Oodles of books have been written advising Christian women how to have great marriages. Trouble is, most of them are clueless about the dynamics of domestic abuse so they give atrocious advice which could be toxic or life threatening to a victim of abuse.
One such author is Stormie Omartian, whose book The Power of a Praying Wife is just another run of the mill “Let’s all keep our rose coloured glasses on girls, and deny that elephant in the room” type books. It’s all the more tragic that Stormie is blind to domestic abuse because (according to her auto-biography) she herself was severely abused in childhood. But childhood abuse in itself doesn’t necessarily mean one will see domestic abuse when it’s staring one in the face in adulthood.
An open letter to Stormie Omartian can be found here. It is a 13 page letter, so grab a cuppa and put your feet up to read it. 🙂 I think it’s a valuable critique of the book The Power of a Praying Wife. The letter is written by Natalie Collins who is a survivor of domestic abuse in the UK. Natalie is active in Restored which is a Christian umbrella group working to prevent violence against women around the world.
This post is a slightly modified version of a post I first published at my old blog in Feb 2012.
78 thoughts on “Stormie Omartian doesn’t get it about domestic abuse”
After reading the letter to Stormie I now understand why I had trouble reading her book The Power of a Praying Wife. She was right on spot with her letter.
Stormie wrote the first book (full of awful advice for wives) in 1997. She wrote her latest book (with the above quoted passage) in 2009.
NOW….who wants to guess what happened in the intervening 12 years? According to her bio she is still married to her husband, and the way she described him in her first book screamed “Abuser” (that story about him demanding chicken for dinner and then walking through the door and demanding pork chops instead.)
I am curious how Stormie suddenly changed her tune. I was expecting to hear that she’d left her husband but it looks like she’s still with him. The whole thing gives me the yaks so I won’t be doing any further reading of her stuff, thanks much.
Thanks for the timeline Katy. Between 1997 and 2009 there has been a fair bit more discussion of wife abuse in the media, and more information to help victims. Perhaps Stormie’s 2009 book just reflects that greater awareness in society.
But I agree with her, I’m not reading any more of her stuff. I read her autobiography of her childhood years ago, and it was okay. But for me in my journey, it wasn’t scintillatingly helpful.
Fantastic letter. Did Stormie ever respond?
Wow. I wondered the same thing, Lynette.
Not that I am aware of, Lynette.
I just thought I would share Stormie’s words from another book that a friend sent to me when I told her about my abusive marriage. It is entitled, The Power Of Prayer to Change Your Marriage. This is what she writes on pages 59-61. I am not defending Stormie or saying she has it all right, but thought I should let people know that she does make the following statements. I have not quoted in its entirety. It is as follows:
She goes on with this chapter. I don’t agree with everything and I think she fails to mention the other forms of abuse we have suffered at the hands of our abusers. I just wanted you to know that this book exists and that this chapter, though short and small, is there.
It’s a start I guess. This book must be newer.
Thank you Anon, we appreciate you sharing this here as we strive to be honest and fair minded at this blog. We don’t want to be unjust to other writers, so knowing Stormie wrote this in another book is helpful. I agree that her words did not go as far as we would have liked, but at least some of the advice she gave there was reasonably good.
Thank you for your desire for fairness, Barbara. I hope we have an answer soon.
I remember way back when we Marabel Morgan wrote the classic book advising us to add spice to our marriages via being wrapped in Saran Wrap and greeting our husbands at the door when he came home from work. Times have changed, but that mindset can still be seen in the way women are regarded and advised to keep their husbands happy. It is so very wrong!!!!
Perhaps instead of saran wrap we should use bubble wrap. That way when he comes through the door angry from whatever set him off at work and he decides to throw us against the wall it would be a softer landing.
I think what this shows is that very few understand. Thank The Lord that sites like ACFJ exist and provide support and understanding.
I wondered also if she responded.
Reading the letter I was saddened but not surprised. The majority of the information that has been out there for women in destructive/abusive marriages is like this book. The church I was part of for many years did not even allow women to discuss difficulties in their marriage it was “disrespectful and gossip” so all the women heard was shut up and submit and if the men were bad it was our fault.
I am happy to say that I have been asked to put together a binder of resources for each church in our district to help address abuse in marriage. I have been able through this site and through Leslie Vernick to get quite a bit of information for helping the wife/victim but I am still working on trying to find solid information, resources and accountibility plans for working with the abuser. I really feel if we only try and tackle this issue from one side it is harder or even doomed to fail.
I would appreciate some guidance in finding good information for men/abusers to help them to change and not just make things worse.
Thanks for all the good information on this site.
Yes, I also want to know if Stormie ever responded. Reading the letter…I read the book right after my daughter was born and know I took it to heart. I wonder now if that is part of the reason I stayed. I stayed and even prayed about his desire to take a second wife. I actually entertained this notion for a bit!! That is how willing I was to submit to him! UGH!!
I remember liking that book and I think it might be useful to Normals. Reading that book gave me hope. That’s not necessarily a good thing in an abusive marriage. Hope is the hook. It’s the “things will be better tomorrow, or better if I can just …” lie that keeps victims in their place. Hope cannot be in ANYTHING the victim does. See, that’s the big lie; if the victim can do something, then the victim is the one responsible for the abuse.
Only God can change a sinner’s heart. Only God. I can’t make him change. I can’t make anyone change.
