Have I prayed enough? – a question often asked by victims of domestic abuse
Devout Christians who are being abused by their spouse often wonder, “Have I prayed enough for my abuser to change? Have I prayed hard enough, long enough, or with enough faith?” This kind of thinking is exemplified by what one survivor wrote to me: [used with her permission]
I think I am still just waiting on God, to see if He is going to change my husband. I don’t want to cut God short, but I have also been praying for years for him to be saved and changed. Maybe I am just not praying enough or hard enough, or maybe I don’t pray as faithfully as I should, because deep inside I don’t want to be in this position anymore. Maybe I just cannot imagine him being any different than he is now. How do you know when to stop and give up?
This is the reply I wrote to her:
I’ll answer your question with another question: What would it take for you to know for sure that you’d prayed hard enough and long enough? That’s a question for you to answer.
Now, a second question. Could your feeling that you don’t want to be in this sham of a marriage any more, be influencing or contaminating your prayers so they don’t take effect with God?
I will answer this question myself:
Your prayers do not have to be ‘perfect’ for God to respond affirmatively and give you what you’ve been asking for in those prayers. God is sovereign. He can and does answer prayers as He sees fit, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
So whatever quality, perseverance, intensity, sincerity you might or might not have had in your prayers for you husband over those years, right up to and including the present, God is not ‘waiting’ on you to perfect your prayers. He is doing what He always does: acting sovereignly. No-one can twist the arm of God. Even skimpy, half-unfaithful, off-handed prayers can be granted; and even passionate, persevering prayers can be denied. He knows best. He knows what best to do.
Do you have to be able to imagine that your spouse could truly change, in order to facilitate his change? No. What you can or cannot imagine is not important. It’s your husband’s choice what he does, and it’s always been his choice. Let yourself off the hook. You are not responsible for changing him.
You said “I don’t want to cut God short.” You wouldn’t be cutting God short by stating that you want the marriage to end.
In my book Not Under Bondage I argue that the only thing which precludes a woman from re-marrying her former husband is if she has married another man in the period after having been divorced from her first husband (Deut. 24:4). If a victim divorces her abusive husband, he is still free to change and reform should he choose to. Divorcing him would not prevent him doing that. You would not be ‘cutting God short’ by divorcing your husband. God can still influence your husband, whether or not you are legally married to him. In fact, when a victim of abuse divorces her husband, that can sometimes be the motivator for him to really consider changing his attitudes, for the first time in his life. Not that it’s a magic bullet, but it can certainly provoke an abuser to take stock of himself. IF he wishes to. And it appears that most don’t wish to. Some toy with the idea for a while, and maybe move a few deck chairs around on the Titanic, but rarely do they fully repent.