The Problems with Power of a Praying Wife: With Download

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 30 comments

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One of the things we’re passionate about on this blog is making sure the advice that is given about marriage and sex in the evangelical world is healthy. 

Over the last few years, our team has surveyed over 32,000 people, measuring how certain teachings common in the evangelical world about marriage and sex affect marital and sexual satisfaction.

And the results have not been pretty.

We’re asking the church to stop spreading harmful messages, and make sure that what is said is actually healthy. Because it is actually possible to write books that do not harm! 

As we’ve confronted harmful messages, we’ve written two big books–The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.

We’ve also published a series of  downloadable one-sheets on evangelical books that still sell well, but have been shown to contain harmful messages. 

This is our most recent entry–The Power of a Praying Wife.

I know that this book helped many. The prayers are beautiful, and intentionally praying for every aspect of our husband’s life is a wonderful gift, and is indeed powerful.

However, the theology that is in the book is highly problematic, and the message that this book gives to women in destructive marriages is very harmful. 

In this post, with a download option, I’d like to explain why. 

Again, none of this invalidates your experience if the book did help you. But a healthier book focused on praying for your husband would also have helped you without harming others. That’s what we need to be aiming for. 

This post is the text from our download, so it’s short, in bullet point form, and right to the point. We’ll be doing a longer deep dive into this issue tomorrow on the Bare Marriage podcast!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

SYNOPSIS of power of a praying wife

A fulfilling marriage can seem like an impossible dream. But God can do the impossible if we just ask Him and pray.

Power of a Praying wife

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  • Grew out of the ongoing abuse Omartian suffered in her own marriage (15). Rather than set boundaries or seek safety for herself and her children, Omartian chose to pray.
  • Frames prayer as the key to changing a marriage, even a destructive one with alcoholism or abuse, placing the responsibility for ending a husband’s destructive behaviors on the wife.
  • Declares women responsible for the home and family, even if they work outside the home, while insisting that women must also provide frequent sex regardless of what else is happening in the marriage.


  • Ignores free will by framing a wife’s prayers as the answer to a husband’s bad behavior. Yet God does not override people’s choices. While acknowledging this briefly (69 & Day 30), the rest of the book paints prayer as the solution.
  • Places responsibility for fixing the husband’s bad behavior on the wife’s prayer life: 

You can submit to God in prayer whatever controls your husband – alcoholism, workaholic laziness, depression, infirmity, abusiveness, anxiety, fear or failure – and pray for him to be released from it.

Stormie Omartian

Power of a Praying Wife, p. 15

  • Absolves men of the need to change, since the prayer process makes women more likely to put up with bad behavior. “When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him.” (17) Says that even in cases of abuse, “the most effective tool in transforming him may be your own transformation” (p. 24).
  • Implies prayer can heal trauma (141), depression, (156), anxiety (157), and suicidal ideation (157) without mentioning the necessity of evidence-based trauma and mental health therapies.


  • Blames herself for her husband’s rages: “I was sure I was as much to blame as he, but I didn’t know what to do about it.” (15) Despite her testimony that prayer transformed her abusive marriage, her husband opens the book joking that Stormie has been miserable all forty years of their marriage, while he has been blessed (p. 10).
  • Equates abuse with more minor issues: “A husband can hurt your feelings, be inconsiderate, uncaring, abusive, irritating or negligent” (p. 13). Whether the husband is abusive or merely irritating, the answer is always prayer.
  • Declares a woman’s anger at being abused as equivalent to the abuse, and requires forgiveness of abuse before prayers will work:

This whole requirement [a pure heart] is especially hard when you feel your husband has sinned against you with unkindness, lack of respect, indifference, irresponsibility, infidelity, abandonment, cruelty or abuse.  But God considers the sins of unforgiveness, anger, hatred, self-pity, lovelessness or revenge to be just as bad as any others.

Stormie Omartian

Power of a Praying Wife, p. 25

  • Minimizes emotional abuse of children (163), and doesn’t mention getting children to safety.


  • Insinuates the survival of the marriage lays with the wife, even though a woman does not unilaterally have the power to save a destructive marriage. An abusive or addicted person can destroy a marriage all on his (or her) own. 

“I will not allow anything to destroy my marriage.”….

“You have to trust that…abuse…infidelity …can be relieved of its death grip. You have to determine that everything consuming you and your husband, such as workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, or depression, can be destroyed.”

