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Why Won’t God Answer My Prayer For My Marriage?
A Conversation With Dr. Joe Beam & Leighann McCoy
Dr. Joe Beam: If you are a religious person and you have trouble with your marriage, you probably have prayed about it. You might have asked God to change your husband or your wife’s mind about what they’re doing, change their behavior, or even get rid of some other person that might be in the picture. You’ve asked for all kinds of things from God like, “Heal my marriage for the sake of my faith, the sake of my children.” Everything else, and may be a tad frustrated because it appears that God is not answering your prayer.
Dr. Joe Beam: Maybe you’re thinking, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me, or maybe there’s something wrong with God, but whatever it is, I’m praying and nothing is happening that I can see.” And it just leads to greater frustration because you are a religious person, a person of faith. Well, let’s talk about that. I have a special guest with me today, Leighann McCoy, who actually is an expert on prayer.
Leighann McCoy: Oh wow, an expert.
Dr. Joe Beam: As a matter of fact, you started a clinic on prayer.
Leighann McCoy: Yes, we’ve started a ministry called The Prayer Clinic Ministry, which is really an intercessory prayer ministry for churches. It’ll mobilize your people to pray.
Dr. Joe Beam: Excellent.
Leighann McCoy: People come for prayer and some of their prayers will be for their marriage, and the clinic team members are committed to praying through with you until God’s answer comes.
Dr. Joe Beam: Okay. Yes, let’s get to this God’s answer thing because that’s what I want to talk about. Now, I know that you’ve written several books, many of which are on prayer.
Leighann McCoy: Right, 17 books.
Dr. Joe Beam: That makes the number of books I’ve written sound very, very small.
Leighann McCoy: No, not at all.
Dr. Joe Beam: And about how many of those would be about prayer?
Leighann McCoy: I think every one of them is about prayer. Some it’s not the primary subject, but every one of them are about prayer.
Here Are Some Prayers We’ve Heard About A Marriage:
(1:35) Dr. Joe Beam: “I’ve been praying for my husband to come home” or, “I’ve been praying for my wife to get out of that relationship with that other man, or “I’ve prayed diligently, I’m faithful, I know my Bible”…and sometimes they’ll even say this, “Because I know that God will do whatever I ask, then this is going to happen no matter what.”
Dr. Joe Beam: Let’s talk about the parameters of that.
Dr. Joe Beam: First Of All, If You’re Praying For Your Husband Or Wife To Straighten Up, Is God Listening?
Leighann McCoy: Oh absolutely. God is always listening when we’re praying.
Dr. Joe Beam: So why don’t we see the results of those prayers?
Leighann McCoy: Well, you are praying, God’s listening, but if you’re praying for your husband or your wife to do something, then there’s also that particular person in that conversation as well.
Dr. Joe Beam: But what does that mean?
Leighann McCoy: Well, whether they’re listening to God or not, and whether they are responding to even what God most likely is doing in response to your prayers, but still up to them, you know?
Dr. Joe Beam: So you’re saying that the fact that nothing appears to be happening doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening.
Leighann McCoy: Well that’s true, yes.
What God Is Doing May Differ From What You Expected Him To Do
Dr. Joe Beam: That God may well be doing things, but it’s not exactly what you would have thought.
Leighann McCoy: Right.
Dr. Joe Beam: So you can’t see what God’s doing because God might be doing something in his or her life, but I just heard you say, now it’s up to them as to how they respond to that thing.
Leighann McCoy: Right, it is
Dr. Joe Beam: So Why Doesn’t God Just Change Them?
Leighann McCoy: Well, He’s doing that in His own way because God doesn’t just yank our strings and cause us to do or to be, otherwise there would be no free will on our part, right? If God just made somebody do something.. (and don’t we want that?) I mean, boy, when we pray we’re like, “Lord, just make them to this.” And God’s like, “Okay, I got you there.”
