“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Today's marriage devotional is perhaps one of the hardest habits.
But it can bring great healing.
What is it?
Confessing to each other areas of trespass or offense against each other.
This sounds scary. It's so much easier to keep those offenses in the darkness.
There's a huge risk that confessing them will bring more shame, blame, and condemnation from the spouse.
And this is why it's covered in prayer such that you may be healed.
What a powerful combination.
Even on the receiving side of a confession, you may want to drill-down deeper if your spouse doesn't truly address the depth of your pain. Or you may want to extract your pound of flesh for the offense.
Just thinking about doing this probably makes you tremble and desire to avoid doing so.
And yet, if it can become a habit met with grace, I believe the Scriptures are true, and there can be healing.
Confession is to express a trespass. It is a crossing of a boundary (Hold a Boundary Conversation).
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But, it's not a boundary unless the other person knows it as such, which is why the boundary conversation matters. If you are offended by your spouse crossing an unknown boundary, the weight and responsibility is on you to clarify this.
However, we do know of certain behavior which is a given as boundary-crossing without either one of your having said so. A common framework is the following:
- Defensiveness (when not being criticized)
A married couple should understand and be rebuked when they have done these.
But this devotional is not about rebuking the other. It's about confessing.
These are more obvious because they are observable.
But the sin that drives couples apart is judgment -- especially holding someone accountable to an unspoken or unrealistic expectation (Bring Expectations to Light).
This is judging your spouse based on a law you created without their knowing.
If doing so brings forth resentment and bitterness within you, it should also be confessed.
In your 1-minute of preparation, think about boundary breaking.
Ask yourself the following questions and take note of any topics to confess:
- Have you judged your spouse for an unexpressed expectation (even if that expectation is a reasonable one)?
- Have you spoken in a tone or with an intent to convey criticism, tearing down the person?
- Have you spoken in a tone or with an intent to convey contempt, your dissatisfaction with a person?
- Have you acted in ways that stonewall, either by action (walking away) or in communicating (a shutting-down manner of speaking or appearing)?
- Have you, in the face of a request and not criticism or contempt, been defensive to avoid accountability? (Make sure you both know how to make requests of one another.)
After you've reflected and on a self-searching (Allow God to Search Your Heart), then confess.
Before you confess, each of you must be willing to be open, prayerful, and compassionate about the confession. This may not mean the issue has been resolved and restored, but confession must be safe and covered in prayer.
"I confess that when I (fill in action), that was not good for our marriage. Please pray with me for us to be healed of the hurt and for me to be healed of my sinfulness that caused this."
Because confession is hard, I created a template that is truthful but not too vulnerable. Feel free to adapt as you need.
Then pray. If you are moved to forgive the other for this, you can do so, of course. Or if you weren't hurt at all, you can say that.
But I'm keeping this purposefully light and accessible because once this becomes easier to do, the rest will follow.
how to pray
The basics of the prayer together. Separately:
- Thank God for courage and grace He gives for each of you to confess
- Pray that you can heal from the source of the trespass
- Pray that the marriage is healed from the trespass
Although this passage from James is for each of us to do confess, pray and heal each other, it draws from who Jesus is.
He desires our confession of our sinfulness, and when we declare faith to place all of our trust in Him, we are healed from death.
Such is the power of Jesus; and we can have similar power in our own families.