Stormie Omartian

Power of a Praying Wife, p. 14 & 18

  •  Encourages “shut up and pray” (29) and “stay out of His way” (107) instead of encouraging women to set clear boundaries and learn to speak up. This goes against best practices for changing destructive marriages.
  • States that a wife is ultimately responsible for the home and the children (34), and places burdens on the wife to live up to an unrealistic ideal if she wants her prayers answered. The following is said unironically, not as an indictment of pressure put on women:

[Y]ou will also be expected to be sexually appealing, a good cook, a great mother, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit. It’s overwhelming to most women, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. You can seek God’s help.

Stormie Omartian

Power of a Praying Wife, p. 34

  • Advises women to take men’s toxic and entitled behavior in stride. Whether a husband asks for lamb chops for dinner, but then changes his mind after you have inconvenienced yourself to accommodate him (36); or makes important business decisions without your agreement (93), or is a workaholic who spends weekends on hobbies rather than with the family (126), the solution is acceptance and prayer.
  • Frames sex as a male entitlement and a female obligation, focused on a man’s release rather than something mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both: “for a husband, sex is pure need. His eyes, ears, brain, and emotions get clouded if he doesn’t have that release.”

Healthy Sexuality Score: 17/48

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“I was sure I could pray him out of porn and all the damage from his first 2 marriages. The book only made me feel more responsible for failing in my prayer life, as well as my new role as wife, when none of the prayers were answered in the affirmative.” 

Email from a reader, mid 60s.

“I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. Things only got worse. The Power of a Praying Wife made me believe my prayers could somehow change his free will. It messed me up because I thought my prayers weren’t effective, which led me to believe I was doing Christianity wrong.” 

Social Media commenter

“When I first read the book and prayed the prayers, I thought it was helpful. I think that’s because I felt like I was doing the only thing I could–to pray. It was really just this sense of hope that everything would soon be “fixed.” The reality? There were still addiction issues over the years. What actually helped was being exposed to licensed counselors and their resources about setting boundaries, and realizing I didn’t have to tolerate harmful and unhealthy behaviors to be a good wife. The concept of praying for your husband certainly isn’t bad, but it’s crazy to think we can basically override someone’s free will by praying hard enough.”

Social Media commenter


Prayer is a powerful and vital part of the Christian life, but we must keep prayer in its proper perspective. God does not override free will; and in cases of destructive marriages, emphasis must be placed on getting people to safety, setting appropriate boundaries, and seeking evidence-based help.

This book, even if unintentionally, puts the burden on women in destructive marriages to fix those marriages through prayer, and can easily result in women feeling more guilt, and enduring more abuse, because they think the problem is not the husband’s behavior but the fact that they aren’t praying enough or praying properly.


Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend

Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey

Power of a Praying wife

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Nathan

    > > her husband opens the book joking that Stormie has been miserable all forty years of their marriage, while he has been blessed

    Yes, that’s just hilarious (pause to roll eyes)

  2. Michelle

    I was nearly married when someone gave me this book. I had grown up in the church and raised in almost nothing but “Christian” books, fiction or nonfiction. I believed all of it would always be the way the books said.

    The story about him asking specifically for lamb chops but then changing his mind when he came home I found shocking, my father would never do that to my mother (not that he was always thrilled with what she cooked specifically, but he was always courteous and appreciative that there was a meal for him when he got home.)

    And then the mention of how he would go to meetings in the afternoon/evening that she didn’t know about and wouldn’t bother to tell her about, leaving her holding dinner for hours with the kids waiting for him to get home, often enough that her conclusion was to assume he wasn’t going to be home for dinner ever, and if he was it was a special blessing, not an expectation, bothered me.
    So she was expected to keep house, take care of the kids, be sexually available, but have no expectations of consideration in her direction from him? These days there’s a name for that: bangmaid. A maid he gets to bang.

    Young and naive as I was, I knew I didn’t want that for my marriage, and I hadn’t even gotten to the abusive stuff yet!

    Terrible as it is, The Power of a Praying Wife gave me a gift. It was the first “Christian” book that I realized on my own was a toxic model, the first that I examined the fruit on my own, saw it was rotten, and rejected. I think I only made it two or three chapters in before I chucked it.

    I think books like that are held up as good standards because John Omartian had this big ministry, and if he had such a big ministry he must’ve had a good marriage, right?? And his wife is going to write a book where the answer is always prayer, that must be good, right?

    Sadly we’re learning in many areas that just because something has been labelled “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s actually blessed.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow! That’s amazing you had the discernment to see through it that early, Michelle!

    • Anonymous

      I need to get rid of my copy. At least this book helps me understand the origin of my early beliefs in marriage….that I should just keep quiet and pray for God to change my husband. I never learned to speak up when things were hurtful and instead just suffered quietly and took them upon myself, thinking there must be something wrong with me. I have so much to unlearn and relearn. Sigh.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        At least you’re learning now! I’m sorry you were ever burdened like that. It wasn’t okay.

