Wives…husbands…being heirs together of the grace of life…. (1 Peter 3:1, 7)
It is unlike anything else on the face of the planet!
I’m speaking of the unique dynamic in Jesus Christ that is released when a married couple recognizes the power of their agreement in prayer. Spirit-filled living is central to the powerful possibilities of the married couple. As God develops a husband and wife’s relationship, they begin to exist as a unique identity—the one He designed them to become when the two were joined. There is no counterpart to it in all of creation. When the Bible says that “the two shall become one” (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:8; Eph. 5:31), it is saying much more about their union than that periodically a husband and wife are joined sexually. The two become another entity; a sum greater than their parts. There is an awesome potential in the marriage partnership, but it’s available only when built upon the foundation of a growing relationship between husband and wife.
Scripture lays out this call in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, referencing, among other things, fasting and prayer as a way of life among the Corinthian believers. In whatever else the Corinthians may have stumbled, it was a regular practice for believing couples to join together in fasting and prayer for certain points of focus.
But Paul is not telling them all to get married. To the contrary, he says his personal wish is that everyone could remain single like he is (v. 7). So if you are an unmarried believer, there is no reason to consider your status second-class. Later in the chapter, Paul elaborates the unique gift of singleness—the availability of more time to do the work of the Lord without the responsibilities and demands naturally a part of married life. He makes it clear the pleasure and fulfillment a single person enjoys is different, not less.
When we look at the marriage partnership, however, Scripture tells us husbands and wives are heirs together to a dimension of dominion especially given to them. It goes back to God’s creative order in which He decreed three things: That husband and wife would (1) be fruitful, (2) multiply, and (3) have dominion (Gen. 1:28). Most people think that “be fruitful and multiply” has a singular meaning which is to “have children,” but that doesn’t even begin to approach the broad dimensions of what God has given to married couples as “heirs together of the grace of life.” The way this inheritance is released is through prayer that is “unhindered”—meaning nothing is obstructing the married couple’s unity.
How might a husband and wife’s prayers be hindered? By either one not being responsive to the characteristics outlined in Scripture.
Those Who Would Be “Heirs Together”
For wives, the biblical terms for “unhindered prayer” are to:
…be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives… (1 Peter 3:1)
“Submission” can be a scary word because it’s been so often extrapolated to the point of legalistic destructiveness and bondage. The fact is submission can only be given. It cannot be demanded. The biblical term for submission is always dependent upon a response of will on the part of the individual being called to it. Be clear that the Bible does not say God intended women to be submitted to men. It says a wife is to be submitted to her husband. Submission is not the reduction of either a wife’s personal fulfillment or realization of her own potential. It has to do with her acceptance and support of the husband’s place in the divine creative order to provide leadership in their lives together.
For a couple to become “heirs together,” it also takes an understanding, sensitive, and responsible husband who does not interpret “submission” to mean he has the privilege of being a tyrant, or to think that he has been made superior. It means he has been given the responsibility to be devoted to his wife’s interests and well-being and to lead them both to the fullest possibilities of their union.
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
The words “weaker vessel” are speaking about the woman’s physical and emotional vulnerability, but it is not a condescending description. The nature of a woman tends to be more emotionally vulnerable, but that doesn’t make her less intelligent. Quite the contrary, she may be incredibly more sensitive than the man. After more than fifty years of marriage to Anna, I have learned to listen carefully to my wife, to listen to the things that are bothering her or that she senses. Women have a unique giftedness in this way, just as there is a counterpart giftedness in men.
The prayers of husbands and wives are hindered by either one of them not being sensitive to these biblical characteristics. If the husband is not honoring of his wife, or if he is not sensitive and compassionate toward the pressures and demands on her, that insensitivity can block the possibility of their receiving the inheritance God has for them. It can also obstruct a couple’s successful resistance to satanic attack on their marriage and their children. The same is true if the wife is insensitive to her husband. It is not up to a wife to judge whether her husband is worthy enough to submit to. When great women, whose husbands aren’t that great as leaders, truly submit to them, they make their husbands into far greater men.
Our Call to Prayer
Today we are witnessing the dissolving of one Christian home after another, and stress tears at the marriages of believers, just as it does those of the world. A blitz has hit the Body of Christ in its marriages and families as at no other time in the history of the Church. And we wonder, Why?
Satan understands the powerful inheritance granted to married believers. Because husbands and wives are the greatest threat to the success of his last days’ enterprise, the Adversary has launched a preemptive strike against Christian marriages. But remember, wherever sin abounds, grace much more abounds (see Rom. 5:20). Countering that specific assault from hell is a unique endowment of the Holy Spirit for husbands and wives.
Whether we are single or married, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Added to that, the Bible gives evidence that by reason of their unity there is a unique and awesome power in the prayers of a married couple. The call to each of us—single or married—is to learn the place we are given, accept the privilege and responsibility we’ve been called to and answer to the opportune moment that is ours.