Natalie’s letter was excellent. I just wanted to mention that even though I never read Stormie’s book or any similar material (a small mercy I am grateful for) I still believed of the myths about domestic abuse that are prevalent in the church and which Natalie discussed. I am still amazed that this kind of thinking had completely transformed me even though I was never directly taught about the subject of marriage. And yet I was absolutely convinced my faith and prayers could save me. They did not. Instead things got worse. I am absolutely convinced that all I did was call evil acceptable and brainwash myself into thinking there weren’t significant problems because somehow my prayers would transform my life and my husband. I was idiotically ignorant to the fact that he could resist change. In my zeal for God and my desire to please God I had invariably picked up and completely bought into all these myths that underpin Stormie’s book. I am still gob-smacked this happened without anyone directly teaching this to me. I so completely bought into the myth that prayer could change my life that I wonder if I would have ever left unless my parents hadnt insisted. I think I would have been completely destroyed if I had stayed. I should mention it was the wrong application of faith teaching that deluded me into thinking things weren’t as bad as they seemed – in fact I had learnt to completely ignore abuser – until it got so bad that was terrified beyond my capacity to stand it and broken down mentally. I had literally suspended my perception of reality to “see through the eyes of faith” believing that God would perform a miracle in my life and that of my husband. This theology is so dangerous when it applies to domestic abuse. By being taught this way I had completely opened myself up to being abused. Even worse was the fact that I would have been willing to die or keep suffering thinking that a miracle was coming. As it was i stayed until i had a mental breakdown and even then I still suffered terrible doubt that it was my sinful fear or mental weakness that had allowed this. And I also thought that if my marriage failed it would somehow be partially my fault. This was wrong. It will be entirely his fault that our marriage ended. My husband would scream at me over entirely innocent things until I was less than a slave. I am still so shocked that I had entirely bought this lie and taken on the thinking of Stormie’s book without even being directly told to apply my theology of faith and prayer to marriage. I still do believe in these things but I no longer think that God will some how magically be able to work in an abusive situation where my husband repeatedly chose to abuse me in very very dangerous ways. I have no doubt that God’s answer was for me to leave and stay away. Again I must say how shocked I am that this erroneous thinking has so penetrated our churches that women like myself adopt it willingly thinking we are pleasing God with our faithfulness.
Worse than this in many ways is the fact I see this kind of thinking in many of my friends. I hope that none of them are as “zealous” as me in applying this to their own lives should they encounter abuse themselves (which some of them are statistically likely to do). I am still so shocked that I never heard once heard a message about justice and God’s hatred of abuse. It still amazes me that it is only women who are told to submit to such mistreatment as a godly response to abuse. It leaves women powerless and excuses sinful behaviour of perpetrators even if they have never directly heard such messages because the erroneous thinking is subtle and consistently reinforced. I am still amazed that I had entirely bought into a way of thinking that saw me coddle my husband while he chose to abuse me and I overlooked it entirely. I had also bought the myths of Stormie’s book which Natalie address regarding women’s and men’s roles in marriage – again without ever being directly taught this. The messages that this was God’s way came through a range of channels including friendships with many lovely Christians who also ignorantly believed the lie. I can hardly believe I was willing to die and thought this was God’s plan. Such thinking in the church shuts God out rather than invites Him in.
Bring on messages of justice in the church. God has another side. It breaks my heart that women are being fed these lies and staying trapped until death along with their children. We need to hold abusers accountable instead of making the innocent feel guilty for the abusers sin because their prayers haven’t works. We also need to challenge the myths of male privilege and other gendered roles that do not hold up under the light of a proper examination of scripture. Such myths are contrary to God’s Word and hold people captive for many years if not their whole life.
I never read any of Stormie’s books either but I had somehow also bought into the lies that my faith and prayers could wrought a miracle and I could save my marriage from the clutches of adultery and emotional abandonment. My ex’s sin was because I supposedly didn’t love him unconditionally. I was humiliated and scared that I would be alone with my children, or worse, that he would get custody because I was a stay at home mom. So I had to submit, forgive, love unconditionally, and believe that my faith had saved the marriage. In the mean time I shoved aside all of my own pain and not allowed to hold him accountable. If I dared to mention it wasn’t that a sign of unforgiveness, and certainly not what a Christian woman should express?
In the 80’s and 90’s so many authors were expressing the same ideas. And we bought into them. Decades later, the children grown, the pain begins to surface when we least expect it. We begin to act out and appear to have lost it. Then the gossip starts, the legalists. More confusion, betrayal, pain.
These authors have kept so many souls in bondage. The damage may not be irreversible but the journey is full of very dark times.
Thank you for sharing this. I have also been screamed at over innocent things – last spring I asked why does he yell at me for things that have nothing to do with me? His response-
Because you are there!
I have also (finally) reached the conclusion that God’s answer is to leave and to stay away.
There is so much more I could say – this blog has been a light in the darkness for me!
I totally understand. It’s horrible isn’t it? I was screamed at for making coffee, for doing the dishes, for daring to think for myself over the most simple things – like wanting to check my emails when I wasn’t clear we had the right arrangements in picking up people for a conference from the airport. And when I didn’t drop the topic immediately and agree my thoughts were wrong then I was screamed at and feared for my life. He was monstrous. I’m so sorry you had this happen to you too. Sometimes they don’t have any excuse (not that any would be valid anyway). It makes me wonder how sometimes people want to find out what we did to contribute to the situation as though there is no possibility that it could be one sided – which is obviously so illogical. It doesn’t always take two to tango – one person can abuse without any prompting
Dear BluestEyesinTexas (love your screen name!)
This puts it in a nutshell:
Q. Why does he DO that?
A. Because he CAN. And because it WORKS. It maintains his power and control.
Anna in the temple, your comment illustrates how the heavy emphasis on Believing Praying can lead someone down a really wrong path, even if they have not been taught all the other doctrines about marital roles and the other detaisl that Stormie’s book taught.
We had a study at our church at the time on this book, years and years ago. I just remember it being all about “him”. The chapters were titled things like “his job”, “his finances”, “his this” and “his that”, etc. and I said at one of the studies, they forgot the chapter on “his mother!! Everyone roared. I did not put much into it, and dropped out about half way through to substitute it for – get this – VF teaching!! Ugh! Stormie’s book wasn’t helping and I was looking for a way to “fix” the mess, because I thought it must be all my and the kids’ fault that he was so abusive. If we could just be more perfect – more submissive and the children quieter. Pretty typical and normal thoughts there. Coming out of all of that false teaching now. It is freeing, for me and the children, but horrid watching and enduring the abuser escalate as he loses all his power and control over us and tries to find other ways to punish us for it, that he thinks he can still control and maintain his power.