  3. Jo R

    Such a late-night infomercial vibe to all this:


    Use this great new product to solve all your problems!

    Husband not adulting? Pray that childishness away!

    Husband has a temper? This prayer will cool him down!

    Husband cheating on you? This prayer will draw him irreversibly to you and you only!


    As I recall, all this book did was make me feel like a complete and utter failure, as a woman, as a wife, as a Christian. It taught me to view God as a vending machine: "Just put these prayers in, and get this result out." When I didn't get the result, of course it was because I wasn't praying right enough, or hard enough, or with enough faith. It most definitely was NOT because God is not, in actual fact, a vending machine.

    I'm guessing there were no caveats that a fundamentally unhealthy husband has to find the internal fortitude to change, then do the work consistently over a long period of time. No reminders that no amount of prayer will cause God to override a husband's free will. That there were no time limits ever to be applied, so yes, wives, you can expect to be praying these prayers for the rest of your life, and tough patooties if nothing ever changes. No mention of the fact that the husbands, rather than the wives, ought to be reaping the consequences when the husbands are unhealthy, abusive, or childish. No mention that while prayer is good, yes, it's not the only—or possibly even the best—horrors!—action to take.

    And to Nathan's point above, yeah, what woman isn't willing to sign up for forty years of misery while her husband is blissfully ignorant of, or even indifferent to, it?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      To be fair, on Day 30 she does give a caveat. But the problem is it contradicts everything else she said in the book. It doesn’t work that way!

      • Jo R

        So, twenty-nine days of gaslighting first? Wow.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Even then, you can separate from an abusive man, but you can’t divorce.

    • J

      I love your opening examples and 100% agree. As I read your words I thought, “This is witchcraft.” It is absolutely witchcraft. Say the right magic words for the situation and you have control.

      I was HEAVILY damaged by this book. As someone who fell to the overly responsible side of the spectrum even before marriage, the book just sealed my fate. Yep, God also thinks it’s my job to make up for my husband’s many shortcomings, and if I’m miserable, it’s my own fault.

      Trying to keep my lying and cheating man child in line almost killed me. Seriously.

      I’ll be sending my therapist this document.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so sorry for the pain you went through! And, yes, please show your therapist this post. I think many therapists would find it useful in their work with clients.

      • Jo R

        So, so sorry, J. Hugs if you want ’em.

  4. Phil

    This is what I was talking about lat week. Often I have seen christians think they can just pray ti fix their problems. Hen when God does not answer them the way they want they think they are not worthy or he didnt even answer. The answer to the prayer could possibly be as simple as an answer given by a friend who says GET OUT. God speaks in so many ways. Prayer is great but we also have to LISTEN.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMEN! And sometimes prayer is preparation for the battle; it’s to get us strong to do what we’re going to have to do (like set boundaries; separate, etc.)

      • Jo R

        “When you’re caught in the rapids, pray to God and paddle toward shore.”

        • Phil

          Oh Jo – how did you know I was caught in the rapids this week? Got a $200 fine this week – literally in the river just before the rapids. I wasn’t listening 🤷🏼‍♂️. My kids have been grilling me hard about it. I don’t care about the money, its my failure that bugs me. It was totally preventable but a culmination of events lead to it. Bottom line is I was not listening. It was a lesson for me. God speaks through Game Wardens too. My kids say we had a fine day. 🤣

  5. Nathan

    I’ve seen that too, Phil. Prayer is the answer to everything from the Divine Vending Machine. And if you don’t get what you want, you’re obviously not praying hard enough, not a good enough Christian, not being submissive enough to your husband, not having enough sex, etc.

    People often mix up what God CAN do with what God WILL do. Yes, God can do anything. With a wave of His hand, He can change the heart of even the most evil, abusive person in a microsecond. History shows that this cannot happen. So yes, pray, but also keep yourself safe, and realize that you CANNOT pray away somebody else’s bad behavior (99.9% of the time, anyway, SOMETIMES God moves in this way, but only very rarely), nor is it your duty to stay (and force your kids to stay) in a dangerous situation because it’s your Christian duty.

  6. Wild Honey

    I picked up this book early in our marriage and stopped a couple chapters in because it stressed me out too much. I’m a (recovering) perfectionist and found it, frankly, overwhelming.

    Fast-forward a few years and my women’s small group leader was gushing about all the “Power of a Praying Fill-in-the-Blank” books.

    Not too long afterwards, I started connecting a bunch of dots and it became abundantly clear that she was in an emotionally and spiritually abusive marriage. Thanks for just helping me connect yet another dot.

