When Jodie Berndt asked if I would consider endorsing her new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, I gladly agreed. Like Jodie, I appreciate the power of prayer—particularly as it shapes our friendships, our parenting, and our marriages.
One of the things I love about Jodie’s writing is her honesty. She doesn’t hold back, and any wife who’s ever asked God to change her man (or who’s gone down the nagging road in her own attempt to “fix” him) will relate to her story.
Welcome, Jodie. Thank you for helping us trust God to work in our marriages—and also in our own hearts. — Barbara
“The moment you marry someone,” writes Tim Keller, “you and your spouse begin to change in profound ways, and you can’t know ahead of time what those changes will be.”
My husband can vouch for the truth of Keller’s claim. “College Jodie” (the woman Robbie fell in love with) was very different from “Career Jodie” (the woman he married three months after graduation). And when “Wife Jodie” became “Wife and Mother Jodie,” she morphed yet again. I won’t go into the details of each subsequent transformation, other than to say that College Jodie was way more fun than any of the subsequent models.
And somewhere along the way—it was maybe a year into our post-nuptial bliss—“Nag Jodie” presented herself. Robbie wasn’t doing anything wrong per se. He just wasn’t doing all the things that my father had done (or he was doing them differently!), and the clash in our expectations about who did what in a marriage played itself out almost every night.
Sometimes my preferred communication style was sarcasm (“humor,” I told myself); sometimes I’d bang a few pots and pans to let Robbie know I needed help in the kitchen; sometimes I’d just clam up, thinking that my beloved should instinctively know what was wrong. (Looking back, that last approach—the one where I didn’t say anything—probably came as a balm to Robbie’s newlywed soul.)
Not knowing what else to do, I turned to God.
“Can’t you fix Robbie?” I prayed. “I’m just as tired as he is when I get home from work every night, and I wish I didn’t have to keep asking him to pitch in.”
“Jodie,” I sensed God say, “it will be okay. If you will stop nagging Robbie and start trusting me, I can make him into a better husband than anything you could have asked for or imagined.”
I didn’t know then that God was quoting himself (the “more than all we ask or imagine” thing comes from Ephesians 3:20 NIV), but I agreed to back off. And that very night, Robbie came into the kitchen and offered to help me cook dinner.
I burst into tears. (Of joy—but poor Robbie didn’t know that. He probably wondered what else he’d done wrong.)
I wish I could say I stopped nagging forever (I didn’t), but I learned a lesson that day. I learned that we can’t change anyone. Yes, our spouses will change (and sometimes we’ll go through seasons in marriage where we need to figure out how to love someone who’s not at all like the person we married), but shaping another person is not our job.
It’s God’s. And God is always at work, Scripture says, taking our stony hearts and making them flesh, renewing our minds, and making us look more like him. (See, for instance, Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 12:2; and 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
We can’t change (or “fix”) anybody, but we can ask God to bless and protect our marriage partner—especially when we don’t feel particularly inclined to extend love out of our own reservoir. In fact, according to a Wall Street Journal report, “when people pray for the well-being of their spouse when they feel a negative emotion in the marriage, both partners—the one doing the praying and the one being prayed for—report greater relationship satisfaction.”
“Greater relationship satisfaction.”
That sounds very important and official. But let’s put it plainly, shall we?
If you’re annoyed with your spouse—they left the toilet seat up, they were late again, they did whatever—don’t get mad. Try praying for them instead.
It will make you both happier.
If you want to know more (and access more than a dozen specific prayers you can pray for things like kindness, forgiveness, and patience in marriage), check out the just-released Praying the Scriptures for Your Life.
Can’t wait to pray? Here’s one of my favorites you can use right now:
In humility, let us value one another above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to each other’s interests and well-being. (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)
JODIE BERNDT is the author of the bestselling Praying the Scriptures book series, including the brand-new Praying the Scriptures for Your Life. Jodie writes about prayer and other family topics on her blog at JodieBerndt.com and on Instagram. She and her husband, Robbie, have four adult children and live in Virginia Beach, Virginia.