I just reread your comment Heather. We sound so alike… I absolutely thought my love was the cure. It is so horrible. My heart goes out to you. I do pray you find His comfort these days.
Thank you, Anna in the temple. When I read your post I knew there were aspects that I could have written.
I hope you find healing and peace also. 🙂
Thank you for this introspective letter. Religious abusive teaching is why i stayed in my abusive marriage for almost 30 years. It is so validating to read this!
Sent from my iPad
Teachers are going to be judged more harshly than others. I have to wonder how many went to their death because of this book and others like it. Mine was John Piper’s–This Momentary Marriage. I prayed, I addressed the monster quietly, I did as instructed in the book, I did all he demanded and for that I was raped, emotionally abused and terrorized for an additional 3 years. I will never read any of this woman’s books and have to wonder if anywhere in her latest book if she acknowledges that she was wrong in her previous work. Did she apologize? Did she finally admit that she herself was abused? Did she come forward and say that she really didn’t know the heart of God and repent? If not, she should have.
To Ms Natalie, keep preaching. You are saving lives. Perhaps even that of Mrs. Omartian.
Amen to that. We all need to take our theology seriously and teachers so much more. If we have got to a point where we are condemning women and children to terror, misery and death then very very clearly our theology is completely off the rails. Anyone who realises this needs to stop teaching immediately and address this very serious type of error before one more victim is ignorantly told to return to their abuser and the frightening danger of their home life.
I completely agree with the assertion that public apologies should be made when anyone realises they have been in error. I don’t think God expects perfection but a humble teachable heart and a willingness to be wrong and admit one’s mistakes goes a long way. Surely Natalie’s letter would have hit home to Stormie. And if it didn’t one has to wonder if Stormie herself is in terrible denial. I also wonder how many teachers have been confronted with the allegation that their teaching is harmful and causing others to remain in or return to abuse and yet have remained hard hearted. I find it hard to understand how many teachers can be so cruel in their unrelenting theology. Surely it is not too much to examine ourselves and make adjustments particularly when called upon to consider is our theology is causing harm.
I believe she was in denial of abuse when she wrote her book and brain washed into thinking that what she was writing was a woman’s role and God expected her to remain in the mess. I don’t believe she should be publicly flogged, but a humble “My heart and way of thinking has been altered” would go a very long way in freeing someone that may have thought God was using her to present this message. A public book burning might help. I know that I own a few that won’t make it into anyone else’s hands. Making them accessible to another would make me as guilty as the writer and I won’t allow that to happen.
Yes I agree. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic admission. But even a simple statement that a perspective has shifted would certainly make a big difference to anyone who has been in bondage to wrong teaching. I also wonder why on earth these books get handed to anyone who is being abused…?!??!!!?! Granted there are lots of them and the person doing the giving may not know the content of the book or be familiar with the dynamic of abuse. But doesn’t the compassion God puts in our hearts reach that abuse is just plain wrong. When my good friend told me 15 years ago about the physical violence in her marriage I was outraged. I am so grateful that I was only a baby christian then and it never occurred to me to counsel her to stay or try and figure out how she was “provoking him” – which I believe was the main excuse he used. Although she got a lot of advice to stay and was shamed out of her church when she left as he cried to everyone about her leaving him saying he didn’t understand why she had gone. It makes me furious
I also agree that it sounds like Stormie was abused herself. Just the few statements about her husband’s behaviour and that issue with chicken versus pork for dinner are very concerning. I wonder what else went on. So sad
What a great, well-reasoned, well-written letter!
Like other commentors, I’m curious about Stormie’s response. Perhpas her response was the added chapter in the later book…
Thx for sharing this. I had a sense when reading stormie’s book that her words were too simplistic & Pollyanna but wouldn’t have been able to voice my concerns as eloquently. Thx for reminding me that my “gut” regarding God’s heart for me was on target even if it differed from a highly renowned & godly woman.
I have emailed Natalie (the author of the Open Letter) telling her about this post and asking if she knows whether Stormie has ever made a response. If Natalie gets back to me, I’ll let you know here.
Thank you Barb. I would be so keen to hear
Brenda R, I Iove your insights. Stormie probably needs to be rescued. Isn’t it interesting how God gradually brings us all to the truth? We all have to recant when we look back on our lives and what we have believed in the past and things we have said to people – appalling! (Speaking to myself on that). I am so grateful for the the individuals who are taking leadership to respond to the false application of God’s truth. The pen, indeed, is mightier than the sword, and especially those of the pen who write in the power of the Holy Spirit under-girded by prayer.
Natalie has got back to me. She said that, to her knowledge, Stormie never responded to the open letter.
It’s possible her views haven’t changed at all. In Natalie’s letter (page 5) she quotes Omartian as saying, “(In fact, if you are in any kind of physical or emotional danger, remove yourself immediately from the situation to a place of safety and get help. You can pray from there while your husband receives the counselling he needs)” 23
Omartian says this on pages 29-30 of Praying Wife. It is apparently a parenthetical comment as Natalie has the parentheses inside the quotes.
Since Omartian did say this later, I’m not telling any wife to stay in her marriage if her mental or physical health is in danger, I guess the question would be, what does she mean by “stay in her marriage”?
I’m only guessing, but I would say. Leave the home and spend the rest of your life praying for your husbands healing and wait for his return.
That is too bad. I would like to hear her response.
I have experienced verbal, emotional and “low level” physical abuse. When I started to tell people about what was happening in my marriage, several ladies recommended Stormie’s book to me. And that was this year. So sadly it is still being recommended. When I finally got the book and started reading it, it was actually very devasting to me. After all the work I had done about not blaming myself for what was happening in our marriage, I reverted back to blaming myself. Words cannot really explain how distressed I was after reading it, I felt sick, that really I was the one who needed to change to fix the marriage, that I needed to pray harder, that God had to change me to be a better wife and then everything would be OK. Then I think somehow God led me to google criticisms of Stormie’s book and I found the letter. Oh how that letter saved me. Thank God I found it.