  7. Laura

    Why can’t authors just say ejaculation instead of release? We all know from these books that claim how men need physical release really means ejaculation. Of course that doesn’t sound holy enough because this book needs to have a “Christian” label. I used to own this book as a guide to help me pray for my future husband. Then I had a boyfriend and I used some of these prayers such as praying over his finances and his health. I don’t think I read the entire book. If I had, it most likely would have gone into the trash.

    Yes, I believe in the power of prayer. Prayer changes the person who does the praying, but does not always change the person we pray about. Before I left my ex-husband over 21 years ago, I prayed for him to change and realized that was not working. So, I prayed for God to change me. God changed me by giving me a backbone and setting boundaries with my then-husband who could not handle those boundaries. He was so used to walking all over me that boundaries did not benefit him. So, God gave me the courage to leave and I am so thankful I did. Unfortunately, over the years, “well-meaning” Christian women would tell me about how they stayed in unhealthy marriages because they knew with prayer (some prayed years and years) that their husbands would change for the better and God would bless their marriages. Some told me that if I had the right kind of “godly” counseling, my marriage could have worked. They said that after I told them how my ex sexually assaulted me regularly. Seriously!?

    God gives me my own prayers to pray for someone whether it be a friend, coworker, future spouse, etc. I don’t need a guide like The Power of a Praying Wife anymore.

  8. Anon

    Thanks to childhood trauma, I’m a people pleasing codependent, and this book was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to my marriage. It taught me to just pray and ignore the bad feeling I had about the marriage. I will say that the prayers did help me rekindle love for my husband when I thought I didn’t love him anymore (although I question now if that’s actually a good thing), but the message of the book kept me in my marriage when I should have left long ago. Instead of accepting the truth that when someone shows you who they are by how they act, you should believe them, this book taught me to just pray harder. I can see now that my husband and I were not a good fit, that he’s untrustworthy, and he likely will never meet my needs. But somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice still says, “But God can do anything…pray harder!”

  9. EOF

    I’m curious what the husband’s version of this book says the men need to live up to. I’m sure it’s nothing remotely close to the garbage she spews at wives! We’re supposed to be Martha Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Ruth all rolled into one. Sure, no problem! God will answer that easy peasy — all we have to do is pray for it. 🙄

    But the husbands just have to go to work (even if the wife also works!) and then get to be waited on hand and foot at home. Seriously, are we trying to get back to the 1950s or the Bible??

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I saw this! It was so good!

      • Isabelle

        The Power of a Praying Husband was also written by Stormie.

  10. Kayla

    My poor mom was subjected to this precise theology her entire Christian life. She still wound up getting blindsided by divorce papers from a jerk who cheated on her repeatedly while she was battling cancer. Thank God she finally understands that none of it was her fault, but it took way too long. She went through more heartache than she ever deserved.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so sad! Your mom isn’t alone either. So much heartbreak.

  11. Lucie

    “For a husband, sex is pure need. His eyes, ears, brain, and emotions get clouded if he doesn’t have that release.”

    My goodness. How do those poor men who are single and attempting to live out Biblical chastity ever survive?

    And what is sex “for a wife”?

  12. Perfect Number

    I’m glad to see this post- I never read the book, but I definitely heard a lot of Christian marriage advice about how you can save your marriage by praying/submitting, and there was never any discussion about how to recognize the signs when a relationship is not worth saving.

    A long time ago I was in a bad dating relationship, and I tried everything I could to manipulate my boyfriend into being a better boyfriend, and sometimes it worked for like 1 day, but then he went back to acting like he didn’t care about me. I didn’t know that breaking up was a real option that was available to me- purity culture treats breaking up like it’s The Worst Thing Ever. Glad I eventually got out of that relationship, and I didn’t marry him. I wrote about this on my blog a while ago: If One Partner Doesn’t Want to Fix the Relationship, Then It’s Just Not Fixable

  13. Lasta

    “for an ADDICT*, sex is pure need. His eyes, ears, brain, and emotions get clouded if he doesn’t have that release.”

    * fixed it for you, Sheila.

  14. Janet

    I don’t think I ever read that book, but I prayed those prayers. I was steeped in fundamentalism, patriarchy, “biblical” (nouthetic) counseling, and MacArthur/Gothard/Rice(Me?Obey Him?)/Pride (The Way Home)/Wilson/Phillips/Baucham/Elliot GARBAGE. This resonates with me so much. I am so thankful for your work, Sheila. I just wish I’d learned all of this decades earlier, before it harmed my children and grandchildren. Thank you for exposing and fixing all of the false teaching.


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