Prayer For Unbelieving Spouse
What Do I Do About My Unbelieving Spouse?
[Editor’s note: This summer, we’ll be bringing in different experts to answer your questions for our weekly advice column. Today’s answer is written by Debra Fileta, a relationships counselor and author of True Love Dates. Send your questions to AskRELEVANT@relevantmediagroup.com]
I know the Bible says Christians shouldn’t be yoked together with non-Christians. But what if you already are? I became a Christian a few years ago, after I had already been married for three years. My wife has a complicated relationship with Christianity. She associates it with hypocrisy and intolerance.
Because of the way she views my faith, I have a hard time talking to her about my beliefs at all, or getting her to open up to the idea of a relationship with Christ. I used to assume that I would play a role in leading her to Christ, but so far it hasn’t happened. What can I do, both to help her to be drawn closer to Jesus and to keep myself from being discouraged?
First of all, I really appreciate your sincere question because it’s a question that’s not often addressed in the Church at large. Often, we get into the habit of talking about what “shouldn’t” happen when it comes to marriage and relationships, and we fail to talk about all the things that “should” happen in the context of marriage.
You’re right in saying that God’s Word encourages us not to be yoked together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). The truth is, two people are strongest in their relationship when they are linked together by the strings of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual connection.
But life isn’t always so black and white, is it? in your situation, sometimes one or the other spouse becomes a believer after marriage, leaving them feeling spiritually disconnected to their spouse.
Other times, Christians choose to marry someone of a different faith. In situations this, the topic of faith and religion becomes a point of tension, rather than a point of togetherness.
I know many couples who have struggled through the pain and heartache that comes with navigating two separate faiths.
So what do you do when you are married to a non-believer? Though God’s Word may not speak volumes on the topic, it is clear about one thing in this situation: You stay together and you remain married, as far as it is up to you (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). In other words, you do your part in working on your marriage, seeing it as an opportunity to bring glory to God even in the face of a difficult situation.
Here are a few other things to do:
Pray for your spouse.
In your question, you said you always assumed you would play a role in leading your wife to Christ. And you absolutely have a role, right here and right now. Your spiritual influence in your home is far greater than you could ever imagine.
The Bible reminds us that everything we do and every interaction we have is part of a larger spiritual warfare going on behind the scenes (Ephesians 6:12). Keep this in mind, and remember that your prayers and intercession on behalf of your wife is the greatest and most valuable aspect of your spiritual influence on her life.
Pray for your spouse, on behalf of your spouse and because of your spouse. There is power in prayer that is stronger and more meaningful than any conversation you could have here on earth—because it’s the conversation that brings heaven to earth.
Love your spouse.
There is no greater language than that of love, because it’s a language that’s proved by actions more than it is by words. It’s expressed through things patience, kindness, selflessness and forgiveness (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
I can speak from my nearly 10 years of experience in saying that it’s not always easy to show love in marriage, because every day, our selfishness has the potential of trumping our ability to love.But this is when it really matters, because this kind of love is what speaks the loudest of all that God has done in your life. In fact, 1 Peter 3:1 encourages those married to a non-believer to realize the power of winning them to Jesus with their conduct above their words.
The good news is that it’s not your job to lead her to Christ, it’s His job. Your job is simply to love. So keep on loving, because your love is never in vain.
Reflect Jesus to your spouse.
It hurts to hear of your wife’s struggle with Christianity. Partly, because my heart breaks for her. But it also grieves me because her struggles with Christianity probably have more to do with Christians than with Christ. There’s no amount of arguing or justifying that’s going to change her mind, because these kinds of beliefs are ly rooted in deep wounds.
Instead of trying to convince her, the best thing you can do is continue to reflect Jesus to her by living a life of grace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion and justice.
Whether married to a Christian or not, the truth is that, in marriage, we all are called to reflect Jesus to our spouse.
