It was early 2013 when my son came into my bedroom and asked if we could pray that his dad and I would get back together. My initial response was anger.
I told Robby that I had prayed for him during the 10 years of our divorce and that, as an exhausted single parent, I didn’t have any prayers left in me. I had given my husband to God.
The broken walls of divorce left us in pieces, a mere shadow of ourselves, fighting each day to make sense of our lives. To some the relationship may be a husband/wife, parent/child, father/son, mother/daughter, or a friend. Or it may be a broken relationship with God. In my case it was a divorce, after 20 years of marriage, four children, and much heart ache, that kept us in this paralyzed state.
So, with my son’s request, God laid a burden on my heart. It was a burden that penetrated me to the very core. There were sleepless nights, weeping and mourning, praying and fasting. I turned to prayer as my only relief.
Ellen White states in Prophets & Kings, p. 631:
“In times of sudden difficulty or peril, the heart may send up its cry for help to One who has pledged Himself to come to the aid of His faithful, whenever they call upon Him. In every circumstance, under every condition, the soul weighted down with grief and care, or fiercely assailed by temptation, may find assurance, support, and succor in the unfailing love and power of a covenant-keeping God.”
How did God work in restoring our marriage? Before I tell you, I want to first review the events in the book of Nehemiah that helped me apply some amazing principles.
Nehemiah, the Cupbearer in the Old Testament, understood crying out to God in times of difficulty. He knew God’s command to the twelve tribes of Israel was that they were to have no other gods before Him and to keep His Commandments. Then He would provide for and protect them from all their enemies. Unfortunately, they didn’t heed His commands. Both Israel and Judah worshiped false gods, followed heathen practices, and intermarried with their enemies.
Through prophets such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and others, seventy years of captivity was predicted, and they were led away by the Assyrians to the land of Babylon. When the passing of the seventy years drew near for return to their homeland, God was working in the ruling king’s heart to make this decree. The Bible first mentions King Cyrus of Persia in the book of Ezra to make a proclamation that the temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Materials were provided, and the exiles gathered to make the long journey home. The time period was 559 to 530 BC. Because of opposition, the worked stopped.
Further intervention by God prompted King Darius to review Cyrus’ original decree and allowed the work to again continue until the temple was consecrated in 486 BC. However, there was continued strife, and Hanani came back from Jerusalem and delivered the news to Nehemiah, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The walls of Jerusalem are broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” Nehemiah 1:3
God placed a burden on Nehemiah’s heart. Why would Nehemiah even care about the walls in Jerusalem? He was born in Babylon and had lived there all his life. However, God understood how deeply he treasured the Word of God that had been passed down to him by his ancestors. Even with living in this heathen land, he had not relinquished his belief in God and His promise that He would restore His people.
Nehemiah knew he needed to speak to King Artaxerxes. But, how could he? He was only a simple cupbearer. His initial reaction was to weep. He then mourned, fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. This was a personal journey of four months (see Nehemiah 1:5-11). In his prayers, he used adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. He praised God for keeping His covenant with those who love Him and obey His commands. He confessed the sins of the Israelites, including himself and his family; all sin that had been committed against God. Then he recited God’s word back to Him stating the instructions given to Moses:
“If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to Me and obey My commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.”
In his Thanksgiving, he claimed God’s ownership of His people: “They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand.” He ends with supplication by asking God to be attentive to the prayer of His servant and give him success and favor in the presence of this man. James 5:16 states, “Therefore confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This was a righteous prayer!
Ellen White writes in Prophets & Kings, page 629:
“As Nehemiah prayed, his faith and courage grew strong. His mouth was filled with holy arguments. He pointed to the dishonor that would be cast upon God, if His people, now that they had returned to Him, should be left in weakness and oppression, and he urged the Lord to bring to pass His promise… He had often poured out his soul in behalf of his people. But now as he prayed, a holy purpose formed in his mind. He asked the Lord to grant him success and favor in the presence of the King.”
