Praying for a Friend’s Marriage: How and What to Pray

© John Neff/
Praying for a friend's marriage doesn’t require eloquence, but it does guard that marriage against the demonic forces trying to dismember it.

“We prayed for you and Erin this morning,” my good friend Gary Oliver said. 

I wasn’t sure how to feel about his words. Comforted? Surprised? Relieved? Exposed? Offended?

My wife, Erin, and I were in a difficult season in our marriage, but we hadn’t confided in the Olivers about our struggles. How did they know we were constantly fighting and really hurting as a couple? 

Erin! I thought to myself. 

Betrayed! That’s what I felt. I instantly wondered what Erin had said to Gary’s wife, Carrie. I was certain that the Olivers were praying for me and my shortcomings as a husband. And, as I thought back to Gary’s words, I was confident he only included Erin so I wouldn’t feel awkward that they were praying for terrible me and poor Erin. 

“We were hoping that you two could come over for dinner tonight,” Gary followed up.  

“Absolutely!” I quickly responded. 

I was thrilled for the unexpected opportunity to defend myself and correct whatever misinformation Erin had shared. However, the dinner wasn’t what I expected. 

First, I was shocked to discover that Erin hadn’t talked to Carrie about our struggles. Second, the Olivers had been praying for us consistently over the past month. I had no idea. I was blown away. 

We spent a few hours talking with the Olivers about the issues in our relationship. Gary and Carrie were great listeners. They shared some challenging seasons they had faced and how they had grown as a couple through the adversities. 

The words “we prayed for you” no longer left me feeling exposed and defensive. Instead, they served as an encouraging reminder that Erin and I weren’t alone. The Olivers were praying for our marriage — they were asking God to guide and protect us. Knowing that caused us to go to the Lord for His help in our marriage and drew us closer to Him.

The Olivers’ prayers also deepened our relationship with them. Our friends were “bearing” our burdens as they walked out Ephesians 4:2, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Knowing that we had a more experienced couple to journey with us brought us comfort and peace. 

How to pray for a marriage

The second half of the greatest commandment in Scripture says that we are to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). A powerful way to love others is to intercede for them. In Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30). 

Just as the Olivers did for us, you can pray for a friend’s marriage. While you can do this on your own and know God will hear your prayers (1 John 5:14), one of the most effective ways to intercede is to pray together with your spouse. Matthew 18:19 says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

When you start, we encourage you to use this simple formula: 1 + 1 + 1. This simply means to pray for one couple for one minute for one month. Here are five steps to get you started.

1. Examine your heart first

James 5:16 (NIV) says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The Enemy wants to destroy your relationship with your spouse and render your prayers ineffective. Before you pray for another couple, start by examining your heart and marriage. 

Ask yourself questions such as, Am I keeping secrets or hiding things from my spouse? What do I need to confess? Have I taken responsibility for my part in a recent argument and sought forgiveness? Have I been consistently nourishing my spouse through loving actions? Am I investing in my marriage to keep it strong and growing?

As King David did, take time to pray and “ponder in your own hearts” (Psalm 4:4). When you examine your heart before praying for someone else, your relationship with God can deepen and your marriage can grow stronger. 

2. Quiet your mind and heart

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When you pray, you’re connecting to God and preparing to hear His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is when you ask the Holy Spirit what God wants you to pray for your friend’s marriage. 

Unless your friend has confided in you in great detail, you don’t know what’s really going on in their marriage — the problems, longings, mistakes, hopes, poor choices, conflicts, pain points, fears, addictions or dreams. But God knows (Matthew 6:8). Spend some quiet moments asking for His perspective and wisdom. Set aside your agenda and unite with the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to write down what you sense God is prompting to pray for the marriage.