God Is Going To Respond With What Is Best
Leighann McCoy: But some of our prayers are not always exactly what’s in line with what God knows is best. I love the fact that we just pray and share what’s on our heart- open and honest dialogue with God. But the fact is, God is going to respond with what is best and He knows much better how to work in a person’s heart and mind than we do. He knows their heart and mind better than we do.
Dr. Joe Beam: So God may approach them a very different way than what I would’ve thought because He knows them far beyond however well I know them. But that’s an intriguing point you have, Leighann. He’s not going to make them do it. He’s not going to reach inside their heart and go, “snap.”
Leighann McCoy: Yes, He doesn’t work that way.
Dr. Joe Beam: Because then we are-
Leighann McCoy: Just puppets. Then we have no will of our own, no ability to choose. And if you were to do that, then did that person really choose to love you or to be in that relationship, or did God just make them do that? And so it takes away the whole value of that.
Dr. Joe Beam: Yes, but of course desperate people would want God to do that anyway.
Leighann McCoy: Absolutely. I get that.
Dr. Joe Beam: People try to sneak into some of our Facebook groups occasionally and post about “so and so has a love charm or a love potion and you contact them.” And of course they’re frauds, but I’m thinking this: There are people desperate enough out there that if a charm/potion would work, “I would still do it because I so desperately want my husband or my wife to come back.”
Leighann McCoy: Sure.
Dr. Joe Beam: It’s hard to accept reality sometimes, isn’t it?
Leighann McCoy: Yes, it is hard to accept reality.
Dr. Joe Beam: So For Example, If God’s Working In A Husband’s Life, Elaborate A Little Bit More On The Fact That The Husband May Or May Not Respond To What God’s Doing. What Do You Mean By That?
Leighann McCoy: I think a key point, which you’ve already made, is that when we’re praying, God is working. I believe that because His Word tells us that when we pray, He’s answering. He’s hearing, He’s answering, and His work might be different than what we think it is.
Leighann McCoy: For example, we are looking for “this” but God may be doing something over here and doing something different. Either way, they can either be tender-hearted toward the activity of God in their life, or they can put up resistance, and even though it may be hard for them to continue to put up resistance, they can grow more hard-hearted.
Praying “In The Moment”: An Example From Dr. Joe Beam’s Life
Dr. Joe Beam: Yes, they definitely can. In my own story, there was a point where I left my wife Alice and divorced her. It’s been a long time now, and we’ve been remarried now for quite a while. When I would sin, or do the things that were leading me away from Alice, many times as I was leaving that place, I’d be begging God to forgive me and promising that I’d never do it again, and asking Him to help me resist. Now I have no doubt that He answered that prayer, but when those answers came, I was already back in such a state of mind that whatever God was doing, I didn’t want to see. I did when I prayed it.
Dr. Joe Beam: Things begin to change over the next hour, two hours, three hours, days, and then when I head back toward that temptation, I’m sure God provided a way of escape, but I wasn’t looking.
Leighann McCoy: But by then you didn’t want it.
Dr. Joe Beam: Exactly. So it’s not like God didn’t answer my prayers. God answered my prayer, I’m quite sure He did, but I had no awareness of that.
Dr. Joe Beam: If I ask God to just change my husband or wife, what you’re saying is He’s going to work in circumstances and situations.
Dr. Joe Beam: What Other Kinds Of Things Should I Ask For In Prayer?
Leighann McCoy: That’s a good question to ask, because when we’re asking God to change somebody else, we want to put ourselves before God and invite Him to change usas well. Because change needs to happen if the relationship is broken, things need to change. Things need to change, people need to change, most likely they need to change more than you need to change…
Pray That The Lord Would Teach You What You Need To Know
Leighann McCoy: But undeniably, you need to change too. So that would be one thing, to surrender to the Lord every place in your own life, or ask the Lord even to teach you what you need to know. There are many times in our lives when we think we know. We think we have the right perspective on a situation, but there might be parts of it that we don’t know or parts of the relationship that we have been blind to and so a great prayer is to ask the Lord to enlighten us, to illuminate our mind,to give us wisdom, and then to teach us everything that we know in this unique place in time. Where you are right now is not where you’re going to be when God comes through and answers your prayer in a way that you get delighted by, but where you are right now is still a significant and valuable time in your life.