I guess I would be considered a fairly new Christian. I am still with my husband hoping things will get better. People around me still encourage me to pray harder for a miracle. That anything is possible with God. And it seems from the comments above that some of you have prayed a lot about your situation and things did not get better and subsequently your views have changed about the power of prayer. Can anyone explain to me more so I can understand Barbara’s comment that believing prayer can lead someone down the wrong path? Thank you.
Crossroads, You can pray for a miracle and be safe too. We are Christian women and will never stop praying. What we pray for may change, but we won’t stop praying. You don’t have to stay in abuse while you pray. That decision of course is yours, but remember this: There is NO “low level” physical abuse. It only takes one time. ONE time, a hit too hard, a slap that sends you to hit your head against a hard object and death can occur. A man who is abusive is just that: abusive. Any form of abuse can become physical at any time. Please do not minimize your situation. I’m praying for you.
Crossroads, I empathize with your situation. I, too, had “low level” abuse for 27 years. I spent the last 8-10 years getting up between 4-5 AM to be able to be in the Word and on my face, weeping in prayer before my family started to wake each day at 6 AM. All that was awesome for my spiritual growth, but it did not one thing to change my husband. Matter of fact, it made him worse. I was always reading God’s Word, believing I had the log to get out of my eye. I was quick to confess and repent to him which literally created a monster. He increasingly became justified in his abuse with every tiny apology I would make. From his perspective, I was owning everything and “it was about time that his wife got her act together”. A year and one-half ago, my husband gave our 16 year old daughter a concussion. 6 months after that he slapped our 14 year old son’s face so repeatedly that it left a bruise. My receiving of physical abuse was only a few pushes, shoves and backing me into furniture over a 27 year period. Mine was minimal, low level, but what happens is that over time it increases in frequency and escalation and the devastating truth is – it may come upon your children which is much more devastating than if it happened to you. One shove or push of one wife I know of caused her death. Her head hit “just wrong”. It doesn’t take much. I was very slow on decision making – it was the hardest decision of my life. After my kids’ injuries, it took me a year+ to separate. I have only been separated since August. Without a doubt, I KNOW I made the right decision. I am in counseling, but to be honest, his treatment of me since the separation has been more emotionally, verbally, mentally and psychologically, and financially worse than when I lived in the same house with him. He just closed our joint bank account so I have no access to have my monthly needs met. He did it to get me to go back home rather than do what it takes to win my heart so that I WANT to go back home. Abusers have it ALL backwards. I agree that you should consider to first get safe and kids safe (if you have them) and while living in a safe place, pray and seek God with all your heart. You can always reconcile and go back if you see that he is a changed man. Beware to make sure that he gets tested and provoked before you would go back. Set up tests on purpose. You won’t know what you are really dealing with until he gets provoked and you see how he reacts. Abusers rarely change.
Wow…if I didn’t know better, I would have thought your story was written by myself. I am constantly amazed at the similarities we all share. I’ve come to realize that it is because our abuser’s get their behavior from the same source.:(
And it seems from the comments above that some of you have prayed a lot about your situation and things did not get better and subsequently your views have changed about the power of prayer.
I hope you don’t mind me interjecting a thought or two on the praying harder concept. (It’s closely related to the repetitive asking concept Christ addresses in Matthew 6:5-8, incidentally.)
In 1 Kings 18 is the account of how Elijah slew the prophets of Baal after a challenge he issued to reveal whether Israel’s God was God and thus should be followed, or whether Baal was God and thus should be followed. “Pick one.” For a good long while the prophets of Baal struggled hard in prayer to get Baal to consume their sacrifice with fire and so prove Baal was God. They exercised themselves to pray harder, cutting themselves etc. and so forth. Elijah mocked them/Baal because all their self effort was doing no good. In the end, of course, Baal did not consume their sacrifice regardless of how hard they prayed. Then Elijah set up a sacrifice to God to be consumed by fire from heaven. He not only set it up but then drenched it so it theoretically should not have caught fire at all. He then prayed a simple, short prayer and God responded instantly, consuming the offering completely. Point made. The Lord is God, not Baal. Prophets of Baal slain.
Among other things, this account shows that praying harder is not the point. It also shows the power is not in prayer, per se, but in God who answers. God never needs us to pray harder for anything. The point is whether we are asking according to His will and whether answering that particular prayer will glorify Him/tell the truth about who He is, or whether it will meet what He knows is our actual need. (There are some other factors I won’t get into now that could impede an expected answer or affect how God will answer.)
But God does not require the kind of strain and self immolation Baal requires to get Him to do something. He is our Father and delights to give us good gifts. He eagerly waits to show us grace and to “do” for us, and knows what we need before we ask (Matt 5:8). If we are asking for something and He isn’t doing it, it isn’t because we are not praying hard enough (persistence is another issue). It is for some other reason. He has some other purpose, perhaps, or the timing is not right.
Or we are asking amiss. I think this happens a lot with abuse situations and is not the fault of the victim. I think this is what happens when abuse victims are told to “pray harder” because God isn’t answering. But that is really a lot like the Baal situation, IMO.
There is an absolute ton that can be said about prayer. But I am pretty much against the whole pray harder method, per se. And not to split hairs but I’m also not crazy about the power of prayer concept, per se either as the power resides in the God who answers, not the person who asks.
I hope that is helpful, or at least not annoying. 🙂
Well said BIT.
Thank you very much, Barnabas in Training. Thank you for enlightening, using those passages of Scripture. I received much insight on your explanations on prayer. It makes sense and resonates with Scripture. This is the effect yiyr words had on me: When I see light and truth there is a release and flow of peace to my hearts. I sense the cessation from striving, and in that GOD is magnified/made larger which also proves truth. Anything that makes God smaller, manageable, contained in a box is the hint of error. What magnifies and “makes him bigger” in the eyes of our hearts and His greatness is truth. Thank you.
This is an excellent analysis of the whole “power of prayer” concept, which I believe is legalism and false religion.
