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Pastor's Corner

February 2016

The Prayer of a Christian Wife

Last month I shared the prayer of a husband from a prayer book published early in the twentieth century by Concordia Publishing House. Now I would like to share with you that prayer’s counterpart, the prayer of a wife. For all its beauty, this prayer might appear offensive to those formed by today’s heathen society, which acknowledges none of the distinctions that God has built into the relationship between men and women, husbands and wives. A Christian, however, who is formed by the Word of God and who loves the Law of the Lord according to the inward man, will recognize in this prayer a true godly spirit of submission to God’s will and peace in His promises:

O BENIGNANT GOD and faithful Father, since Thou in grace hast   called me to domestic duties in holy wedlock, a state in which I can also serve and please Thee, O my God—give grace unto me, Thy servant, that I may constantly keep Thy fear before mine eyes, also love and trust in Thee, my Creator and Redeemer, above all things; but in second place fear, honor, and love my husband, not coveting any other. Do Thou grant that according to Thy decree my will be subject to that of my husband, yielding to him with all readiness, and that my heart be ever graced with that mild, peaceful spirit and those manifold virtues shown by the holy women of ancient days, who placed their hope in God and were subject to their husbands. Grant to me, Thine handmaid, a chaste and proper walk in fear and humility, so that I may, with kind and modest words and in a gentle spirit of piety, prevent or allay any wrath or ill humor of my husband, ever treating him with gentleness and forbearance. May I rear my children and domestics in a mild spirit to the praise and glory of Thy holy name, and may they readily follow my guidance to what is noble and good. Grant, furthermore, that I may be a true helpmeet to my husband, being careful and not wasteful with the substance Thou hast graciously given us. Also grant that I work and exert myself, that I "have to give to him that needeth," and may extend my hand in charity to the poor. Preserve us from dishonest laborers and evil-minded domestics, who would diminish or waste our property. Also bestow grace, I pray Thee, for a patient bearing of my cross, so that I do not grow timid and dismayed at prospects of a trial, inasmuch as by trials and adversities our faith is proved. O Lord God, into Thine almighty hand I commit myself, my dear husband, all my children and domestics; preserve us, I pray Thee, from sin, shame, and all ills, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

The first assumption in this prayer that might shock modern heathen sensibilities is that the wife is to show her husband fear, honor, and love, “in second place” after the fear, love, and trust reserved for God alone. Shocking as this may be to our unbelieving friends and neighbors, this is a scriptural way of speaking. St. Peter holds up the example of Sarah, who “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Peter 3:6), and St. Paul writes that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). As Christ is to the husband, so is the husband to his wife! How can this be? Are Sts. Peter and Paul, and the wife in this prayer, advocating idolatry? No more so than when God commands children in the Fourth Commandment to honor their parents. All honor belongs to God alone, but because God has placed our parents and rulers in authority over us, we honor God by honoring them, for they rule in God’s stead and by His command. Likewise God has placed husbands in authority over their wives, and wives by honoring their husbands show honor to God. Blessed is the wife who can pray with the wife in this prayer: “Give grace unto me, Thy servant, that I may … in second place fear, honor, and love my husband.”

Another shocking element in this prayer is the wife’s request that God would help her to “prevent or allay any wrath or ill humor of my husband, ever treating him with gentleness and forbearance.” Is it really the wife’s responsibility to keep her husband from getting angry? Our heathen society teaches us that if a husband is wrathful and unpleasant, his wife should leave him for the sake of her own happiness. But we Christians are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and to bear all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Yes, even if it appears unreasonable, a Christian wife will do what she can to keep from angering her husband, even as husbands are called to be gentle toward their wives: “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19). God will surely hold to terrible account husbands who are abusive toward their wives in word or deed, but Christian wives will not unnecessarily egg on their husbands and tempt them to wrath.

It is good to remember, however, that though man and wife stand in a relationship of authority and submission as long as their earthly marriage endures, nevertheless before God they stand on equal footing. As St. Paul writes, “There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Thus the wife in this prayer asks, as did the husband in the prayer that I shared last month, for patience under the cross. Man and wife alike are called to bear their crosses, and both are called to remain faithful to God and to one another even in the midst of the fiery trial. Both are sustained on the Word of God, and both will inherit the crown of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ. As St. Peter writes to Christian husbands about their wives, “they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

God grant that we all live as we are called, according to His holy Word, purging out the old leaven of this world’s rebellion and rejoicing in the vocations in which He has placed us, looking forward with joy to our final calling in the life to come.

Amen.

Pastor Neuendorf

 

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