Dr. Joe Beam: Sure it is. I like what you’re saying because sometimes it’s kind of difficult to get people to realize that, they know they’re not perfect. If you ask, “Are you perfect?” Well, of course I’m not perfect. But they kind of act like they are in the sense of, “This is not my fault.” Now, we’re not trying to blame what your spouse does on you. We really aren’t. I mean, each person stands responsible for his or her own actions, but I love that idea of, “Okay Lord, reveal to me, open my mind, my heart to whatever I need to learn in the present time, but also that will affect the future. Is that what I heard you say?”
Leighann McCoy: Yes. Very much so. Because there’s work that will happen in you that will prepare you for the work that God’s doing in your partner as well.
Be Careful Not To Idolize The Outcome
When we pray while we are waiting on God to do something very specific, it can be really easy to slip over into a place with the Lord where that “thing” becomes so very important. Where that thing, that “Lord you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to change him, you’ve got to take her away, you’ve got to take him,” whatever it is, we get so focused on that “thing” that everything in our life is filtered through our focus on that, then it has become an idol to us. It becomes more important than our relationship with anybody else- with our relationship with God, with the ministry that God’s called us to, with our job, or whatever else it is.
Dr. Joe Beam: I haven’t thought about that before, but I agree. We often tell people for example, if you’re focused just on saving your marriage, you’re probably going to wind up doing some things that are not very helpful to saving your marriage. This is because a person can be so focused on that one thing, that they make errors of judgment, et cetera. You’ve got to have a bigger, broader focus. Leighann, is that why you think that some people who are praying say, “God didn’t answer my prayers so there is no God.”
Leighann McCoy: Yes.
Dr. Joe Beam: It is because they were focused on this little thing and God’s saying, “But I’ve got a bigger picture going on here.”
Leighann McCoy: That’s right.
Your Spouse’s Decisions Don’t Impact God’s Love For You
Dr. Joe Beam: And, “I am not going to turn your spouse into a robot. I’m still going to allow him or her to choose,” which means sometimes they may choose not to come back, but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care and God doesn’t love you.
Dr. Joe Beam: Should You Pray About The Other Person?
If a person says, “My wife is involved with that guy,” or, “My husband is involved with that woman.” What would you recommend that you pray or that a person would pray about that other person?
Leighann McCoy: Oh, do we have to pray for them too? I guess if we do we could pray the prayer that I prayed one time about another person, not related to marriage but something else. I was like, “Lord, could you just let the gravity not work for that person and they would just hurl off into space?” We can always pray that, but that obviously is NOT an okay prayer to pray.
Dr. Joe Beam: Well, this is from a prayer expert…
Leighann McCoy: Now there you go. That was not one of my better moments.
Dr. Joe Beam: But didn’t David on occasion ask God to intervene by doing things to the people that were doing wrong?
Leighann McCoy: Yes, he did. We’re being exposed to his very vulnerable and open heart with God, which was why the Lord called David a man after his own heart. So in all seriousness, I think it’s fine to be honest and open with God and express the way that you’re… I mean, it would be unusual for you not to feel some kind of disdain or dislike for this person-
Dr. Joe Beam: Anger, hurt, bitterness, rage.
Leighann McCoy: That’s invaded.
Dr. Joe Beam: All kinds of things. They go through a person’s mind.
Be Honest About Your Feelings, But Recognize God’s Love
Leighann McCoy: So be honest about, but then, before the Lord, put yourself then back in a proper place where you recognize that God loves that person too. What the Lord did with me when I was at a place of praying that way is He reminded me that at the foot of the cross the ground was even. There was not a hill here for me and a ditch there for them because they had done this horrible thing to me in my life, but it was even ground.
