Marriage Series: “United Prayer” by Amanda Schreiber

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Today’s marriage post is by my friend, Amanda Schreiber. I met Amanda last year at our kids’ homeschool co-op class. We helped teach the preschool class. When I met Amanda, her and her husband were going through major financial difficulty. As we talked, we realized we had a lot of similarities.  God spoke some promises to Amanda and I individually prior to our meeting. When we met, we both had been discouraged and afraid to look back at those promises out of fear of disappointment. I strongly believe God connected us together to remind us that His promises still stand. In February, I wrote about our meeting in my post “God’s Promises Still Stand.” A few months  later, God blessed both our husband’s with job opportunities, which were an answer to both our prayers.

God is doing a wonderful work in Amanda’s family. I’m excited to have her contribute to this marriage series. I know you will be blessed by this message about the power of prayer in our marriages. This goes great with Kerry’s message on Monday about how Jesus must increase, and we must decrease (John 3:30), to see God work wonders in our marriages.

United Prayer

By Amanda Schreiber

 

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I’d like to thank Amanda for asking me to be a guest on her blog.  When she approached me with this subject a while back and told me she was going to be starting a new marriage series, I knew exactly what I would write about, as it had recently become dear to my heart.  Today I’d love to share with you the importance of united prayer in the life of a healthy marriage.

Back in April, our family decided to embark upon a 40 Day Challenge.  To learn more about this, you can check out my previous blog post that lays out the details. The crux of our family challenge rested in the belief that God was able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)…and we were expecting BIG things from Him…in our circumstances, and within the heart of our family.  One of the most crucial components to this challenge involved my husband and I committing to pray together daily.

In all honesty, it was something we didn’t do nearly enough.  We often had the intention to do so, even talked about it, but as each day drew to a close we would find ourselves too tired and would end up putting it off till the next day.  And then the next…And then the next.  Too often we found ourselves only praying together when there was an urgent need.  This is something we both longed to change.  So as part of our family challenge, my husband and I made a commitment to get down on our knees together nightly to do this.

During our nightly “kneetime” we prayed bold and audacious prayers over our family and our circumstances.  This is where things really began to take root.  It by far has been the most effective and rewarding aspect of our entire family challenge.  I can’t begin to express the importance of this one, simple, yet so necessary, act.  I truly believe this is where the majority of God’s wonder-working was activated.

So, back to our 40-day challenge, when my husband and I began to pray together each night, we took this very seriously. Aloud we declared our mountain of debt to move…we spoke God’s Word and His promises over us, claiming them for ourselves, thanking Him in advance for these blessings and promises before they even came to be.  Our belief and resolve was strengthened and we often could feel the presence and power of God hovering over us during this prayer time.  We prayed that God would “wonder-work” in and around us, believing Him to do so.  We took Him at His Word, that:

You do not receive because you do not ask…” James 4:2 (so we asked!)

…believe and it will be given to you.” Matthew 21:22  (so we believed)

Abide in Me and let My word abide in you, ask, and it will be given to you.” John 15:7 (so we abided and continued to ask and believe)

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (so we sought Him first and foremost)

We hit our knees together nightly believing that God would come through and do the immeasurably more.  Common daily prayer requests included things such as asking God to either bless my husband’s current business or open up doors of new opportunity.  We thanked Him that He would open up the right ones and close the wrong ones.  We prayed that God would increase our faith and give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation.  That He would cause us to be fruitful and effective and influential to those around us.  That He would bless our relationships, and fill us with a passion for Him and His word above anything else. We thanked God, that although our needs were great, He was ABLE and He was GREATER than all of our needs.

Over the course of our 40 day challenge,  He did just that!  My husband is going on his third month in a new career.  At first we struggled with fear at this prospective career move.  But God has taught us a thing or two along the way.  We’ve learned that sometimes we just have to trust Him, even if we don’t have all the answers and all of our ducks are not yet in a row.  Sometimes we have to throw all logic out the window and just follow.  To walk by faith and not by sight.  Small steps of obedience, sometimes into the unknown.  Trusting Him with our day and our future, even when we don’t have all the answers before us.

We had asked God to open up the “right” door, and trusted that He would do so.  So, when this new opportunity was presented to us, it seemed ridiculous not to look into it.  We didn’t know exactly what the job description would be, or what the salary would be, but we had prayed for a door of opportunity. And when God opened a door, in trust, we walked through it.  God filled us with a great sense of peace, and we thanked Him for doing immeasurably more.  In my prayer journal, I wrote that my husband and I were on “cloud 9” because of this new career opportunity.  What we didn’t know, is that God had even more “immeasurably more” to show us.

