In May 1969, I sat beside my dad in the intensive care wing of our hometown hospital. I was single at the time and had come home from graduate school to see my dad because he had undergone serious surgery. Susan, who was working in Georgia, had come up to visit me and the family at the same time. In our conversation, Dad asked how she was doing and then he squeezed my hand, looked into my eyes, and said, "Son, marry that girl."
That turned out to be our last conversation, and he had given me what would be his final bit of advice. He died unexpectedly two days later. I asked Susan that very day if she would become my wife.
Later that week, in the sad, shocking aftermath of Dad's sudden death, my young fiancé and I sat down to talk about our future. We decided to make a list of needs, questions, and decisions that we were concerned about. This became the beginning of our prayer list, which we used for several years to come.
I pulled out that little vinyl notebook the other day and reviewed the many notations in Susan's handwriting and mine. A date, the request, and often another date, off to the side, with a brief description of how we had seen the prayer answered. One prayer was that Susan would find a job that was compatible with her gifts and experience. Less than a month later, she accepted an offer to be Dean of Women at a small private college—just the sort of thing we were hoping for. That first little notebook contains 88 entries of needs about which we prayed.
Now, almost 30 years later, I continue to pray for Susan. I'm still praying for our relationship—that it will continue to deepen and mature, that I will understand her better, that I will hear her more effectively, and serve her. I pray for her physical health to continue to be strong, and for her to grow in peacefulness. I pray for her writing and teaching, and that we will always be able to talk together, have fun together...
In other words, praying for your wife can become a way of life. As her husband, you are her chief prayer warrior. This requires you to know her well and to stay tuned to her needs so that you can pray wisely. Let's consider some ways in which we can equip ourselves to pray significant, powerful prayers for our wives.
Spend time with her. A man who wants to support his wife effectively through prayer must make time to know her and understand her. You've got to know what's going on in her life, what she's doing, what she's thinking, what she's feeling. This can take a good deal of thoughtfulness and attention on our part.
Your wife may not tell you everything that's on her mind. She may be burdened about a child, or fearful for a parent, but not be able to talk about it. A wise husband will make it a top priority to be with his wife and to talk to her. As the years go by he will learn to read her and to see beneath the surface. He will learn the right questions to help her open up.
Look for purposes, patterns, and priorities in her life. It's helpful for me to distinguish between the day-to-day concerns and the more long-term, overarching prayers. Once or twice a year I prepare a formal list of items that I pray about all year long on behalf of my wife. Traditionally, I go to a place where I can be alone for a significant amount of time and I think about her needs as I know them. I look at Susan's life from several different angles-physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual-and then I begin to list her needs.
For example, there may be two or three small physical problems that she's encountered—but which may actually indicate a change in her health. In her late 30s, as our children got a little older, I began to notice a growing concern in Susan's mind about her purpose in life. Things like this filled out my daily prayer list for her.
When I am considering my annual list of prayers for Susan, I ask myself questions like these:
- What are the concerns that she's most aware of in her life right now?
- What are issues of character that she's struggling with?
- What other relationships does she have in which she needs God's help right now?
- What particular responsibilities is she dealing with now in which she needs God's help?
I find it's helpful to think about Susan's life from her point of view. For instance, how is she feeling about herself? How is she feeling about our relationship, or about her future? What are the particular gifts, interests, and opportunities before her right now? Where does she need help as she plans for the future? What are her deep longings?
Sometimes when I'm praying for my wife, I try to see a mental image of her sitting with or standing before the Lord Jesus Christ. I imagine Him looking at her and I ask myself: "What is He seeing?" "What is He saying" "What is He seeking to do in her life?" All of these questions help me formulate simple answers to guide me as I pray for her in the most important and ongoing areas of her life.
Adapted by permission from How a Man Prays for His Family, FamilyLife Publishing, ©2004 by John Yates.