Leighann McCoy: The only way that I could be right before God, which is important if we’re wanting to have this powerful prayer relationship, is to be right in that humble place. The only way I could be right in that place would be if the Lord allowed my heart to be settled about that person. I think in that regard, we have to say, “You know what Lord, I recognize this is a person you love and I am going to trust you with them.” I think it’s also fine to pray that if they’re planning to meet up, that they miss their bus, or their car has a flat tire, or you could get specific like that.
Dr. Joe Beam: Actually I have encouraged people to pray like that. I’ve encouraged people pray that God will bring about circumstances and situations that mess this up. Whatever those things might be.
Leighann McCoy: I think that’s a great way to pray.
Check Your Attitude When You’re Praying
Dr. Joe Beam: I often personally, and Leighann tell me if you think I’m right or not, say to check your attitude. If you’re praying out of anger, rage, and bitterness, then the things you typically ask for aren’t good things.
Leighann McCoy: Right.
Dr. Joe Beam: But you can actually ask for tough things when your heart is okay. Like, “Lord, they’re moving too fast. They have too much money so I pray that somebody gets fired.” If you do it out of vengeance, it’s a bad thing, but if you do it out of a sense of “can you just intervene” but you’re not trying to be mean and hurt the other person.
Be Mindful Of Who God Is And Who We Are
Leighann McCoy: Yes, I think that’s a fine way. It is important how you enter into that place of prayer. One of the most significant parts of that is to always enter into prayer and spend a little bit of time being mindful of who God is and who we are. Because when we come into prayer, it’s not like we get to take a magic wand and say, “Hocus Pocus, now Lord I command you to do this.” Because we have a prayer, a promise in God’s word that He’s going to answer us when we pray, but instead we recognize, “he’s God, I’m not. I’m completely dependent on God, but I come to God as a child comes to a loving father.” Dr. Joe Beam, you know how a child comes to a loving parent- if they know that you love them, they come unreservedly asking for what they want. But that at the same time, they come knowing that you may or may not give them what they’re asking for. You’re still loving them and they’re still your kid, but…
Dr. Joe Beam: Are you trying to say then that God may not want my marriage to get back together?
Leighann McCoy: No. In the book of Malachi in the Bible it specifically says, “God hates divorce.” But why does God hate divorce? Because divorce is painful, it’s a brokenness, it’s a put asunder of what God, put together.
Dr. Joe Beam: So it’s not like God looked down and said, “I’m going to split you two up.”
Leighann McCoy: No.
Dr. Joe Beam: Divorce happens because, as Jesus would say in Matthew, at least one person has a “hardened heart.”
Leighann McCoy: That’s right.
Dr. Joe Beam: When they asked, “Why did Moses give us the ability to divorce?” Because your hearts are hard.
Leighann McCoy: Right.
Pray Them Into The “Pigpen”
Dr. Joe Beam: On a previous podcast you mentioned praying for a wayward spouse, and you made a specific statement: Pray them into the pigpen.
Leighann McCoy: That’s right.
Dr. Joe Beam: Please explain what that means.
Leighann McCoy: Well, when Jesus was sharing the story of the Prodigal Son, He says the son comes to the father and then he leaves. Then, the father does an interesting thing. The father stays and he watches, and he waits for the son to come back home. He doesn’t go chasing after him, he doesn’t go trying to convince him to come back, he just stays home. So, where was it that the son came to his senses? It wasn’t when he was living high, it wasn’t when he had all the riches and when things were going well. The son came to his senses when things were not going well, when there was a famine and all he had left to do was to eat the leftovers from what the pigs had-
Dr. Joe Beam: The pig slop, yes.
Leighann McCoy: -Yes, that he had been feeding them. So just that experience of coming down to ground zero is where he suddenly opened his eyes and thought, “Wow, I should go back to my father.” Because even at his father’s house, the servants had better than he had. Even then, the son didn’t have a right understanding of how great the father’s love was for him, but he had enough understanding to know that he didn’t have to stay here and eat the pig slop.
