The Cure for ‘Pity-Pot’ Prayers to Gain Perspective in Marriage

Pity Pot Prayer

I’m continuing in my series: “Back to School7 Lessons on Learning to Love Well When the Winds of Marriage Grow Colder”—by talking today about lesson #2 on “Writing.” Be advised: this isn’t just writing for the sake of improving our penmanship or literary skills. It is all about a valuable marriage tool available to us through written prayers.

Pity Pot Prayer

[bctt tweet=”This post today is all about a valuable marriage tool available to us through written prayers.” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Years ago when the winds of my marriage were growing colder—even frigid at times—I would turn to God in prayer. I would pray weeping, agonizing prayers, begging the Lord to open my husband’s eyes to the ways he was hurting me and damaging our marriage.

Back to SchoolNow I’m not saying those prayers weren’t helpful. AND I’m also not saying you can’t pray in a similar way—pouring your hurt out to the Lord—in order to gain His help in your marriage and situation.

It’s just that sometimes we get stuck in an unhealthy focus on how our spouses should change instead of on how we individually should change. When this occurs, it indicates that bitterness is active in our hearts and often leads to pity-pot prayers.

This was what happened in my case. The problem was, these kinds of prayers only took me so far. I would sense God’s comfort, but I missed much of the Lord’s conviction that was necessary for me to grow into a better and more loving spouse.

It was as if any growth I was doing at that time turned inward—like an ingrown hair. #ingrownhairprayer 😉

[bctt tweet=”Are you praying ‘ingrown hair prayers’? Find out at MM! #prayer ” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

It wasn’t until I took up writing out my prayers that God opened my eyes to what I was actually doing and saying.

There’s just something powerful and undeniable about seeing your thoughts and prayers in print—before your glassy and bitter gaze. #marriagechanger

God began to use these written prayers as a way for me to see in black and white how self-righteous and self-centered I had become. 😦

Now, I’m not saying you can’t experience God’s healing of your marriage if you only pray verbal prayers. But for me, it took writing out my prayers before I could notice all that God wanted me to hear and see, as well as eventually feel and do.

We have this incredible example of written prayers in the book of the Psalms, with King David being one of the chief authors of those prayers. I’ve done an in-depth study of David’s life and can clearly see how those prayers impacted his point of view and ability to trust God in situations that seemed impossible to overcome or change.

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.” ~Psalm 51:1 (NLT)

I’d like to challenge you to begin to prayer journal about the challenges you are facing in marriage and life. And I want to help you by providing a prayer guide to get you going. Click on the link to access this free printable prayer guide.

Next week I’ll be tackling lesson #3, with a discussion on  “‘Arithmetic’—Counting What Counts.” I’ll leave you in suspense for a week as to what I will be encouraging you to “count.” But I promise, it will not require math skills <shwhew> AND it will make a huge difference in the way you navigate the cold winds of marriage.


What is your biggest fear or hindrance in writing out your prayers?


What tips do you have for others on making prayer a daily and minute-by-minute habit in life?


Be sure to scroll down below to comment! 


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34 responses to “The Cure for ‘Pity-Pot’ Prayers to Gain Perspective in Marriage”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth, and the idea of writing and journaling one’s prayers is so very important. It’s the key that unlocks the door of the Pity Parlor, a place where I have often sequestered myself.

    making prayer a part of life…it’s an interesting question. I’ve often heard it said that the ideal is for ‘life to be a prayer’, but I think that’s a shibboleth. It’s a bit like the undergraduate sitting in the back row of the lecture hall, eyes closed, and maintaining that he’s listening and absorbing the lecture material. Yes, that was me.

    Life, i think, has to be lived with an intentionality that informs the transcendent, and thus becomes a foundation upon which a prayer life can be built. As an example, I still try to work upon my aeroplane-building project every day. The labour, however, is something I see in the context of ‘good and faithful work’, my best effort offered to the Almighty for its own sake. If I survive long enough to finish the truly (pardon me, but it’s the only word that fits) badass aeroplane, and get well enough to fly it, that’s fine. But my eyes can’t be on the temporal prize.

    And if I fly this thing I have built, the flying has to be a temporal analogue for our seeking of the transcendent; like the ending of John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight” – “…put out my hand, and touched the Face of God”.

    It can’t just be a thrill ride, and a way to impress people.

    Work and life cannot be prayer; they can only provide its context and infrastructure. Does that make sense?

    I hope it’s OK that I paste the full poem, “High Flight”, below. It may help clarify what I am trying to say about context.

    Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
    and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
    wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
    Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
    and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
    “Up, up the long delirious burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
    where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
    and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    put out my hand and touched the face of God.


    1. I love Andrew. He is a man of MANY words. xoxo


    2. What a beautiful poem, Andrew! I love it! 🙂

      I see where you’re going, too, with the concept of seeking the holy in the everyday. As you may have gathered from my blog posts, I view my current pursuit of horsemanship in a similar light. It sounds a little silly to say I’m fulfilling a holy mission by training horses…yet that’s sort of how I view it at this point.