Petitioning the King
Nehemiah goes into the King with a downcast expression on his face. The King asked him why he looked so sad. Nehemiah was afraid but told him of the city of his people, Jerusalem, lying in ruins and its gates destroyed. The King asked him, “What is it you want?” Nehemiah prays silently in the moment. He asked the King to send him to the city in Judah so he could rebuild it. Not only did the King okay the journey, but he supplied all Nehemiah asked of him – letters of permission for safe conduct, timber for construction, money for expenses, and a military escort to accompany them.
Over 50,000 exiles set out with him. The decree to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem happened in 457 BC and that was the start date for the 2300-day prophecy outlined in the book of Daniel. When Nehemiah got to Jerusalem, he set out by night to inspect the walls but didn’t share his vision with anyone but a few trusted companions. After a time, he said to the Jews, priests, nobles, and officers, “Let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 2:18
Seeking God For My Marriage
There was opposition, however. In Chapter 4:2-3 you can read the mockery of these men: “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble? If even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Nehemiah prays again in Chapter 4:4, “Hear us, O Lord, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guild or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.”
These men were very angry and plotted to come and fight against Jerusalem. Nehemiah prays again and posts a guard day at night to meet this threat. Do you get the picture? Nehemiah prayed a lot! He didn’t depend on his own strength or the strength of his men. He knew this was a spiritual battle.
The walls were completed in 52 days because this work had been done with the help of their God. In this entire story we see Nehemiah as a type of Christ, a rebuilder of the walls.
Removing The Rubble
Back to my story. When I was praying that my marriage would be restored, I knew that this was God’s will – His holy purpose for us and that this was a righteous prayer. However, I could not picture in my own mind how this could possibly happen. That’s when God starting waking me up in the middle of the night. At first, I would try to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I then realized that God wanted my undivided attention in the darkness of the night when there where no other interruptions. This time became precious to me and just like Nehemiah, I discerned many things about prayer. I learned:
1. To praise God – I didn’t know what He was going to do in these circumstances, but I trusted Him and knew He wanted what was best for my life.
2. To confess my sins – This was a HUGE turning point in my prayer life. It wasn’t until I confessed my sins for what I had done in the marriage that God was able to work.
3. To recite God’s Word back to Him – God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword. It will not return void. I wrote down scripture, recited it back to God, and claimed the promises. He then began to personalize specific passages to my unique situation. The scripture literally jumped off the page at me! He gave me Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing? Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
4. That this is not an easy journey and that Satan would bring in opposition. I kept my desires and prayers to myself except for a few select friends.
5. That God wanted ME to be the answer. If I would obey, if I would surrender my sleep, my fears, my heart and come to Him when He called, He would take care of the rest. When we allow God to remove rubble from our lives, good things can be built.
A Marriage Rebuilt
When my husband and I began talking again, we realized that God had led us both to this point. The first thing he said to me that night at his apartment was, “I think we should forget about the past.” Wow! Just what God had given me. Our journey of repairing our breached walls began the first week of October 2013. I had been in fervent prayer for six months. In just a few short weeks we knew what we wanted – to be remarried. We looked at the calendar and set the date for December 1st. It was such a short time away, and we wanted the Lord’s blessing. We got down on our knees and prayed. The next morning when I woke up, I heard the Lord telling me to count the number of days from when we first began talking with each other to December 1st. Guess what? It was 52 days. The same number of days it took the Jews to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. That was our answer. We were remarried on December 1, 2013.
Doe you have a wall that needs rebuilding? Has God laid this burden upon your heart? Does He want YOU to be the answer? God is the ultimate repairer of broken walls and broken people. As our King, He wants to restore these relationships and can supply all the resources of heaven to do it. For He is coming again in all His glory with the New Jerusalem, and these walls will have no breaches in them. They will never need repair. They will be fortified and sealed with the blood of Jesus and with obedient, restored people who have chosen Jesus as their Savior and Lord and trusted in His power. Won’t you be one of them?
Karen M. Phillips is happily remarried to her husband, John, and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is a Human Resources Manager, an ASI Mid-America Officer, and a Bible teacher. Together they support their world-wide ministry – HeReturns. She writes from Omaha, Nebraska, USA.