Many a time has a husband sat across from me in my study describing a difficult patch on his walk with God. After I listen for awhile, one of my first questions is always, “How is your relationship with your wife?”
And most often that husband will say something like, “You know, it hasn’t been great lately. We’re really on each others nerves, I feel like she doesn’t listen to me…” and on, and on, and on. So, after I listen to that for a bit, I reply,
“Hmmm…please take this Bible, and turn to 1 Peter 3:7.”
“Ok, read it to me please.”
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
To which I follow up with something like this…..“You see, what God is saying, you knucklehead (I can call him that because I’m just one knucklehead speaking to another knucklehead), is that if you treat your wife poorly, if you do not give her honor, if you refuse to live with her in an understanding way, really aware of all the difficulties she may be facing, and burdens she is bearing— like cranky kids and grocery shopping and cleaning the house and walking the dog and getting the kids to school and going over homework and carting the children to their sports practices and making breakfast and lunch and dinner and doing laundry and putting up with a dolt of a husband—if you don’t look at her, and see her as your equal partner in God’s new gift of life, which means you see her not only as your wife but as your sister in Christ, who happens to be her big brother. See, if you don’t treat her as you should, then God is going to look at you, as you are trying to talk to him, and he is going to say, ‘Hey, knucklehead, when you start treating her like you should, I’ll be happy to pay close attention to your prayers.”
What God wants for us to understand is that there is a connection between our listening to him, and his listening to us. We are supposed to go to his Word, where he speaks, and find out what he says. We are to then take it into our hearts and minds, so that it effects our behavior and actions. He then finds it a joyful thing when we come to talk with him, to have a seat and listen for awhile, because we’ve been showing how much we listen to him when he speaks.
This is what I saw confirmed when I read Proverbs 28:9 this morning,
Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing my instruction—
even his prayer is detestable.
Did you catch that? Not only does he not want to listen, as in hear and respond, but the very sound of the prayer of an unlistening, disobedient child is detestable. It’s the same word God uses elsewhere when describing things he hates, that they are an abomination to him (Proverbs 6:16).
That is strong language. And I think he uses it because of the hypocrisy in asking a holy God to do something for us if we are flouting the things he tells us to do that will lead to a good life. To answer someone like that would be awfully counter-productive and a waste of mercy and grace.
So what is a sinful husband—or any sinner, since we are all sinners (Romans 3:10-11)—to do?
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
(1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2; New Living Translation)
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:14-16, New Living Translation)
God knows we’re all lawbreakers, so it’s not that he won’t listen, he just wants our contrition. All we need do is come in a state of humility to him, trusting in the sacrificial work and the powerful Name of his Son. We confess our sins, repent of our sins, and ask for forgiveness. And in this humbled, purified state, we now confidently make known our requests and spend time talking with our Father. And instead of being detestable, these prayers will rise like a sweet smelling fragrance to the One who loves us.
If we’re honest, sometimes your Word has an edge to it, and feels harsh. The idea of our prayers being detestable feels that way. But there is such mercy here. For had Solomon not written it, we wouldn’t know the connection between us listening to you, and you listening to us. This makes so much sense! Thank you for being clear about how to have and live a good life, where we hear your instruction, and you hear our prayers. Forgive us today, for the ways we have not listened to you, and have thus sinned against you. And fill us with your Spirit so that we may follow all you say.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
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