      As crazy as it sounds I really do believe God has led me to pursue horsemanship. So, I approach each ride with an intent to learn all I can and to hear God’s voice through what I experience. Yes, I even try to intentionally listen to my horse with expectation of his teaching me something God wants me to learn.

      Then as some of the things I learn start to come together as more tangible concepts I start thinking about how I could put it into words.

      Blessings to you, as you continue building your aircraft…and writing of your experiences! 🙂


    3. You must be feeling some better today, Andrew, to give me such a thoughtful comment and share that incredible poem. I agree wholeheartedly that the things we do, done for the Lord, are a way to pray and worship Him all day long. I have no doubt that your times of working on your “aeroplane” are ways that you connect more fully and deeply with the Lord. I hope one day you are able to fly in that airplane and “touch the face of God.” Either way, physically or spiritually, you are going to soar on the heights with Jesus and touch His beautiful face. How cool is that?! Some days I wish that were closer for me than it seems it will be. I know that sounds morbid or as if I am depressed, but I’m not. I’m just looking so forward to the day when my failing body and sinful mind are no longer an issue. Besides, who wouldn’t want to fly on the wind-swept heights with the Lord? Hugs and prayers being sent your way, dear friend!


  2. Bev @ Walking Well With God Avatar
    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I am hearing God loud and clear lately about writing out scripture (Denise Hughes book “Deeper Waters”, and your post on writing out our prayers. There’s something about putting pen to paper that allows us to internalize and remember scripture and also something that enables us to look to see if we are praying “pity pot” prayers or prayers that invite the transforming grace of God into our lives. Definitely a theme here for me….thank you!
    Bev xx


    1. Yes, there’s something so soothing and yet eye-opening (or perhaps “heart-opening”) when we write out Scripture, Bev. I didn’t realize that until a few years ago. Thanks so much for your kind words. I know that this is where your heart is too–to write out your prayers, really love letters to the Lord. And thank you for being a cheerleader in my corner! I do hope your foot has fully recovered or is on the fast-track to that place of total freedom from that boot!


  3. I was quite adept at pity-party-pot prayers until one day God got in my face and said IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR COMFORT OR HAPPINESS – IT’s about ME and his eternity and salvation. That ended those!!! And praying continually? Simple, really. NEVER SAY AMEN.


    1. Haha! You are too funny, Susan. Yes, sometimes God does get in our face and shout what we need to hear. I’ve been there and God has done that to me too. I suppose that’s what He eventually did when I woke up to how ingrown these prayers were. And I love your great advice – “never say amen.” So true! It’s a conversation all day long, isn’t it?!


  4. Hey, Beth! That’s such a good point about writing out our prayers to see what’s in our heart. I don’t usually take time to write my prayers down, but that’s a new “benefit” for when I’m praying about any “impossible” situation and I’m not seeing the answer just yet.


    1. Yes, that’s really when this discipline of writing out my prayers began too, Kelly. I needed His guidance and it moved from writing solely in my journal to writing my prayers out in my prayer journal. Wow! What an important shift, not only in my practice, but in my point-of-view. God speaks loud and clear and sometimes, those of us who are visual or “in-denial” ha! need to see our words in black and white. Thanks for joining the conversation, sweet friend!


  5. My biggest hindrance to writing out my prayers is impatience. Even though I know it would be beneficial, that act of sitting down and laboriously forming each word with my hand seems so long and laborious. God is teaching me though, that there is more to productivity than simply checking things off my list, so I know that a focused prayer life is worth every minute it takes.


    1. I don’t keep a handwritten prayer journal, Michele. I don’t think I could write nearly as well as I type. With age, my fingers have taken quite a blow, since I’ve always been an avid writer and, in my youth, was an artist who loved to draw. Typing my prayers is a quick way to speak out of what is overflowing in my heart and then He is so good to point out some of the “gunk” that flowed out onto the page! ha! I do hope you make this a habit in your life. I truly believe you won’t regret it!


  6. My sister once told me, “Every time I invite God to my pity party, He fails to attend.”
    It’s so true!

    In my personal experience, when I go to God with prayers to ‘fix’ something in someone else’s heart, He usually responds with asking me what in my own heart is causing that situation to be so stressful to me.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t pray for those we love. We should! But there is a huge difference between asking God to ‘fix’ someone else versus asking Him to free them and empower them to be the godly individual He created them to be.

    Thank you for the reminder, Beth! 🙂


    1. That’s so funny, Joe! But I’m not sure I think He fails to attend, but fails to answer, at least in the way I want. I suppose He doesn’t draw near to me when my prayers are selfish, so in that sense, your sister is right on! I also love what you’ve said about a “fix someone else” mentality when we pray. That’s certainly a clue that our prayers are not “in the right place … or on the right person.” I also love what you say about praying for them to be “freed” instead of “fixed.” That’s an even better way to look at it. Thanks for adding your awesome wisdom to the conversation, my friend!