Hi Crossroads, and welcome to the blog. So glad you have found us! 🙂
Others have already chimed in and written helpful replies to you, but I shall add my two bob’s worth to explain how I think Believing Prayer can lead someone down the wrong path. When a victim of abuse is encouraged to pray harder (often pressured by well-meaning but ignorant Christians) and to believe that her marriage will change is she prays hard enough, she can end up using prayer as a kind of dissociative act. I did this myself, when I was with my first husband. I would desperately pray and try to believe and visualise that God would change my husband and make him kind. I put so much energy into trying to believe that God would do this. If tendrils of doubt entered my mind saying ‘It can’t work: he’s hard and unkind and that will never change’ I would dismiss those thoughts. And when my pain from his abuse and my fear of him would rise up into my mind, I would try to suppress those emotions, because they seemed like unbelief. In my framework of understanding, pain and fear were unbelief: they were lack of faith in God. Thus, I denied or suppressed or shoved aside my genuine feelings, all the time trying to replace them with the imaginary/fantasy belief that God would answer my prayers. I was cultivating a dissociative state. A state where I was dissociated from my inner self and living (or trying to live) in an alternate reality. The alternate world was in what I wished for, but it was not reality.
This effortful and self-driven practice of Believing Prayer (which I’m putting in capitals to signify that it’s a method, a recipe) is quite different from the experience of praying for something and having an almost instant sense in one’s spirit that this prayer will be answered. I can’t explain this much more than by saying that this sense of assurance comes not from me, but from God. And it’s got a different taste altogether from the contrived, straining, counterfeit ‘assurance’ that one can almost hypnotize oneself into by the systematic use of Believing Prayer.
How can the practice of Believing Prayer be dangerous? It is particularly dangerous for the abuse victim to practise Believing Prayer because, by denying and suppressing one’s emotions and gut feelings of danger, one can remain in an increasingly dangerous situation without being aware of how dangerous it is. One can lose one’s self. The victim’s identity, strength, energy and health can be so depleted that it is very difficult to escape from the abuser.
So true. I’ve been there–done that. I prayed to the point of making my already physical ailments worse. Convinced that if I prayed hard enough the man I was married to would be completely changed. It was me wanting God to follow me instead of the way it should be. God answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is no or maybe the answer is God will not change someone who doesn’t want to change. It was when I quieted myself and listened in prayer instead of straining to get God to see it my way that I was rescued from the abuse and now live a different life altogether. Or most days anyways. X still manages to get his message heard when he wants to badly enough. He managed to find out I was in Canada by my last day there when I had only told 4 very trustworthy people.
My heart goes out to you. You sound like me. I was so willing to do ANYTHING God asked of me so I was willing to pray and “believe” to the point of death. I am one of those people who has subsequently revised their theology concerning what we can and cannot believe God for. It might help if I start by saying that I was so very sincere in my attempt to live a life that was pleasing to God and hard work never scared me so I was willing to put in the hard yards and sacrifice of myself to make things work. I like to think I never pushed others to the same standard I held myself to and I tried hard to not be a “weird” Christian. I wanted and still want what God offers and speaks to us by His Word and His Spirit – not more or less. I say this so you hopefully get the idea that perhaps we both approach things wanting the best and being willing to put up with difficult times if it means we are faithful to God. Which is a good thing if your husband was on the same page – but if he is willing to hurt you, chooses to abuse you – then he is not
Anyway I want to reiterate what another blogger said in terms of how we can start to dissociate through faith. My experience was similar to this. In retrospect I can see I completely overlooked terrible warning signs. I did this for a number of reasons such as wanting the relationship to work, wanting to believe the best of my husband etc. You might find the writings of Dr George Simon, a psychologist who is linked to from this website to be helpful in understand how you might be ascribing pure motives to your husband when he is treating you badly – I know I did this and I found Dr Simon’s writings to be so helpful – I had many ‘aha!!!” moments and his writings on how not to be manipulated are very good. In my efforts to give my husband the benefit of the doubt I overlooked the possibility that he did not have good intentions and was not as innocent in what he did as he liked to claim. Anyway I would like to explain that I used to spend many hours in prayer daily confessing God’s promises for our marriage. I prayed and fasted a LOT. It got to the point where I think I had brainwashed myself to the point that I no longer saw warning signs or bad behaviour – I only saw “through the eyes of faith” and my expectation was sky high that we would live a godly blessed life in response to my prayers. I too rejected all ‘doubt’ as unbelief and thought all fear was sin. It is only recently that I have been prepared to give a little in this area and see that my fear was a lot to do with tremendous betrayal and also the fact it was not inconceivable that I might have died in some of situations that I got trapped in. I will get onto how my theology has now changed in a little bit but I want to say I do believe God wants to lead us and bless us but I cannot through my prayers exercise control over another’s will – and by default this is what I thought I could achieve. My theory went like this – God is in my husband (at least he said that Jesus was in his heart but I now have my doubts), God wants to bless our lives (this I believe to be true), God can lead my husband and by His spirit transform him inwardly and outwardly (but now I see my husband has to be willing). There is a major error in this in that my husband has to want to go along with what God has for his life. He has to look at the scriptures for himself and choose to obey. He has to be transformed by the renewing of his own mind. He has to obey the command to love (and I do not think for one second that God would have commanded my husband to do something he was incapable of – thus his tremendously damaging and hateful actions were SIN). He has to have his own relationship with the Holy Spirit, Jesus and our Father God so as to bear the fruit of the Spirit in His own life. He has to repent and turn from worldly things like excessive drinking. He has to crucify his own flesh and offer his body as a living sacrifice. He has to abide in Jesus and let Jesus’ Words abide in him. He has to choose to be led of the Spirit for himself. I can’t make him do any of these things. I did know this intellectually but I still somehow believed that my prayers could be answered in his life when he was disobedient – I know this this is wrong. And this is why I think God COULD NOT (I repeat COULD NOT) answer my prayers. Our God is so good and does not want any to perish and yet many do. We know that God has given us free will and thus we can choose or deny Jesus. This same free will is what will hinder prayer. No amount of praying on your part will usurp your husband’s capacity to choose not to go along with God’s Word and Spirit. This is why I have now revised my theology such that my faith is for what God promises to do for me in areas where I can do my own part even if this is as simple as listen, follow and obey – I believe He loves me and wants to guide me, give me wisdom, restore my life. I do not believe He can make my husband obey.