A week and a half into working this new job, my husband and I still didn’t have a set salary offer.  We knew God would take care of us, because He had been faithful all along, even in our season of lacking.  We knew that in time, my husband would have opportunity for growth within this new company.  We were excited and content, and continued to thank God nightly for this new opportunity. We’ve learned that when you grow to be content with what God has given you, it places you in a position to receive even more.

After almost two weeks of work, my husband was given an official set salary.  We were completely blown away when he was offered 30% more than his previous pay, considerably more than we ever imagined.  We were speechless and dumbfounded, and simply could not believe that God had provided for us in this way.  We are still pinching ourselves over this!  This was a true example of Him answering prayer and providing immeasurably more than we could have ever asked or imagined.

Our long season of desert and leanness is drawing to a close.  God has come through!  God is moving mountains!  God has provided a way out!  God has done the immeasurably more!  He is worthy of all of our praise!

I believe that united prayer was the catalyst to these answered prayers.  My husband and I had been praying about his work and our finances for three years.  And for three long and arduous years, these prayers didn’t seem to be answered.  In fact, our circumstances seemed to be spiraling downward.  Although we individually prayed over these things during this season, we rarely prayed over these things together.  What we found is that there is great power in united prayer.  God’s Word says:

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19–20, NKJV)

It’s important to realize that the context of this verse is true for all who are obedient to Christ and are praying His will.  I don’t believe that God desires for us to be in lacking.  But I do believe that if we find ourselves in a season of lacking, there is purpose in it.  God doesn’t waste our pain or hardships.  He uses them.  He is able to work all things out for our good according to His mighty Romans 8:28 promise.

Jesus came so that we could have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).  Abundant life isn’t found in what we possess, but rather in having more of God and the things of Him in our life.  In living a life of holy purpose.   Things of Christ are to be sought out over things of this world.  He is far more concerned about our hearts than our circumstances.  He often works from the inside out.  Beginning with matters of the heart.  He is after a heart that truly seeks Him first.  This should always be our chief prayer.  To have more of Him. True joy and contentment can only be found when we are following hard after Him and fulfilling His purpose in our lives.  In the great truth of Matthew, when we seek God and His righteousness first, then all these other things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).

I was curious to see when all of the changes and answers to prayer began to take place in our family challenge, so I took a look back in the journal I’d kept over those 40+ days.  I found that it was on the evening of Day 10 that my husband was first presented with a new job opportunity.  That very morning, I had written this prayer in my journal, (looking back at it now astonishes me!)

“TODAY, I KNOW OUR GOD WILL COME THROUGH! Praise You LORD for future breakthroughs and victories in our family…More of You LORD, less of me.  Show me Your face, unleash Your supernatural, wonder-working power in and through and around me, my husband, and our family.  Guard our hearts from pride LORD as You begin to reveal Yourself and Your work and Your wonders in and around us.  LORD, we give You all the glory.  Keep us humble, always, before You.   Show us profound evidence of Your activity.  May we always come on bended knee before You, never stealing Your glory, but declaring with all of our lives that YOU ARE LORD!  Astonish us with Your wonderful works.  Interrupt our lives with Your power and presence.  Fulfill Your choice calling in our lives.  Thank You LORD, for Your harvest one hundredfold!”

It gives me goosebumps (glorybumps) to read this!  Little did I know that God was in the works already.  There is much power in prayer!  For three years we had been praying the same prayer.  But the answers to these prayers came only once we committed to praying these things together.  God is eager to bless us, but deeply longs to have our hearts and our marriages completely surrendered to Him first.

God has shown Himself to be so faithful.  It makes us cringe and wonder how we could have ever doubted Him along this journey.  While we were individually yearning and waiting for God to move on our behalf,  He was patiently waiting and longing for us to act by surrendering together in prayer.

This is our God story.  I share a portion of it with you because it is full-blown evidence of the power of prayer in one’s life.  I want to encourage you to stand united in prayer with your spouse.  That even when you think you are past the point of redemption, whether it be finances, the health of your marriage, or any other stronghold or hardship that is weighing you down…you are not.  When you are hopeless and feel that there doesn’t seem a way out…there is!  It can be found through persistent prayer.  He is our great Hope.  With God, there is always a chance, and anything is possible.  Let prayer be your mightiest tool.