  7. I love writing out my prayers, because it is then that I truly recognize when the answers come! So beautiful!


    1. Yes, Liz! I’m right there with you on this one! Thanks for your encouragement and for joining the conversation. Great to have you in the line up as well!


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  9. Beth, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. Your printable is very helpful too. Thank you for addressing this tough topic with humility and encouragement!


    1. I’m so glad to hear this, Sarah. It’s always a blogger’s greatest joy to truly encourage and empower others–as I’m sure you would agree! Thanks for your kind words and friendship!


  10. I’m a big believer in writing out my prayers. Seeing things in black and white is sometimes very surprising! Plus I like writing them out and then later adding the answers to the page so I can remember He does hear and He does answer. ~ Jerralea


    1. Yes, it is, Jerri! Very surprising but so very needed! I really like that you add answers to the requests you’ve made. I don’t do that very often anymore, but you’ve encouraged me to begin that again! Thanks for adding that insight to the conversation, my friend!


      1. Thanks for the invitation to link up. I appreciate the opportunity. ~ Jerralea


  11. Beth, I find writing out my prayers of hurt helps me stop repeating myself! In my mind I can just keep circling around the same thing. But in writing I stop and ask for God’s perspective. Writing helps me move on to wanting to listen to God.


    1. What a great correlation you’ve made, Debbie! Yes, I find that I ruminate far too often on things that bother me. And I can see that when I pray about them, it is a way to let them go. So yes, I agree and am grateful that you pointed that out. I also love what you’ve said about writing moving you to want to listen to God. So true and so powerful! Thanks for adding your wise thoughts, dear friend! You are a gift to us all!


      1. Beth, you definitely have the gift of encouragement! Thank you, my friend.


  12. So happy to stop by this morning, Beth! I’m really enjoying your Galatians study; it’s getting me back to journaling and actually writing my prayers down, as you talk about here. Unfortunately, it’s an easy habit to break… :-/
    Great prayer guide, btw. I printed it out, but rather than write directly on it, have it taped to the cover of my journal and use it as a template. Thanks!!


    1. I’m so happy you did too, Pat! You are fast becoming one of my favorite cheerleaders in the blogosphere! And I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the Galatians study. Here’s to it getting you back to journaling your prayers as well! Woot, woot!! Yes, it is an easy habit to break until you get to the point, like me, where it is so woven into the fabric of my morning that it’s like going without my beloved cup of coffee! ha! Ain’t nobody gonna stand between mama and her cup of joe–nor her quiet time. My husband will attest to that! ha! Thanks for your kindness to me, my friend!


  13. Dear Beth

    Good post!

    You wrote:
    > I would sense God’s comfort, but I missed much of the Lord’s
    > conviction that was necessary for me to grow into a better and more
    > loving spouse.

    In the Gospels and in some Christian writing there is a very affecting mix of comfort and challenge or conviction, that seems to magnify the effect of both.

    Writing prayer needs a bit more organisation than “just praying” but otherwise I enjoy it. In fact I think I outed myself writing a prayer in a cafe recently. In my new diary I have “normal” diary, Bible study notes, and written prayers all jumbled in together. It’s a sturdy A5 booklet that’s almost always in my bag.

    I tend to investigate or push myself more in a written prayer. A spoken (or thought) prayer might have a wave of emotion, but can remain vague. Perhaps for me they have different purposes: silently spoken prayer is for opening or closing a day; written prayer is for some “issue” I need to address.

    I like the prompts in your prayer guide, and I have also found Scripture can be a good prompt.



  14. Very interesting and thoughtful post. The difference between doing and saying is big. I always try to do what I say.
    Thanks for hosting and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week.


  15. Beth, I’ve typed out my prayers for years … it’s the only way I have found to keep my scattered mind focused when I’m praying. There have been seasons when my prayers often began with lots of angst and complaining, but by the time I was done for the day, my perspective was usually changed and my heart was closer to the right place. I like your term “ingrown hair prayers” … you’re right–writing it all down really does shine the spotlight on our motivations and self-righteousness! Glad to be your neighbor this week at Holley’s place …


  16. Beth, this is such a good post! Your story is so similar to mine. It took writing/journaling (under a passcode on my computer so it would not be seen by anyone but me!) about my struggles in marriage to help me see in black and white that my perfectionism was the big issue between us. Then I began to focus on how I could change myself instead of focusing on what I thought my husband needed to change. And that changed everything for the better in our marriage. God is so good to bring about new understandings and new perspectives, even through the hard stuff. I loved your journaling printable! I’m printing it out for my prayer notebook! Thank you so much for your transparency and for sharing your story. I makes a big difference and is so encouraging. You make me feel understood! Blessings, dear friend!


  17. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLInkup this week and thanks for the great prayer guide for marriage.


  18. Karrilee Aggett Avatar

    Oh yes! I love this! I am a huge journaler of prayers and blessings… we just went through the hardest month of our lives (not marriage related –but still!) and journaling out my feelings and prayers was oh so helpful and healing!


  19. i can see the benefit in writing out prayers.. taking that extra time to formulate your thoughts well. Would be good that.


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