More specifically in your situation, you are ly the nearest she will ever get to seeing the real life and faith of a believer up close, so your influence on her life is truly significant.
Rely on community
Though your relationship with your wife is the most important priority, realize that relationship with other believers is crucial to the well-being of your faith and emotional health.
You need a community of faith to encourage you, pray for you and pour into you as you seek to pour into your spouse.
Surround yourself with community, and specifically, a few good men who can pray with you and challenge you as you deepen your roots of faith in Jesus.Not only is community good for you, but it’s also good for your wife. The friendships and relationships you develop and bring into your life may give her a chance to see true faith and genuine relationship with Jesus lived out in other men and women. Their love over you and your wife can play a significant role in the changing of her perspective and the healing of her heart.
I pray that you continue to hold onto hope for your wife, because God is always at work. Just you came into relationship with Jesus at just the right time, so He continues to work on the heart of your spouse.
I have had the privilege of knowing many men and women who came to Jesus because of the unyielding prayer, love and example of their spouse, and I truly believe God has sustained you in this marriage for such a time as this.
At the end of the day, winning hearts is His job. May He continue to give you the strength, encouragement, wisdom and patience you need as you wait on Him.
Have a question? Good! Send an email to AskRELEVANT@relevantmediagroup.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Five Ways to Help an Unbelieving Spouse
Marriage is fraught with countless challenges: home ownership, finances, children, jobs, navigating the good days and the bad, and sometimes even just getting along.
Being married to your best friend—someone who shares your s and diss—is a blessing and makes life fun and exciting. Even your differences can be fun. Maybe her prankster personality makes you smile more and take things less seriously.
Maybe your insistence on saving money each month keeps him from spending frivolously and allows you to take that vacation you both want.
But what happens within a marriage when those differences go beyond simple s and diss and enter into the area of faith? What do you do when an unbelieving spouse does not share in your faith and wants nothing to do with religion?
So, how do you live with an unbelieving spouse who does not share your faith in God? How do you handle the fact that the person you have pledged your entire life to doesn’t share the most important thing in your life? What can you do for your spouse and for your marriage?
These five suggestions may help your unbelieving spouse and give you solace in your struggle:
- Actions speak louder than words. Open a dialogue with your spouse, but talk in a way that is loving, never accusing or belittling. Radiate the joy of Christ. Let your spouse see the love you have for your faith and for Christ. Share thoughts you have, just you would share your thoughts about an interesting book you read or a movie you saw, but don’t pester or pressure. Most of all, let your spouse witness you living your faith by treating others well, reading the Bible, praying the rosary, spending time in prayer, praying before meals, faithfully attending Mass, and doing all of these things with a happy heart. The joy you exude may just be contagious.
- Reassure your spouse that he or she is the number one person in your life. Let him know that, although you do not share a faith, the bond you have in marriage cannot and will not be broken and that your marriage is sacred to you. Support your spouse in the things he s. Keep in mind that an unbelieving spouse may feel left out or even resentful or jealous of the time you spend doing things related to your faith. Talk openly and honestly with your spouse and explain that, while this is an integral part of you, you understand that it is not so with him. But never make an unbelieving spouse feel bad for his lack of faith. Guilting someone into believing in God will not work and will only cause further resentment. Love your spouse unconditionally, just as Christ loves us.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. It’s hard to live with the passage of years when it doesn’t seem any change is taking place. Remember that God works through many different events and many different people. He is probably working through you right now.
- Read about St. Monica and ask for her intercession in your life. St. Monica understands what you’re going through because she went through the same thing. Monica was married to a pagan and prayed daily for his conversion. She was also the mother of St. Augustine, who led a wayward life until his conversion. Monica put her faith in God and prayed continuously for both of them.