Believe me I have tried everything and exhausted all options to help my husband – prayer, fasting, healing/deliverance ministries for us, having other ministries pray, endless confession of God’s Word (such that I had to buy a new bible because I couldn’t bear to look at my old one as it was full of notes I had written about what I hoped for in our marriage), Christian and secular books, counselling. The list goes on. I want God’s best and I am glad I have tried my best to make things work and upheld my side of the marriage vows. But I sincerely believe we should want God’s plan and not ours. God spoke to me to move on from my marriage. At first I did not want to believe this as it was outside my theology to think He could possibly say such a thing. I cried out for confirmation and He confirmed it again. I have been taught I should check all leadings we believe to be of the Spirit against the written Word of God. Through Barbara’s website, A Cry For Justice, the writings of Danni Moss (who you can also find online), Dr George Simon, Lundy Bancroft, David Instone-Brewer and many of the other resources I have found linked from ACFJ, I know believe that God can in fact confirm that a marriage has been destroyed by the abuse of a husband.
I don’t think it was so bad that I continued to see my husband in a positive light when he was a bit cranky in the morning and I still think it was ok that I overlooked smaller things because I wanted to be gracious and allow him to grow. But the biggest problem was overlooking warning signs and damaging behaviour. He behaved like an absolute monster on our honeymoon and terrified me beyond words. I wound up going into a dissociative state when I had never had any prior problems of any sort psychologically. My husband alone is responsible for the consequences of his abuse and my dissociation was one of these. But I do think that it came as an even more heart-felt blow that completely shattered by dreams and hopes because I had built up this framework of faith and prayer which was misplaced for the reasons I discussed above. My story goes on and things got worse for me. You will see my story on the prayer page when I first contacted ACFJ a little while back – it is under my name there. Just so you know I never had any mental health issues before or since (although if I had it would obviously not negate the abuse I sustain, invalidate my account or make me deserving of abuse) However I did ultimately break down in the height of very severe abuse when my husband detained me in the home for ten days during which he was unspeakably cruel and abusive to me. These are the types of mental injuries you might sustain yourself if you remain. Believe me it gets worse – and often exponentially (although I did even try to convince myself this final incident was the last throws of satan’s control over my husband – I now see this as ridiculous thinking as what was really happening was that my husband was growing more and more domineering and abusive as I submitted more just because he COULD and because I would take it and still be kind and sweet to him). Things got dramatically worse in our relationship when we married and his attempts at control were so extreme that he was enraged beyond words when I dared think for myself. I have suffered horrific nightmares as a kind of PTSD during my recovery. I believe studies have shown actual changes in the brain through PTSD and this could happen to you and is a definite physical as well as psychological injury. Don’t be deceived into thinking that “occasional” incidents or “minor” physical abuse cannot be damaging – I know my husband did not behave terribly all the time and yet I was so devastated that he was behaving as he did because it shattered the faith I had in my dreams for a happy future for him. I can’t speak for you but as I saw my husband behave as a monstrous Judas it felt like complete treacherous betrayal of all that was good and all we could have had if only he had obeyed God’s Word and Spirit. But he did not. He will not. Now trust has been so destroyed that I cannot believe a word that comes out his mouth.
I thank God I didn’t get Stormie’s book. I thank God my parents came and took me away. I was willing to die for God had he asked me to. I was very ashamed that my prayers weren’t answered. Even after all that happened I clung to hope that things could change. The help of a domestic violence line here clarified my experience as abuse. I came to a place before God where I was willing to go back or stay away – but all I wanted to do is was as God directed. I am so glad that I have liberated my theology both in the area of marriage and faith and prayer. I feel like I have returned to the joy of my salvation. I encourage you to educate yourself in what the scriptures really say about prayer and faith so that you don’t get sucked into a perpetual cycle of trying to make things better by praying harder when things are only getting worse. The best thing I could have possibly done was get away where I could think clearly and reassess what God really said. This has been a great time of looking into the truth of God’s Word. I could not have done that living in fear at home with my husband as that fear was blinding and incapacitating. It is also very hard to do when you are walking on eggshells and your whole being is focussed on trying not to set your husband off on an abusive tirade. Once you get a chance to see the truth of God’s Word (and you will find many wonderful resources here) I pray you will encounter peace and get direction. In my efforts to do this I read both sides of the argument but from a safe place – I was determined not to just look for information that suited what I might have wanted to hear but to find the truth of the bible. I considered all sorts of questions like how does prayer really work, is my husband really a Christian just because he says he is, how do we know if someone is a Christian, what does God really say about divorce, what is the unpardonable sin and on and on and on. These questions I had to answer for myself. I know you probably have your own. Anyway I have asked Barbara if she might let me write to you through her if you want to talk more. I hope you don’t mind me writing so much to you. I got so upset and sad when I read your post. I was a young wife too and it is such a heart breaking experience to go through especially when you have people advising you in all sorts of ways that confuse you. I pray you can get away and have a chance to look deep into God’s Word and just commune with Him so He can direct you. I needed to recover for quite a while from my experience to get my heart and mind clear before God and this helped me heal and also see how much my husband was hurting me.
One other reason I wanted to go to great pains to explain why I have changed my theology regarding prayer, faith and the will of God in marriage is that I was willing to obey no matter what and I did not think there were limits to what we can endure. That was very dangerous thinking because it took me out beyond what God called me to and there I was not in a safe place at all. There are limits and if we try and exceed them we can be very damaged or even die
Anna in the temple, this is an incredibly powerful testimony.
One thing I think really stands out is that you were willing to do whatever God told you to. He says if anyone wills to do His will he will know of the teaching, whether it is true. I think that is true for any teaching we encounter. What I think you do here is prove the validity of this doctrine of divorce for abuse by your own willingness to be faithful even if it meant you had to die.
