7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet. 3:7)
The Scripture verse above is often taught to mean that God neither listens to – nor answers – our prayers unless we have treated our husband or wife well. But is this a correct interpretation?
No, we now live in the New Covenant. Under grace – after the cross – we relate to God based on what Jesus has done for us through his death and resurrection – not based on our own performance. This means that God does not answer our prayers because of what we have done – i.e. based on our own goodness or faithfulness. He answers our prayers because of what Jesus has done for us, and because of the fact that He is faithful.
This is what prayer in the name of Jesus really is about. We say to God, “Not because of who I am or because of what I have done, but because of who You are and what You have done…”
How, then, does this fit together with the apostle Peters’ statement that our prayers can be hindered, unless we treat our wives well?
The answer is very simple. If a man does not treat his wife well, this will affect their joint prayer life. It will either stop them from praying together, or make them pray without true unity or sincerity of heart.
If God only answers our prayers when everything in our marriages is perfect, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers very frequently. Note that Peter does not say that treating the wife badly will make God refrain from answering prayer. What he says is that the husbands should treat their wives well so that their joint prayers “will not be hindered”.
Whether God answers prayer, or not, is not mainly a result of our ”holy living”. It is rather a question of faith – whether we have prayed trusting in what Jesus has provided through the cross, and not doubting in our hearts until the answer has manifested.
Obviously, if we treat our wives wrongly, this might affect our faith negatively. It is hard to be angry or to treat someone else with contempt, and at the same time have strong faith in God. From this perspective a holy lifestyle is important – not because God only answers our prayers if we have measured up to a certain standard of holiness, but because a life in sin affects our faith negatively.
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (1 Joh. 3:21-22)
This Scripture shows us that a life of sin affects our confidence before God in a negative way. Lack of confidence before God will limit our ability to – by faith – receive what has already been provided through the finished work of Jesus.
Peter’s admonition to all men to treat their wives well, so that nothing will hinder their prayers, actually contains an important revelation: When husband and wife pray together on a regular basis, in faith and unity, their prayers will become very powerful and effective. Therefore, it is important that we as spouses walk in love – so that our joint prayer life will not be hindered.