Hymns: 676 The Mercy Seat 731 O Give Us Homes
Bible reading: Mark 10:1-12
In Mark chapter 10 the Lord was commencing his Judean ministry. Ministry is the operative term, for the Lord continued his practice of teaching and preaching. As the revelation of the Father, Christ's method of dispelling the darkness was to preach the great truths of God, heaven, salvation and sin. Preaching continues to be God's means of evangelism in this dark world.
Judea was somewhat different from Galilee. It was filled with opposition from Pharisees. In Judea there was less Satanic activity but more religious subtlety. Enemies in religious garb can be devils behind robes.
See how they came "tempting" the Lord (v2). As was the case at many other times, the Pharisees sought to have the Lord fall on the horns of a moral dilemma between the law of Moses and a ministry of mercy. Legalists can never reconcile holy living with pity for sinners. In asking this question about divorce they unwittingly touched the Lord at His strong point for the gospel of Christ is all about lifting the fallen and empowering them to live according to the Father's law.
From the firm but gracious answers of the Lord to these critical Pharisees we want to learn how to pray for marriages.
1. Pray recognizing God's unchangeable model of marriage.
Christ taught that marriage is based on God's creation. He said, "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female" (v6).
Like all other doctrines based on creation, marriage will never cease to be God's will. The Lord was very clear on both the history of the world and on the virtues of male and female as God's specific design in marriage. God is both wise and powerful in His creative design of male and female. Who dares to question God in His work of creation and who dares to deny that male and female is His definite order.
Do we need to state this negatively? Unfortunately we do. All unions outside of wedlock between one man and one woman are contrary to God's plan and are sins that God will judge. It is right, therefore, to pray for godly marriages that will honour the Lord and lead people to know His blessing.
2. Pray recognizing the danger of hardness of heart in marriage.
The Lord taught that divorce is due to hardness of heart (v 5). It was the reason for divorce in the first place. The concession of a divorce bill given by Moses was due to the stubbornness of men toward their wives. Many women would face death due to the Mosaic law without this concession. Many Jewish men and Pharisees also were hard-hearted and sought divorce for a multitude of reasons, even the smallest excuse.
The Lord Jesus taught that divorce is not God's will; forgiveness is.
Divorce is driven by a hard attitude that shows no compassion to weaknesses or failures in a spouse. Whereas, the tender-hearted will recognize that weakness is to be expected when two sinners get married. Only a hard-hearted person expects perfection in his spouse.
Marriages must be based on the love of Christ - even the same love that Christ has for His church, for whom He laid down His life (Eph. 5:22-33). Love and self-sacrifice are the divine ingredients needed in a godly marriage. Keeping our hearts tender and aflame with the love of the Lord will cure many an issue between husbands and wives who struggle to respect and love each other as they should. Christ-likeness is the answer. For this, we must pray much.
3. Pray recognizing the damage divisions cause in a marriage.
The Lord taught, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (v9). That means to "part" or "separate."
* Division in marriage breaks God's law for divorce with a view to remarriage is adultery - by either party. In Roman law a woman could sue to divorce her husband.
* Divorce is never God's will. Reconciliation is.
The damage to marriage is so great that the marriage covenant must supercede all differences:
* Where a spouse is not a believer (1Cor 7:13).
* Where a spouse is worldly.
* Where a spouse is sick or incapacitated. God wills that we abide in marriage, "'till death us do part."
Two imperfect people united in marriage will need much grace and a servant spirit to abide in holy and happy matrimony. The Lord clearly taught this to be the good and perfect will of God.
Patience, commitment, and even endurance are required when marital problems arise. Then we need to pray for God to pour in His grace to heal and help, which He does.
Read 1Peter 3:1-12 as a reminder of the grace needed by a Christian in many differing marital situations.
Wives and Husbands
1Pe 3:1 "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
1Pe 3:2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
1Pe 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
1Pe 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
1Pe 3:5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
1Pe 3:6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
1Pe 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
Suffering for Righteousness' Sake
1Pe 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
1Pe 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
1Pe 3:10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
1Pe 3:11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
1Pe 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."
The Lord wills that we make marriages work even at great cost and we must continually invest in our marriages, for our earthly good and the Lord's glory is at stake in the success or failure of our marriages.
The peace and prosperity of marriages affects individuals, families, churches and communities. It is right and necessary to pray for the Lord's grace to sanctify us more and more to show forth the love of Christ in our marriages. Pray for their protection as well as their peace. Pray for great grace to be given to glorify God in marriage.