Dear Barnabas in Training
Thank you so much. Yes I hope it does. It wasn’t the answer I wanted from God or what I expected to hear at all. His direction came twice when I desperately cried out for help from where I am staying now at my parent’s place. Even after what I heard the first time through just the pure mercy of God I cried out again and He spoke a second time. He came as the same presence of peace I have known for years. Even then I turned to the scriptures for confirmation. Even now this wasn’t the answer I wanted to find. I think in many ways it will be a sacrifice to not go back because in addition to what I have already lost it seems being a divorcee will label me further and may cut me out of ministry in some arenas and I will lose the company of a man who while he was dangerous I loved very much. Even now I am praying and fasting for one more extended time before I make this enormous decision. I almost feel I am tempting God by asking Him to confirm this again. But I want to leave no stone unturned in this matter.
I honestly cannot remember if I read this book. I probably did…I certainly read a plethora of similar type books when I was about to be married, as a young married woman struggling with my hurtful marriage, and as a 20+ year wife in a desperate situation with a husband who knew he could do whatever he wanted to me or my children and that we were firmly trapped by Scripture, my vows, and church leadership.
I wish I could have seen clearly then what I see so clearly now. The common thread that runs through all these types of books, is that somehow it becomes the responsibility of the victim to pacify, soothe, or help a raging beast to somehow turn away from the very behavior that he feeds or thrives on and that serves his need for power and control.
We are told to try harder, pray more, submit more, respect more, and stuff down any and all feelings, emotions, or opinions we may have about our own existence in order to somehow make it easier for our beast to live with us, thereby receiving the fringe benefits of that arrangement.
So you do all these things, and you try all these things, even when you know they won’t work, and even when it goes against the grain and rubs the wrong way, and doesn’t even make logical sense. You spend years trying, and you cry, and you pray, and you beg God to change your beast. If not that, then to change you, to fix everything that is so wrong with you. After all, it takes two to fight, and there are two sides to every story, and the breakdown of a marriage isn’t one-sided, etc.
I am so thankful that I have finally been able to act on what I knew in my heart of hearts all along. I did not dare voice it, as I would then be accused of having no faith, and “don’t I believe that God can work miracles”, and that if he didn’t change then it was my fault because I had already “doomed him to failure” (this was a favorite line of his)….as if my faith in God’s ability to work a miracle somehow made my beast willing to change.
The truth is that it never mattered how hard I prayed, or how hard I tried, or how much I submitted, or how much of a “meek and quiet spirit” that I showed, or how much respect I attempted, because none of that…not even my desperate prayers…could make God ignore that one very important thing that makes us different from all other of His creation. FREE WILL. God will not force my beast to change. He will not force him to love me, my children or even Himself. And in effect, that is what my prayers really were….”Dear Lord, please override my husband’s free will, and make him do or be someone he has no interest in being”. Nope…my beast will have to come to that on his own.
No wonder God did not answer my pleas. And I was so bogged down by this type of “pat answer” nonsense, that surrounded me on every level that I could not hear what God was telling me. “Daughter, I love you. I love your children even more than you do. Because of the very nature of My Creation, I cannot force your husband to do or be anything, but I can take care of you if you will let Me. Please trust Me enough to walk to Me and let Me shelter you and your children. In the storm that will rage, I will protect you, and the consequences can freely pour out on any that would try to oppress you.”
Fifteen months ago, I chose to walk toward my Father. I have never looked back. I stepped out of hell, and into the arms of my Heavenly Father. Truly, a storm has raged, but He has been so faithful to protect, provide, and lead. There has not been a single breath, or a sliver of a moment where I have wondered if I did the right thing. I and my 9 children are alive, and healing, and growing, and thriving. Now that I know what it is like to no longer live that way, we will never live that way again.The 10 of us are free!
I pray for every woman to be freed from the type of bondage that these types of books (and counsel) would keep them in. Freedom in the love of the Father, rather than trapped by the bonds of an abusive marriage is a priceless gift that every woman (and man) deserves.
“Wow…if I didn’t know better, I would have thought your story was written by myself. I am constantly amazed at the similarities we all share. I’ve come to realize that it is because our abuser’s get their behavior from the same source.:(”
Thank you for that affirmation, 10 and Free. This blog site is the only place I can go to gain strength and insight. And mostly to know that I am not crazy! These things are real, and any type of abuse is WRONG. None of us are glad these things have happened to each other-never, and God forbid, but we are daily grateful fir the fellowship of suffering and the journey to light, truth, and true freedom in Christ. Thank you for writing back to me , 10 and Free. ❤
I just wanted to thank those who responded to my post and question – I really appreciate it and it has given me lots to think about.
I’m a bit late to the conversation, but I wanted to add something that no-one suggested or implicated in abusive relationships -Aspergers. I think in comming years more women are going to recognise this as an issue with their husbands. It is very complicated – and “praying harder” won’t fix it.
I’m glad to see there are women who are recognising that just because someone is a christian & writes a book doesn’t mean its Biblical. I am disappointed that as a Christian community we fail to require a highter standard of teaching – first thing I check with authors is if & where they went to Bible College. It gives me a point of reference to how much they know from an academic standpoint. I check what other influences could be significant to their perspective to – its always about context!
I’m a bit late to the conversation, but I wanted to add something that no-one suggested or implicated in abusive relationships -Aspergers.
Hi Lyn, So true that Aspergers can co-occur with abuse, yet Aspergers does not cause the abuse, only complicates it, as you said.
If you are interested we have two posts that discuss autism spectrum disorder and how it relates to abuse. New story by a woman whose partner had Autism Spectrum Disorder and Domestic Abuse, Asperger’s and Autism — is there a connection?
Thank you for your comment and welcome!
I’ve heard that Stormie Omartian is divorced? Since writing The Power Of Prayer to Change Your Marriage has she ever hinted that abuse ‘of any kind’ is something the church should get involved in and that a spouse should leave?
Stormie’s website said she’s been married to her husband for more than 40 years and they have two grown children.
