I have read many books and articles on the topic of unanswered prayer. I have sat through countless hours of sermons and teachings on unanswered prayer, but as I was searching my Bible this afternoon for a particular verse, the Holy Spirit stopped my search for a moment, to allow me to concentrate on a single verse of His choice. The New King James Version of the Bible gives the single verse of First Peter 3:7 its own sub-heading “A Word to Husbands”
“Likewise, husbands, live together according to knowledge, giving honour to the wife as to the weaker vessel, the female, as truly being co-heirs together of the grace of life, not cutting off your prayers.”
Interestingly, I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing this verse related to unanswered prayer.
Interesting also, it is a conditional verse, saying effectively, if a husband does not honour his wife, the husband’s prayers will be “cut off.” There is another famous conditional verse from The 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:12 which has a similar theme:
“Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long upon the land which Jehovah your God gives you.”
Now the MKJV renders the last phase of First Peter 3:7 as “… not cutting off your prayers” while the NKJV and the KJV say rather “… that your prayers may not be hindered.” In both cases though, the meaning is explicit.
What does this mean exactly, to have one’s prayers hindered? Job 42:8 gives a specific examples of how prayers to God can be hindered:
“And now take to yourselves seven young bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering. And My servant Job will pray for you. Surely I will lift up his face so as not to do with you according to your foolishness, in that you have not spoken of Me what is right, like My servant Job.”
In the natural, we cannot see prayer, nor can we generally even see the results of prayer. However, the same is not true in the spiritual. For Christians, Faith is having trust in things which we cannot see. We pray by faith, because we believe God will hear; we worship by faith, because we believe God will hear. Occasionally, very occasionally, God will let us see into the supernatural and we can then know that what we have taken by faith and in trust, is indeed true and real. Let me share a testimony to this point.
Three days ago, our friend Pastor G K Benjamin participated in a three hour prayer session with the leaders of a small Church. After the session ended, he went upstairs for a time of solitary prayer in preparation for leading the evening church prayer meeting. For a couple of hours he prayed alone upstairs, while the church leaders sang and worshipped downstairs. As Pastor Benjamin finished and stepped out of the upstairs room onto the stair landing, he thought the house was on fire, for coming up the stairs and vanishing through the ceiling were what looked like streams of smoke. As we was about to shout out “Fire!!!” he recognised the ‘smoke’ was actually the anointed praise and worship of the church leaders in the room below rising up past him to heaven. Pastor Benjamin had been momentarily gifted to see into the supernatural and see the reality of praise and worship rising up to heaven.
I believe this is how it is with prayer too.
Going back to First Peter 3:7, we find that it is not just “honour,” which husbands need to give wives, and not only because she is “the weaker vessel.” There is more; as First Corinthians 12:23 says of this phrase “And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, on these we put more abundant honour around them. And our unpresentable members have more abundant propriety.” Thus husbands are to bestow upon their wives more attention and honour than they do on the face that is deemed comely, and that is not covered and adorned as the other parts of the body are. It means that husbands are to treat their wives very well, even better than they treat themselves. Albert Barnes says of this phrase:
“It was an important advance made in society when the Christian religion gave such a direction as this, for everywhere among the pagan, and under all false systems of religion, woman has been regarded as worthy of little honour or respect. She has been considered as a slave, or as a mere instrument to gratify the passions of man. It is one of the elementary doctrines of Christianity, however, that woman is to be treated with respect; and one of the first and most marked effects of religion on society is to elevate the wife to a condition in which she will be worthy of esteem. The particular reasons for the honour which husbands are directed to show to their wives, here specified, are two: she is to be treated with special kindness as being more feeble than man, and as having a claim therefore to delicate attention; and she is to be honoured as the equal heir of the grace of life.”
But to please God, husbands must take their understanding of how to correctly treat a wife another step further as each husband is required to see and treat his wife as “… truly being co-heirs together of the grace of life….” What is a co-heir? It is a joint-heir, a person who inherits jointly and equally with others. Thus the grace of the wife and husband with eternal life are connected as equals as fellow-Christians. As Barnes says:
“This passage contains a very important truth in regard to the female sex. Under every other system of religion but the Christian system, woman has been regarded as in every way inferior to man. Christianity teaches that, in respect to her higher interests, the interests of religion, she is every way his equal. She is entitled to all the hopes and promises which religion imparts. She is redeemed as he is. She is addressed in the same language of tender invitation. She has the same privileges and comforts which religion imparts here, and she will be elevated to the same rank and privileges in heaven. This single truth would raise the female sex everywhere from degradation, and check at once half the social evils of the race. Make her the equal of man in the hope of heaven, and at once she rises to her appropriate place. Home is made what it should be, a place of intelligence and pure friendship; and a world of suffering and sadness smiles under the benefactions of Christian woman.”
Prayer is a privilege and for husbands, the acceptability of prayer is dependent on his treating of his one and only wife, also a fellow Christian. For a Christian husband of a non-Christian wife, his prayers will not be heard by God unhindered, for the wife cannot be a co-heir together in the grace of life with him.
Note here that the Apostle Peter in writing this verse does not require prayer of the husband as the head of the family; Paul simply assumes it as the norm and takes it for granted that the husband is praying for and with the family. Similarly, if a husband is true to his Christian faith, he will also be involved not only in regular prayer with his wife, but also leading and participating in family worship. There are no specific requirement in the Bible, as far as I am aware which require family and husband/wife prayer and worship, but instead, it is rather the good and proper fruit of a good Christian life style and a relationship with Jesus.
However, First Peter 3:7 explicitly implies that husbands, because of the improper treatment of their wives, can render their own prayers to God as ineffective and unanswered. By treating a wife unkindly, by not showing her due and sufficient respect, by constantly arguing and bickering, by looking down on her, the husband has simply no hope of effectual prayer.
Perhaps First Peter 3:7 explains why practically all prayer groups and prayer meetings are populated by mainly women, or only women. If men are not treating their wives properly, they will only achieve unanswered prayer, and when only achieves unanswered prayer, there is little incentive to keep on praying.
I believe that the Lord put this verse before me for my education, as well as yours. I pray that you will now pass this article on to all the husbands whom you know, or better still to all the wives you know and encourage to husbands as the spiritual heads of their families, to find answered prayer in the proper and godly treatment of their wife.