Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
What does it mean to hinder your prayers? Here is the wrong answer: “God doesn’t listen to jerks.” The good news is that God does hear the honest prayers of jerks and crooks and thieves and sinners (see Luke 18:14)! If you see yourself as a bad husband or a bad wife, be assured your heavenly Father hears you when you call to him. How do I know? Because no one is beyond the reach of his love and grace.
So how do we hinder our prayers?
When I was asked that question, I was momentarily stumped. It wasn’t a question I had thought about much, but I probably should have since I am a husband. What can I do to my wife that might hinder my prayers?
Immediately, the Lord brought a picture to my mind that helped me understand this verse. His revelation showed me exactly how husbands (or wives or anyone) can hinder their prayers. But before I took it any further, I wanted to check what other commentators said about hindered prayers to confirm that I was on the right track. Guess what – they say nothing. I went to all my favorite guys and found they were silent on the subject of hindered prayers.
So I feel very blessed as though the Lord has given me a little gift to share with you – a revelation which you may not find anywhere else. (Of course I could be wrong and this verse is so obvious that you already know what I’m going to say about hindered prayers. If so, come back next week. It’ll be better, I promise.)
The weaker partner
In this egalitarian age you won’t hear many men describe their wives as “the weaker partner.” But to the religious mind of the first century, women were considered weaker or inferior in many ways, and this mindset was reflected in the limited participation of women in the Temple and synagogue.
Then Jesus came and made friends with all kinds women – not just the nice sort of women that you’d take home to meet your mother, but the sort of women that God-fearing men should never talk to. Jesus taught women like they were disciples (Luke 10:39). He took women with him and the Twelve on ministry trips (Luke 8:1-3). He reached out to women with bad reputations, like the woman at the well (John 4:7). In contrast with the prevailing attitudes of the day Jesus treated women as equals, and this had a profound effect on the early church:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
When we go to church today we think nothing of women and children participating in the service, but in the first century this would have been offensive to the religious mind. And this brings us to the bit about hindered prayers.
How do we hinder our prayers?
Paul said husbands and wives are co-heirs with Christ, and Peter says the same thing here: “Treat them with respect… as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.” Do you see your spouse as a co-heir of grace? Or do you see them as inferior? What about your children and neighbors? What about the person of another race or culture? In your mind are they equal in grace or inferior?
If you see others as equal in grace, then you are walking in grace. However, if you see yourself as superior in some way, then you are not and your prayers will be hindered. This brings me to the picture that I mentioned earlier:
Before he met the Lord of grace, the apostle Paul was a Pharisee and as such he would’ve prayed the prayer on the left (source: Encyclopedia Talmudit, Vol.4, Jerusalem 1956, p.371). This is a prideful prayer. Pray like this and you will hinder your prayers.
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
Whose prayers are hindered? It is those who boast, “Thank you God that I am not like other people” (Lk 18:11). It is those who see themselves as better than others. It is those who sacrifice people on the altar of their convictions. Such people have trouble receiving grace because they don’t see their need for it. Consequently, their pride hinders their prayers.
Religion kills grace and hinders prayers. Performance-based religion says if you deliver the goods – if you avoid sin and behave yourself – you’ll get a direct line to God. It’s not true! All you’ll get is a mirror for admiring yourself. “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Lk 18:12). Do you think God is impressed with your work when you are not impressed with his?
God doesn’t bless us in accordance with our output but in accordance with the riches of his grace. This is why religious superstars are often further from God’s grace than tax collectors and prostitutes (Matt 21:31).
How do we un-hinder our prayers?
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)
It’s easy to be humble with the Lord, but Peter exhorts us to be humble with each other: wives to husbands, husbands to wives. To quote CS Lewis, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. It is being compassionate and loving one another. This is a key for receiving God’s grace, because his grace flows to us through people.
Want more grace in your marriage? Then thank God that he has blessed you with a partner in grace. Want more grace in your family? Then thank him for your kids who are co-heirs in Christ. Want to see more grace in your church? Then “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,” and praise him for surrounding you with such towering testimonies of grace.
Who are you thanking God for today?