What’s happened to the Gospel of Grace? Has Peter returned to Old Testament legalism once again (see Galatians 2:11-21)? This sounds like performance related prayer – if husbands aren’t good husbands God will stop being good to them. If his people do wrong things then they can’t expect him to do right to them.
So is that why God hasn’t answered your prayer for a new job? He won’t until you become a better husband? Have your prayers for Auntie Hilda to be healed of her cancer not been answered because of the unkind way you treated that friend last week?
Peter makes a link here that we find deeply troubling. We’re fine with the general idea that life lived in God’s way will generally bring God’s blessing. We pin a lot of hope on that idea – although we’re also aware that the blessings highlighted in Peter’s letter are spiritual rather than physical and that the main expectation he gives us for the present is that we’ll suffer (1 Peter 1:6 onwards). But we’re not fine with this link between how we treat others and how God will treat us. Why? It doesn’t bode well for us – we’re very conscious that we often treat other people very badly indeed (especially those of us who are married).
Well v.7 might allow us to get away with the idea that the way a husband’s prayers might be hindered is more about him being in the wrong place spiritually. The blockage in prayer is at his end, due to a lack of general spiritual healthiness – shown by his lack of care for his wife. But Peter’s use of Psalm 34 a few verses later stops us from taking that easy option. In v.12 the blockage is clearly at God’s end – he’s the one that chooses to listen to the righteous, and be deaf to those who are evil. This is very clearly introducing the idea of performance related prayer that we don’t like at all.
What are we to do in response? Change our performance! That’s the whole point of these warnings, the mild threats in these verses. They are to get husbands to take better care of their wives, to get us all to love each other more and more. Want God to answer your prayers for a new job, for Auntie Hilda? Then start living life his way!
“But what about God’s grace?” you cry. This surely changes the whole dynamic of the relationship I thought I had with my Father God through the death of his Son Jesus Christ?!