- Pray. Pray every day. Pray unceasingly. Prayer offers you peace—a peace that can only come from a Christ whom we know is on our side, not on the sidelines. Yet, what you must realize is that God’s timeline and ours do not often match. It may seem God isn’t listening. You may even begin to think that prayer is pointless because you aren’t seeing the results that you want when you want them. That’s understandable. But be assured that they are working. God does hear you. He knows your pain, and He knows your love. During those times, redouble your efforts. Tell God you’re frustrated but that you trust Him. Then say a prayer of thanks or a prayer asking for strength. In addition, you might think of changing the way you pray. There, of course, is no right or wrong way to talk lovingly to God, but if you are experiencing frustration or weariness with your current prayers, try a new method of prayer. Find a renewed joy in the rosary. Take it with you in the car and pray a decade as you drive. Hold it in your hands as you sleep. Pray it as you work out. Offer up your suffering (yes, anguish is suffering too) for a poor soul in Purgatory. Begin a novena to your favorite saint asking for his/her intercession. Ask not just for your unbelieving spouse to grow closer to Christ, but for the strength to be the light of Christ in that person’s life.
Padre Pio once said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” This may seem overly simplistic, but he is right. Your task right now is to pray, to act as a servant of Christ, and to let God do His work.
Making More of Your Marriage
Marriage is not just a contractual agreement. It is also a Sacrament. And it is that part that means even more than the legal or contractual aspect because it is a promise before God to help care for and guide the soul of another person—and any children who come.
Ideally, when choosing a spouse, choosing someone who shares your faith is optimal. Your shared faith will foster a healthy marriage and sustain you through the inevitable difficult times.
But not everyone marries someone who shares his faith. Or maybe it didn’t matter at the time of the marriage, but now you have returned to your faith or have recently found a home in the Catholic Church. Whatever your situation, a marriage that is lacking in a shared faith can often leave one or both spouses feeling alone, isolated, confused, sad, and even angry.The strain on a marriage can be immense. Those of us who have a faith in Christ know that faith enriches our lives and makes them better, but that does not always mean our faith makes things easier. During dark times, it may seem God is missing or that He has forgotten us.
We may feel so broken and shattered that we are tempted to shout out, just as Christ did on the cross, “My God, why have You forsaken me?”
But our Lord is a loving Father who would never forsake His children. He did not abandon Christ on the cross, and He will not abandon us, even when it feels as if He is nowhere to be found. Our faith tells us this is so. In Matthew 28:20, Christ says, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Hold tight to His words.
If you are married to someone who does not believe in Christ, you may often feel overwhelmed with negative emotions. Yet, 1 Corinthians 7:14 tells us: “The unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother.” Christ is telling us that He may be working through us.
Furthermore, Christ takes the marriage vow very seriously, even if one spouse does not believe in Him. So do not forsake your vows. Cling to them. Honor them, just as you honor your spouse.
Being a sacrament, a Catholic marriage will also bring with it tremendous graces. As Jesus said in Mark 10:9, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.
” Though you may encounter difficult times with your unbelieving spouse, remember your love and devotion. You both made a vow for better or for worse.
We invite you to read HLI’s series on Marriage; the information is downloadable.
4 Ways To Influence An Unbelieving Spouse – A Work Of Grace
Are you married to an unbeliever? I had an unbelieving spouse for the first 8 years of marriage. It wasn’t always easy.
I had to be the spiritual leader of the home and that is not a light yoke to carry. I felt lonely in church. I felt lonely in my walk with God.
You know, I think it is much harder to remain steadfast in your faith when you don’t have your best friend alongside you.
I was talking with my husband about his thoughts on how a wife can support her husband when they are not living the same faith. He was a great source of information, I appreciate his insight and wisdom.
He said that many times, if the believing spouse has been a Christian their entire life – or even a large part of their lives – then they don’t quite understand what it is to be on the ‘other side’.I thought that was such a good point and something to keep in mind as we bear witness to our unbelieving spouse.
We talked about several points, and these are the 4 that we thought were the top 4.
