Unified Prayer Will Save Your MarriageJon Burgess
“Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:5
What Paul is teaching about marriage is the complete opposite of what our culture is telling us. Instead of marriage being about how happy our spouse is making us, 1 Corinthians 7 calls us to serve our spouse. It's a beautiful picture of marriage through the union of mutual submission. Paul exhorts couples to move out of the sexual selfishness of the world around them in order to discover how to please their spouse. Due in large part to the "super spiritual" culture in the church of Corinth Paul makes it clear that if a married couple is fasting sex it must be agreed upon by both and be for a limited time. It turns out selfishness can look really spiritually too. After all how would a spouse argue if they are told, "God told me not to have sex with you?" What this passage teaches is the key to a happy, healthy marriage. It turns out it's not perfect sex that makes a good marriage, its unified prayer! Here's the kicker! The unified prayer of a married couple will ultimately lead to an improved sex life. You can't spend time in the presence of God seeking His will on behalf of your spouse and not receive a download of His heart for them! When you pray together you start to look past the lifted toilet seat and the torture of kale on your dinner plate and you begin to see them the way He does- becoming more like Christ! Spiritual intimacy is the key to intimacy in every other area of life!
I'll be honest. I have missed the power of 1 Corinthians 7:5 until recently. I have a hard enough time being obedient to the spiritual discipline of fasting food. So, when I read a passage describing a married couple agreeing to fast sexual intimacy for a period of time I have always laughed, usually internally, sometimes out loud. I mean, why would I ever agree to go without sex? In the past, realizing how arrogant this sounded, I would immediately offer up a desperate prayer something like this: "God You know I love You. I know You love me. I waited 22 years for this amazingly beautiful woman You have given me and I don't want to spend a single moment taking this gift for granted." Then I would usually quote some scriptures to bolster my argument against fasting sex because, you know, God might need to be reminded right? I would pray, "God, I thank You that You tell me in Proverbs 5:18-19: "Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe...May you always be captivated by her love." Can I just say, that You really out did yourself with my wife and there's not a day that goes by when I'm not captivated by her beauty." It's right about there that God stops me. It's right when I'm about to tell God how I'm even willing to go without bacon for a week if I don't have to fast sex that I realize I've missed the point entirely. It's not about fasting sex, it's about agreement in unified prayer with my spouse. God in His infinite patience then asks some questions that get to the heart of the matter: "How often do you pray with her? Not just for her, but with her? Do you know what she's going through right now? Have you taken the time to serve her as the head of the home through spiritual leadership in prayer." Then I take another look at the scripture and I finally get it: "unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer." When I find myself more concerned with what I want physically then where my wife is at spiritually it's a pretty sure thing that I'm not pleasing her physically either. When I am pursuing her spiritually, seeking God with her, sharing our journals together and finding out how I can be praying for her then it's a good bet I'll be putting her first physically as well! The great thing is that when she is being cared for and covered that only makes for a better sex life in the long run. That's what a Christian marriage is about- the long run! Instead of trying to talk God out of making me fast sex I need to be hearing God's heart for my wife through united prayer with her!
This morning I sit with a young leader in my Life Group who will be married next week. I'm so happy for him and his bride-to-be. I remember the week before I was married I could not wait to be sexually intimate with my bride and spend the rest of our lives together! After almost 20 years of marriage I thank You God for the great sex, but that is only one part of what has made my marriage so good. It's really the fact that I fell in love with a woman who will always love You more then she loves me! She finds her fullness, her identity, her completion in You as her Lord and Savior. The longer we are married the more I enjoy seeking Your will for her and seeing that come to pass! I pray that I would continue to put her needs before my own. That I would continue to lead us to deeper intimacy with You. And yes, if You ask us to fast sex we will, but can I just ask that it be for a very limited amount of time? I love that I can talk to You about this and that You continue to teach me how to love my wife the way You love the church- by laying my life down for her.