Again, God is able to redeem anything!  Remember, when the Israelites were backed up between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, it was God who parted the sea and gave them a way out.  And He provided a way for us too.  He will provide a way for you.  He is faithful to His children.  I’ve caught myself murmuring, and uttering, joyful, tearful thanks to Him over and over again.  Often in disbelief.  He rescued.  He delivered.  He redeemed.  He moved that mountain.  He did it!

Sometimes His deliverance and redemption comes in ways we least expect.  Sometimes we have to walk through desert to get there.  But one thing is certain, He is able to lead us out! We must never underestimate the power of prayer in one’s life. Prayer changes things.  It changes hearts and circumstances and lifts us up even closer to God’s mighty, helping, and powerful hand.

I can’t begin to express the importance of a couple praying together.  There are so many benefits and treasures to be found in this discipline.  Not only did we see God move mountains and provide for us, it drew my husband and I closer together and strengthened our marriage in many ways.  Prayer is the spilling out of heart to our LORD.  Too often in a marriage, we neglect to build each other up, or just don’t do it often enough.  We may think encouraging and uplifting thoughts about our spouse, but these thoughts don’t always leave our hearts and find their way to our lips.  Or to our spouses ears.

Surprisingly, my husband and I often found ourselves thanking and praising God for each other in our prayers.  This became a time in which we could build each other up before our LORD.  It made us each feel validated and appreciated for the work and role we were individually playing in our family.  It created intimacy and united us as a team.  This nightly prayer habit also gave us a closer look into each other’s hearts.  It’s through prayer that we can express our pressing needs, fears, frustrations, and desires.  These things can change daily.  In the act of united prayer, we found ourselves sharing the deepest parts of our hearts with each other and with God.  We then knew how to better pray for one another.  It grew us into a better knowledge, compassion, and understanding of one another and of our God.  It gave us insight, challenged our faith, revealed our strengths and weaknesses, and provided a unity of heart that has rivaled no other.

As believers, we want nothing more than to experience the presence of God.  He is the supplier of all good things we could ever need or desire.  The act of prayer places us in a perfect position to bask in His presence to receive these things.  And who other would we rather share this holy gift with than our very own spouse?  On our wedding day, we entered a covenant with each other and with God.  He wants to be the center of our marriages.  He holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), including our marriages.  A sure way to draw closer to one another and to keep God at the center of our marriages is to commit ourselves to the act of united prayer.

As of July 1st, my husband and I are on day 86 of praying together nightly. The rewards of united prayer far exceeded our expectations.   It has become a habit and a privilege to come to Him together on bended knee.  And it has proven to be a key component in keeping our marriage thriving and our hearts turned toward God.  If this isn’t a discipline you and your spouse have been doing together regularly, I urge you to make united prayer a priority.  Try it out, and with expectant faith, wait to see how God will do the immeasurably more within your hearts and your lives.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

James 5:16

 Pray onward.  He is faithful, and He is able!

Thank you LORD, for the gift of marriage and the gift of prayer.  That through Your son, Jesus, we are able to approach You with confidence.  That You hear us and don’t waste any of our pain and suffering.  Thank You that there is always purpose behind Your plan.  Your ways are higher than our own.  Help us not to lean unto our own understanding, but to trust You with every area of our lives, including our marriages.  Help us to let go of any areas we are not fully surrendering to You.  Increase our faith.  We are thankful that You know what is best for us.  That You work all things together for our good.   That You hold all things together. Protect our marriages, unite us, and draw us closer to You and a deeper knowledge of You.  We long to bring You glory.  You are faithful and deserving of all of our praise.  In Jesus’ most precious and holy name.  Amen

*Thanks, Amanda, for this great prayer to pray with our spouses! You can read more inspiring posts by Amanda on her blog I’m Still CLAY.

 **Don’t forget to leave Amanda a comment below to be entered to win 1 of 2 $50 Brinker gift card (can be used at Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s) and a signed copy of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family – Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children.Today is the last day to enter! I’ll be announcing the first winner on my wedding anniversary tomorrow (7/20), and the second winner on my husband’s and my dating anniversary on Sunday (7/21).