3. Be sensitive to God’s leading

What do you feel God is leading you to pray for as you consider your friend’s marriage? Here are some of the top issues that couples face:

  • Fading commitment.  
  • Unresolved conflict or poorly handled frequent fights. 
  • Financial problems and pressures.
  • Communication challenges.  
  • Increasing disconnection and feelings of being married roommates.
  • Sexual struggles.
  • Ongoing disunity and lack of teamwork when making decisions.
  • Unfair division of household responsibilities. 
  • Parenting issues.
  • Combining a blended family. 
  • Interacting with adult children.
  • Consistent lack of work-life balance or workaholism.
  • Issues with in-laws.
  • Contemplation of separation or divorce.
  • Dealing with infidelity.
  • Addictions (pornography, drugs, alcohol or other things).

Even if you don’t receive clear direction from the Lord or feel confused about what to pray for, the Holy Spirit will intercede on your behalf. Romans 8:26–27 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

You can also text your friend and let them know you’re praying for his or her marriage. (If you are praying without your spouse, we strongly recommend only praying for your same-sex friend or the couple. It’s unwise to pray for and text an opposite-sex friend.) Ask if your friend has any specific prayer requests for the marriage. This may create an opportunity to meet for lunch or coffee so you can offer support. And the meeting might also help you better understand how to pray for your friend’s marriage.

4. Pray with courage

One issue that I often deal with during prayer is feeling inadequate. I listen to long, eloquent prayers and think they’re more effective than my short, clumsy petitions. In these moments, I try to remember that Satan loves to convince me that I’m not good enough. He is, after all, the father of lies (John 8:44). 

Praying for someone’s marriage doesn’t require eloquence, but it does take courage to intercede or plead on behalf of someone else. When you pray for a couple, you’re inserting yourself into the battle for their marriage. On one side of the fight is Satan, who wants destroy your friend’s marriage. On the other side is God, who is fighting for them. I love Eugene Peterson’s reminder in the Message paraphrase of Malachi 2:15–16:

GOD, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. … So guard the spirit of marriage within you. … “I hate divorce,” says the GOD of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down.

By praying, you guard your friend’s marriage against the demonic forces trying to dismember it.

If you’re initially struggling to find the right words to pray, consider these prayers for a few of the top issues couples face. 

Fading commitment: “Lord, remind my friends of the commitment they made to each other and You when they got married. Give them a renewed desire and determination to honor their wedding vows and remain true to their covenant. Help them to stay faithful and find contentment in their marriage.”

Communication challenges: “Father, would You please help my friends communicate in their marriage? Give them the patience and wisdom to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak” or become angry (James 1:19). When one or both of them aren’t sure what to say or how to say it, help them seek You for guidance and insight. Let the words they speak to each other bring life and not death to their relationship.”

Ongoing disunity and lack of teamwork: “God, please bring unity to my friend’s marriage. Remind them that they are a team brought together by You. Give them wisdom about how to work together, strength to put aside their individual agendas and joy in navigating the challenges of life as husband and wife.”

Parenting issues: “Lord, encourage my friends as they face the challenges of parenting. Help them seek You together and face each situation and difficulty as a united team. Provide them with Your wisdom, patience and peace. Give them insight into their children’s hearts and remind them that You love their kids even more deeply than they do. Help them to trust You above all else.” 

5. Use Scripture as your guide

Another powerful way to intercede for your friends is by praying Scripture. You don’t have to create your own words when you do this. Praying Scripture perfectly aligns your prayers with God’s truth. Here are some verses Erin and I use as we pray for marriages:

“. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2–3)

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9)

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans12:10, NIV)

“Let marriage be held in honor among all … ” (Hebrews 13:4)

“But encourage one another every day … ” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

As you pray, consider keeping a journal to record what you prayed for and the verses you used. 

Start praying for a couple today

As we left the Olivers’ house that evening, Erin and I felt more connected to God, each other and our friends who had been interceding on our behalf. We’re so grateful the Olivers set aside time to pray for us and our marriage.

The Apostle Paul encourages each of us to “… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18, NIV). If you’re not sure which couple to pray for, ask God to direct your thoughts to one in need. Then let them know you’re interceding on their behalf. What a privilege it is to pray for another couple in your life and watch as God works in their marriage!

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