I can’t remember where I read the info about her being divorced but I was fairly certain it was “her” and not someone else I was reading about. Thanks for bringing this to my attention 🙂
I was given this book by a friend. This friend got separated few years ago and went through many of the issues I was having with my partner. She seems happy now so I was surprised when she gave a book with this title. I resisted to read it or even open it for many months. Just the title gave me the chills. Today I thought to read it, or scanned through chapters. I could not believe what I was reading. Are we going back to the 40s or 50s? It is scary to see the image of what a woman portrayed in her pages. You have prepared a meal for your husband but he changes his mind when he comes through the door? Lack of respect from the husband. Then he wants sex, but you feel hurt,. No problem, give it to him, I will be ready in 15 minutes. Honestly, she is asking women to wear a blindfold and put up with things nobody should have to put up with if there is mutual respect. The only positive message from her book is that, it is true that we cannot change people and we only can change ourselves so sometimes it is better not to feel overload with emotion and let your thoughts come and go. I trade this book for a million books on meditation. That’s a more healthy way to find answers. By the way, that picture of them as a couple, with artificial smiles….they do not transmit love at all. Sorry, guys.
Hi Sibilla welcome to ACFJ 🙂
Yes it is scary to see how much wrong headed thinking is in Stormie Omartian’s book.
I just found your blog this week and some how stumbled on this post. I just have to say one thing….THANK YOU. I have been married for 12 years. When I got married, I got the Power of a Praying Wife, because I had Power of a Praying Woman and loved it. I read the wife book so much that I practically memorized it. Her words became my thoughts. Long story short, my husband was emotionally and verbally abusive and I tolerated it because of what she wrote. Now, praise God, my husband gave his life to God 2 years ago and he is in fact, a completely different person. He has been consistently the husband that I hoped he’d be. Of course, I now have traumas to deal with, walls up, loss of intimacy…the whole nine yards. I didn’t even know it was abuse, until a few months ago, because of how the Christian community deals with it.. I just had to pray through it, submit more, I must be doing something wrong and so on.
I lost myself, and only now am I trying to get the original me back. I’m 100 pounds heavier and have mental issues that are insane. ALL BECAUSE I READ AND FOLLOWED HER BOOK! Thank you for exposing it! My goodness, I felt like a horrible wife if I forgot something for him at the grocery store (you know…because of the whole bread and batteries comment).
[As I learned more about abuse, I came to see] that I felt GUILTY for how I felt. So you take the bad things that happened, and then throw guilt and shame on top of it. No wonder I now battle anxiety and chronic depression!
Thank you for what you are doing on this blog. I’m going to be working on reading through all your posts. The Christian church (as a whole) is not taught about this well enough!
Hi Anonymous, thanks for sharing — and welcome to the blog!
Because our policy at ACFJ is to not publish recommendations about books and resources unless we have vetted them ourselves, we edited the part of your comment where you mentioned a book that had helped you. Please understand that we did that just because of that policy, not because we don’t trust you. 🙂
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Anonymous – Although I thought I relied mostly on God’s Word for guidance; my foggy, desperate state of mind had me receive counsel from others whom I thought I could trust. Power of a Praying Wife was recommended to me and aided in the years of bondage.
Your first statement about discovering this blog and the huge THANK YOU is the sentiment of many. ((hugs))
This lousy book was recommended to me by a Christian leader. Thank God, I had the sense to see how unhealthy it was. I was outraged by the way Michael, her husband, had treated her, how she put up with it, and told wives they, too, should put up with it. I literally burned this book, and gave it a bad review on Amazon, and returned 2 other books to Amazon I had bought by her. Thank God I got refunds.
This book is total legalism. It was sad to read in the intro of the Power of a Praying Parent book, the glowing reviews by her 2 kids. It all seemed so fake and contrived. I believe that she and her husband makes lots of money on these books. She has many version of these “Power of Praying Wife / Woman / Teen / Adult Children / Christmas Prayer / Nation / Husband / Parent / Grandparent” books, and workbooks to go with them all.
What is heretical, is she is extolling the power of prayer. It’s the power of GOD that changes things, not the power of prayer. It becomes a subtle form of witchcraft, and prayer becomes some sort of magical thing we do to try to change someone or something. Prayer is simply talking and listening to God, it’s not a technique to try to change circumstances or people. People have free will, and God will not violate that.
Well said, LetsGetReal. The way Omartian (and many others) extoll the power of prayer is a form of witchcraft. They elevate the power of the praying person over the power and sovereignty of God. They emphasise the power of prayer so much that prayer becomes a mechanism for twisting God’s arm.
And the always unstated implication is that if the prayer doesn’t twist God’s arm, if their prayer isn’t answered, they just need to labour more (suffer & endure more suffering) in prayer because they can’t have prayed hard enough or long enough yet for the genie to come out of the bottle and answer the prayer.
This teaching lays heavy burdens on the abused wife. It herds her into a corner where everything (even the lack of answer to her prayers) is ascribed as HER FAULT.
Stormie Ormartian and all those who over-extoll the power of prayer while under-emphasising God’s sovereignty, have bewitched the modern day church.
I gotta say…
I gotta say, another scale fell off my eyes (or off my heart) with this. Witchcraft! Wow! I never thought of it like that. Calling a spade a spade! Truth seems to release pieces of the heart that feel so bound up in knots. Thank you, thank you!
I just started reading this book and chanced upon the letter as I was looking up Stormie, interested in seeing her family and her life. I’m only on page 30, so I haven’t read it in depth yet, but I saw this on page 28-29: ‘… if you are in any kind of physical or emotional danger, remove yourself immediately from the situation to a place of safety and get help.’ This is the 1999 reprint of the book I believe, so I’m not saying I am totally on her side yet (I haven’t read nearly enough to form a full opinion yet) but I do see that she did at least address abuse. I know this is an old post here, but I was just wondering if anyone brought that up?
Hi Just Wondering,
For your safety and protection, I have changed the name you submitted with your comment to Just Wondering, as it appeared you might have submitted your real name when you submitted your comment. If you would prefer a different name, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi Just Wondering, on page 5 of the PDF Open Letter To Stormie Omartian you will find your question is addressed.
Thanks for pointing that out!