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Marriage Series: “Love’s Blind Spot” by Kerry Johnson

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This is the fifth message in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” Follow this link if you missed any messages in this series. Today, I have another inspiring guest marriage post by Kerry Johnson about covering our spouse’s blind spots with love. Kerry recently published her first book titled “Grace for the Gaps: Rejoicing in Jesus on Life’s Journey.” In her book, Kerry shares how God’s grace covers our failings in our lives, in our marriages, and in our parenting. She shares how His word is truly a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. If you purchase Kerry’s book, and live in the U.S., let me know in the comment section below and you will receive 3 entries into my drawing of 1 of 2 $50 Brinker Restaurant gift cards and my marriage book “You Can Have a Happy Family.”

 

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Love’s Blind Spot

By Kerry Johnson

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, ESV).

We were a few miles over the Florida-Georgia border when I looked up from my book and noticed the tight formation of cars and semi-trucks around us.  I slammed my eyes shut, and my chest tightened as though a heavy boulder had begun pressing on my diaphragm.

Being in another car’s blind spot on I-75 is troubling for me because I’ve seen the results that a couple seconds of blindness can cause.  It can be deadly and can affect nearby drivers and cars.  So driving in a semi’s blind spot for a long period of time is nearly unbearable for me.  The weight on my chest seemed to increase as a small herd of 18-wheelers surrounded us.  One kept pace directly on our right—so close I could reach out and touch it.  Another truck was out ahead of us, and still a third semi took up the far right lane. Like puzzle pieces, cars fit the spaces in between.

I squinted, my gaze sliding to the right, hoping the gigantic truck next to us had magically disappeared.  Not so.  The reach-out-and-touch-me-truck was still right next door, a flag tattoo visible on the driver’s left arm as it rested on the steering wheel.

Inside our Expedition, I felt like a Terrier cornered by a Rottweiler, stuck against a fence with no chance of escape.  My hand crept to my husband’s forearm and gripped, spider-like tension radiating through me.  He didn’t need the reminder.  I knew he knew my fear.  I glanced at my husband’s profile, knowing well the map of his face and every nuance of expression.  I took in a deep breath after seeing the determination in his expression.

Even though Trevor didn’t feel the same (driving next to an 18-wheeler’s blind spot doesn’t faze him), he was aware of the panic blooming inside me.  A swell of appreciation washed over me—gratefulness for marriage, which God ordained for our wellbeing.

Marriage – the covenant between a man and a woman, husband and wife, between two very different people sharing a common bond of affection and faithfulness.  Marriage is intended for the creation and protection of the family and the generational passing of faith, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s faithful love for the Church.

Trevor knew my deep-seated fear, and though he didn’t share it, he cared enough to acknowledge what I was going through and work to alleviate the situation.  My sensitive husband watched traffic carefully until he found a way out.  He sped up just enough to get us ahead of the 18-wheeler so we would no longer be boxed in.  I let out a deep sigh of gratitude.

This is what You intended, Lord.  This is 1 Corinthians 13, a love that’s kind, puts another first, and isn’t resentful when doing so.  In marriage, God calls us to cover our spouse’s blind spots with love.  Criticizing is easy and selfish.  Even though loving through insecurities and mistakes is tough and selfless, it can be done through Jesus’ help.  John 3:30 (NKJV) is a verse I pray often because on my own, I fail miserably:

“[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I’m still learning to listen, respect, and defer, while Trevor has learned to understand, share, and protect.  Most importantly, we have both learned that Jesus must be the heart of our marriage.  There are times when vast differences in marriage frustrate and seem insurmountable, but it’s in those times that we have to stretch ourselves in love, trusting our Savior to be our all in all while learning to give our spouse the grace God gives us.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another” John 4:11 (NKJV).

kerry2Kerry Johnson lives in sunny Tampa Bay with her loud and very ticklish family. Patient hubby Trevor and their two boys, Cole and Chase, give the best hugs ever. She’s been published in Sanctified Together, Granola Bar Devotionals, and Tampa Bay’s Overflow Magazine, and her first novel semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis Contest in spring 2013. She has her Bachelor of Science in English Education and enjoyed seven blessed years as a stay-at-home wife and mom. She’s passionate about her family, reading and writing, exercise and chocolate (not necessarily in that order), and especially sharing the love of Jesus through her writing at http://candidkerry.wordpress.com/.

 

 

*Don’t forget to leave a comment below to receive an entry in my gift card and book drawing (U.S. residents only). Remember to let me know in your comment if you purchased Kerry’s book to receive 3 entries. Winners will be announced this weekend (July 20th & 21st).

 


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