Don’t Take Them to Church
Church may not be the best place to start. My husband did not want to attend church with me. In those 8 years, he may have come to church with me only a handful of times. Church attendance was just too big of a step for him, too much of a commitment. It was just too much at first.
What he did agree to attend with me was a small group (care group) that was non-threatening. At first he wasn’t too keen on the idea, but because the book we were going to go through wasn’t too ‘in your face’, he agreed. The book that God used to bring my husband to Himself was “The Purpose Driven Life”.
The book choice is not the only important thing. The people in the group was very important. They had to be a group of people who weren’t pushy in their beliefs. They had to be comfortable with tough questions and be ok with not providing the typical Christian response. They had to accept him for him.
Lead a God Honouring Life
Make sure you are living the Christian life outside of church. That means not going to church on Sundays and then living the rest of the week the rest of the world.
Your spouse will see when you are living a changed life and when you are ‘just everyone else’.
If we live the rest of the world – lying, gossiping, cheating, being busy-bodies and being unkind – why on earth would anyone, let alone your spouse desire to be a Christian?
Be the example
We are our spouse’s best example of how a Christian ought to behave; we are setting the example of Christ’s love – to them and to others.
1 Corinthians 7:14 talks about the unbelieving spouse being sanctified by the believing spouse, meaning that the believing spouse makes the unbelieving spouse holy through her faith.
Blessings from God are not hindered simply because they are unequally yoked. Isn’t that a relief?
But, I wonder if leading a godly life is how the unbelieving spouse is sanctified. They see godly behaviour, they witness the love of Christ flowing through the believing spouse and they become drawn to it.
And I wonder if the opposite is true when a spouse isn’t leading a godly life. The Christian walk isn’t very attractive when we are seen talking badly of others – especially loved ones, when we don’t tell the truth or when we behave in ways that would not give any indication to anyone that we are followers of Christ.
So, the big question is this: Are you living a life that clearly demonstrates to your spouse that Jesus is the Lord of your life?
Is God Working In Your Life?
Sharing with our spouse what God has been doing in our lives may prove to be helpful. This must be authentic and the timing must be right. If we are authentic in sharing with our unbelieving spouse about the things God has shown or taught us, they may become more open to the things of the Lord.
I would often share with Marcus many things about my spiritual walk. He was very supportive in my faith and he never mocked me for it. He respectfully listened and encouraged me in this way. And he saw how God was moving in my heart.
Especially when it came to matters of conflict between us. He especially d the idea of the wife leaving her parents and cleaving to her husband in order to be one with each other. There were many Biblical principles that he was able to relate to when I shared with him.
And to see God working was evidence of His providence in our lives.
Most Importantly: Pray!
For me, prayer is always a given. I was reading “The Power of a Praying Wife” long before Marcus became a Christian. I prayed and prayed for him to know God and to love Him with all of his heart. And one day, while I was driving home and crying out to God for my husband, I heard God say to my heart, “Aimee, don’t worry. I will get him. And when I do, I will get him good.”
Rest in His promises
I rested in that promise. It may have felt forever before God fulfilled that promise. But He did and my husband has never looked back. So, don’t give up praying for your husband. Ask God for a promise that you can hold on to.
I also prayed for Marcus in every way I should, including his spiritual walk. I prayed for him as though he was already a believer. I was walking in faith that God would do His part. I prayed that he would lead his family, that he would make Godly choices. I prayed that God would bestow wisdom upon him.
I also prayed for wisdom and discernment for myself – and patience!
To help you pray for your husband, you can get my prayer guide free when you subscribe to my newsletter:Holding on to a firm faith can be difficult when married to an unbeliever. These 4 tips – attending a small group, ensuring you are living a godly life, sharing how God is working in you and, most importantly, praying for your spouse will be helpful for YOU. If you have or had an unbelieving spouse, what do/did you find helpful?
Next week, I’ll talk about what NOT to do for an unbelieving spouse – I have some experience in that area, too…
Please follow and us: