Last summer as I was cleaning out my bookshelf, I found a little jewel called Prayers of Blessing Over Your Husband by Bruce Wilkinson and Heather Hair. I did not remember when or where I had picked that up, but I knew by the lack of dog-eared pages and copious underlining that I had never bothered reading it. Around the same time, I also discovered this wonderful teaching by Kristi McClellan called “Ezer Kenegdo”.
I will spare you the book review and the summary of Kristi’s teaching, simply because I wouldn’t do either one justice in the space of a paragraph or two. However, I must spend the rest of this blog confessing my mistaken application of both teachings!
After reading the first section of Wilkinson and Hair’s book, I was convicted about my lack of consistent prayer for my dear husband, Todd, over our 30 years of marriage. The authors explained it as having a “wife mantle.” Basically, when we said “I do” all those years ago, God gave me the privilege of covering my husband in prayer. I was the only one with that unique role for Todd. (Don’t worry, God gave Todd a few extra roles in that moment as well!)
I had never heard it explained that way before and after confessing my lack of mantle prayers for my hubby, I was excited to follow their “formula” for covering him.
Kristi’s teaching however really ignited my commitment. She explained the magnitude of ezer – a word that means helper-it is only otherwise used to describe God in the Bible. Combined with the uniqueness of kenegdo – which is not used anywhere else in the Bible- and it is translated suitable. She explained that kenegdo carries the connotation of standing face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder, depending on the situation. My twisted take went something like this: an ezer kenegdo wife is one who uniquely helps her husband make the right decisions, standing by his side but also sometimes getting in his face if necessary. Who decides when it is necessary? Well, that would be me of course!
Prayer Warrior (PW)
Combining these two concepts had the effect of making me feel like Wonder Woman, in a more modest costume of course, with the letters PW on my tiara. I was going to pray the best, life-changing, powerful prayers in the universe for my sweet husband, and he wouldn’t even know why his life was suddenly getting better!
So, I donned my new role quicker than Clark Kent changes into his Superman costume! I got a new hubby-only prayer journal, divided it into the 5 sections the authors suggested and wrote out my prayers accordingly. I left space to add to my prayers as God might reveal new insights. And most importantly, I carefully dated each one and left room for the answered date.
Things went well with this plan for maybe a month. God was graciously giving me more and more insight into how to pray for Todd, which I obediently added to my already growing list of prayers. What God wasn’t doing however was providing me that all-important answer date.
I didn’t think I was asking too much, or anything out of line with God’s desires for my husband. And I was even willing to let God creatively choose how to answer my petitions. But after two months, I was DISCOURAGED.
I began to skip some days of praying for Todd, ignoring my new plan. After 4 months I stopped opening the journal all together. What happened?
In my frustration and disappointment, I took my complaint to God. “Why won’t you answer these prayers? These are good, simple things I am asking. I have even made some kenegdo-type suggestions to my husband to help things along. But nothing seems to be changing; God what is going on?”
When I finished complaining to God, and quieted myself enough, aka surrendered my expectations to him, I was ready to listen to his side.
Project Manager (PM)
In that stillness, as gently as only God can, he showed me that somewhere along the way I had replaced my PW tiara with a yellow construction hat. I had taken these two beautiful concepts, the wife mantle and ezer kenegdo, and had turned my hubby and my prayers for him into a project to manage. OUCH!!
The truth of Isaiah 29:13 stung me, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
I had taken two very good teachings without consulting God and ran with them! In essence, I had tried to use them to force God to move according to my will and timeline. And then I was disappointed when that didn’t work. God wanted my heart! He wanted my trust to be in him, not in my “activities.”
The Helper Fit for Him
In that quiet moment, God asked for both of those headdresses back. It was easy to give him the PW tiara, it was already slipping off anyway. But the PM construction hat? Who was going to monitor Todd’s progress? And what would happen if I neglected one of those 5 areas too long? How would I know if my prayers even worked if I didn’t “check-in” on them occasionally?
God assured me that was the point! He was in charge of my husband, completely. He also assured me that in ways I won’t always understand, he listens to and answers my prayers. In my heart and mind, God wanted to be the project manager of my husband AND of my prayers for him. He needed to be! So, in a tearful, but also freeing prayer session, I surrendered both hats.
I try to pray every day for my husband, but no longer as a project manager, or from some superhero, prayer-warrior status. Now I ask God to inform or direct my prayers for Todd, and as he does that is when I know I am truly being the helper fit for him.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18 ESV)