1. Yourself: Pray that you’ll be the best spouse you can be. Ask forgiveness for those times you’ve been selfish or insensitive. Focus on loving your partner more, always treating him with courtesy and compassion. Pray that you’ll change your negative or neglectful attitude. As we improve our words and behavior, we pave the way for our spouse to make similar changes.

2. Your marriage: Pray that the two of you will find a oneness that will bring you closer. Too often couples drift apart and lose that special sense of love and joy that was present at the beginning. Pray that you both will make your marriage a priority, committing time to understanding each other and placing your spouse’s needs above your own.

3. Safety: September 11, 2001, will not soon be forgotten, nor will the London bombings from this past July. How many husbands and wives kissed each other good-bye for the last time those mornings? No one knows for sure what danger lies around the next corner. Pray for your spouse’s safety and protection in a world that’s more dangerous than any of us wish to admit.

4. Health: Many of us try to eat healthy, exercise regularly, take vitamins daily, and visit a physician when needed. These are good things, but prayer has more potential power than all four combined. Pray for your partner’s health and strength. Pray that her body will be able to fight minor illnesses and major diseases and that her life will be long and free from sickness.

5. Stress: Life is full of pressure and expectations. We race from one point to another, trying to pack more into a day than is reasonable. This stress frequently steals our peace and enjoyment. It makes us irritable and impatient. It opens doors to worry, depression, burnout, and all sorts of physical symptoms. Pray that your spouse will not be overwhelmed by the stress of life. Pray that he will relax and find contentment in all he does.

6. Temptations: We’re all tempted to do things that aren’t good for us or our marriage. Some people face such strong temptations that they have what are called addictive personalities. Others have less potent but equally dangerous temptations. Given the right situation, any of us could succumb. Know your partner’s weaknesses and struggles — whether it’s alcohol, food, pornography, overspending, drugs, gambling, or anything else. Then pray for your mate’s strength to fight against these things.

7. Work: Some partners struggle with laziness and others struggle with workaholism. Neither extreme is healthy. Pray that your spouse will find a balance in his work. Pray that it will bring him a sense of fulfillment. Our jobs, whether they’re inside or outside the home, impact how we feel about ourselves and our marriages. Pray that your spouse’s job will be a positive part of his life, filling him with a sense of meaning, purpose, and personal satisfaction.

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8. Fears: We all have fears. These fears can be overwhelming, and maybe even irrational. Know your partner’s fears. Do they have to do with safety, finances, failure, or death? Pray that these fears won’t paralyze your spouse, but that she can work through them and overcome them. Also, pray that you can be patient and understanding, doing all you can to help and bring comfort. Never ridicule or belittle your spouse for her fears. Be a source of reassurance and support.

9. Dreams: Every couple and all individuals need to have dreams. Without dreams, people grow discouraged, and life becomes empty and meaningless. Dreams add focus, excitement, joy, and hope. But dreams can easily be killed or deflated. Share your dreams with each other and pray that your partner’s dreams will come true. Encourage him and cheer him on. If he doesn’t have a dream, help him to develop one. If he’s given up on a dream, see if it can be resurrected. If you know his dreams, pray like crazy that they’ll be fulfilled.

10. Faith: As you pray for your partner’s faith, you are, in fact, praying for all of the previous nine areas. Faith impacts every aspect of a person’s life. If your partner struggles with her faith, don’t preach or pressure. Instead, pray and live an example of a godly life.

Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayer can change the one who prays, one’s marriage, and one’s partner. Don’t let a day pass without serious prayer. What can happen will surprise you.

Don’t be limited to praying only for these 10 areas. Here are 10 more to get you started:

His past Her words
Her parenting His example
His sexuality Her friendships
Her self-image His contentment
His attitude Her priorities

Ultimately, prayer is your best protection. Going through marriage without prayer is like walking a high wire without a safety net. Always remember that prayer succeeds when all else fails.

Adapted from 20 Surprisingly Simple Rules and Tools for a Great Marriage. © 2003 by Steve Stephens. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.