Timothy 6:7), and the target of the disciples’ mission (Matthew 5:14).  Though sin entered into this world by the Fall, it and its inhabitants are seen as God’s beautiful creation.

2.) The second usage has a negative connotation.  World consists of human things controlled by Satan, in open rebellion against God.  The earth and its inhabitants are seen as involved in a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces due to sin (Ephesians 6:12).  In this battle, the sinful world didn’t recognize Jesus as God when He came to this earth (John 1:10), so it, as a whole, is an evil place due to its imperfections.

Are things clearing up a little?

Now there are a few typical responses that occur when Christians read passages like those that I just referenced.

First response: opposition and separation.  

The history of Christianity is filled with examples of this response.  Early Christians rejected Greco-Roman culture, declaring it idolatrous and corrupt.  The monastic movement of the Middle Ages pushed for complete withdrawal from the world.  Many Protestant sectarian movements–the Brethren, Mennonites, Anabaptists, Quakers, and also the Millerites –also embraced this approach.

Those who choose this route, I am confident, do so with a sincere belief that they are living out the Word of God.  Their sincerity should be respected.

However, the Bible does not mandate a complete withdrawal and isolation from the world. We are created to be social beings, and it is within a society or a culture that we live, work, worship, and witness.  At most those who break away from the world simply develop a different culture or subculture.  More importantly, this response implies that sin is caused by the world, whereas the Bible teaches that sin begins within the mind.

Second response: assimilation.  

This position assumes that culture is basically good.

Stressing peace and love, cooperation and communication, this approach allows the gospel to be interpreted, understood, and embraced in a multitude of ways.  In the process, the essence of the gospel becomes compromised and suddenly we get Christ as the “great moral teacher” rather than the Lord of life and sole Savior of the world.  Thus, Christianity becomes an all-embracing humanitarianism;  there is blurred distinction between the realms of God and Satan, propped by a moralistic humanism which poses a case for universal salvation…. and we all should know that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

But how do we understand culture, community, and our commitment of faith? Where do we draw the line between the demands of society and the kingdom of God?

In order to engage critically with our surrounding world, we must balance four biblical approaches to it:

1. Separation from anything openly contrary to God’s revealed will.

2. Affirmation of everything that is compatible with God’s revelation and original plan for humanity.

3. Transformation of individual human beings to become unified with God’s principles.

4. Contribution to the surrounding culture through elements that benefit humanity and enhance life.

And in order to see the world this way, we must seek our wisdom from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so we may allow God to guide us in our choices rather than let our own selfishness lead our worldly conquests.

Doing God’s will where we are

In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus frees a man from an evil spirit. Afterwards, the man wanted to follow him,  but Jesus told his new follower to return home–to his own culture–and share the good news with his family and friends.

Here is the key to a Christian understanding of culture: Be a follower of Jesus where you are. No matter the situation, no matter the people you are surrounded with (who you might dislike). We are called to love those individuals, even if we hate the torn-apart world that surrounds us and effects us.

As Reinhold Niebuhran American theologian and commentator on public affairs, noted: As Christians we “… are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded (us).”

 

How do you, as a follower of Christ, live in this world and survive in today’s sinful culture? Or am I way off? Is our culture not evil at all?