Leighann McCoy: So when we pray for people that are doing like that, they’ve disregarded God’s instructions, they’ve chosen to have a hardened heart. Then our nature because we love them so much is to pray, “God protect them, take care of them, make sure they’re not hurt.”We don’t want to pray pain into their life. But could we trust God enough to pray Divine pain? The kind of pain that God knows, He knows how much is enough, and how messy it has to get, and then trust God with that. Could we pray for that to happen in their lives so that they can open their eyes and understand?
Dr. Joe Beam: They come to their senses. As I was saying earlier, I think it still comes back to your attitude, “I’m just praying meanness.”
Leighann McCoy: Right, not that.
Dr. Joe Beam: That’s not a good prayer.
Dr. Joe Beam: By the way, if you’re not familiar with this Bible story, it is in the 15th chapter of Luke if you want to go look. The son is sometimes referred to as the “Prodigal Son,” but it’s a story where the son finally realized all that he had lost. I’ve encouraged spouses to pray for that.
Leighann McCoy: Yes.
Dr. Joe Beam: Pray your spouse into the pigpen.
Leighann McCoy: It’s good.
Dr. Joe Beam: Because that’s what Leighann told me you should be praying. You should pray them into the pigpen.
Leighann McCoy: That’s a good thing to pray.
Dr. Joe Beam: What If A Spouse Says, “God Told Me To Leave My Spouse For Another…”?
Dr. Joe Beam: Sometimes we hear this when a husband or a wife contacts us. Let’s just say it’s the wife, and she contacts us and says, “I asked my husband why he was doing this and he, because he’s always been a part of church, he’s been a Bible school teacher, and now he’s leaving me for this other woman, and what he told me was that he prayed and God told him that he should leave me, divorce me, and marry her.”Now, as a person who studies prayer all the time, how do you react to a statement like that?
Leighann McCoy: Well, I would have to say God didn’t. This may might have thought he heard God say that, but God would not say that because everything we read in Scripture reveals to us the character of God and the instructions of God. God has a high value in regard for covenant relationship. If your husband and you had this covenant relationship before God and a commitment there, then that is a God-honored thing. So God would not say that. Now that does not mean that your spouse is not completely convinced that God did say that. They could be very confused and think that God did, because how often do we override what we really want and endorse it with, “Well God said, God made it okay,” and we want to twist Scripture to work for what our personal agenda is.
Dr. Joe Beam: I understand that, people have even twisted things I’ve said on national television. Having been on national television, every once in a while somebody will say, “Well, Dr. Beam said this.” And I hear and think, “Not only did I not say that, that is contrary to everything I believe and stand for!” And I know how frustrated I’ve become. So I find myself wondering, how frustrated does God become when people are quoting Him, like: “No, I prayed, God said this is okay. This is what God wants me to do.” It’s almost like God’s in Heaven going, “What in the world. Why do you blame this on to me?”
Dr. Joe Beam: One day when a man said, “The Holy Spirit told me to leave my wife for this woman.” Maybe I wasn’t kind, Leighann, but I said, “You may have heard from a spirit, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit.”
Leighann McCoy: It wasn’t the Holy one, no.
Dr. Joe Beam: Because it would be consistent with your Bible if it’s from the Holy Spirit. Which says the marriage bed should be undefiled.
Leighann McCoy: Sure, right.
Dr. Joe Beam: That God, in Malachi 3, hates divorce. Jesus said, “I didn’t want you to ever divorce.” Well, why then did the Bible ever allow divorce? Well, because of the “hard heart.” All those passages come together to say that.
An Example of A Church Elder Saying “God Intended Me To Leave My Wife”
Dr. Joe Beam: Interestingly three or four years ago, a man who had been an elder in his church. A good Bible student, taught big Bible classes in his church, et cetera, actually said to me, “I’m leaving my wife and divorcing her for my high school sweetheart because God is giving me the second chance to be with the woman He always intended me to be with.”
Leighann McCoy: Oh wow.
Dr. Joe Beam: And I’m thinking, “Since you already know so much Scripture, how do I argue with that?” A couple of years later he actually showed up in our Marriage Helper Workshop, and in our workshop he said, “Can you believe I said that?”
Leighann McCoy: Oh wow, that’s good.
Dr. Joe Beam: I said, “Well yes, I believe you said it because I heard it.”
Leighann McCoy: Right.
Dr. Joe Beam: And unfortunately I hear these things all the time, but if we’re really seeking God we should pray.
Leighann McCoy: Absolutely.
Dr. Joe Beam: And if God doesn’t answer my prayer in the way I expect, then I should…?
Even If Your Spouse Resisted, God Still Has A Plan For YOU!
Leighann McCoy: You should still remain with God! We should allow God to help us make sense of that, to restore perhaps what is a broken heart. To rebuild our confidence and our faith because there are times when the marriage won’t be restored, and it doesn’t mean that your prayer was not a sincere, and a good, and a God directed prayer. What it means is that that other, your spouse, was not willing to yield to God’s intervention; they resisted and went their own way because they have their own free will. But even in that situation, know that because you are holding tight to God, that He’s going to make a good way for you. Just because there might be divorce, doesn’t mean that God’s intent and plan for you has been destroyed. He will begin to make a new way, and you’ll get to know yourself, and you’ll get to know God as you pioneer this new path.
Dr. Joe Beam: I was officiating at a wedding of two celebrities, both of whom were very good Christian people who love Jesus. Both went through horrendous divorces where each of them fought hard to save their marriage. As a matter of fact, the wife said to me at that wedding, “This is the first time I’ve ever felt really, truly loved (the man she was now marring).”
Dr. Joe Beam: They had fought hard for their first marriages, they did everything they could but still went through a divorce. Then, in their wedding ceremony I said, “The reason you’re together is because God is blessing you for your faithfulness, even through those horrendous times.” God has not given up on us.
The Answer God Gives Is: Himself
Leighann McCoy: No, and He won’t. He won’t, and that’s the beauty of it is when we pray, often times we think that the answer we’re looking for is the one we’re praying for, but the answer that God’s giving is Himself. He’ll always respond to our prayers by pouring Himself in response, and we always get to have Him no matter what the outcome is of the prayer.
Dr. Joe Beam: Leighann, thank you so much.
Leighann McCoy: You’re welcome.
Dr. Joe Beam: I wish we had another hour to talk because I’ve got a lot more questions. Leighann can be found on her website: http://www.leighannmccoy.com
Leighann McCoy: You can find courses, all kinds of blog posts. I have one that’s called How To Argue With God And Win, that might be interesting to this conversation.
Dr. Joe Beam: And she’s already written 17 books. Here is one, “Taking Responsibility For The Choices We Make.” Is this a relatively new book?
Leighann McCoy: This is the most recent book I’ve written, and it is a great one to read when you feel like you’re in a really hard place, and you’re having a rough time. It’s really a very practical step-by-step how you can begin to make decisions that will change your experience in life regardless of what the people around you, your spouse, or whatever are doing.
Dr. Joe Beam: Okay, and this one, “A Woman’s Guide To Hearing God’s Voice.”
Leighann McCoy: To Hearing God’s Voice, right. And A Woman’s Guide To Hearing God’s Voice is for that time in your life, and it’s for men too. (I just want to you to know that a man can read it and get benefit from it.) But it’s for those times in your life when you really felt like- and thought- that God was going to answer your prayer in the way that really seemed right, but it doesn’t work out that way. The book delves into, “Now what are you going to do with your faith, what are you going to do with God?” So this is a great book because it talks about, “Where is God when I’m doing the right thing but things are not working out that way.” So it’s a book to encourage you just to continue to trust God.
Dr. Joe Beam: And how do they get these books?
Leighann McCoy: They can buy them anywhere books are sold. Amazon, or Christian Book Distributors, or anywhere online.
Dr. Joe Beam: Okay, excellent. And you still do a lot of speaking on prayer.
Leighann McCoy: I do, I do travel a lot and speak and teach.