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It was completely out of character.

Surely my husband would never talk to me that way. Or treat me like that. Stunned and devastated, I couldn’t even recognize the man beside me, let alone communicate with him.

It was a tearful, emotional night, but eventually we managed to work through it.

However, I could not seem to get past it. Months went by as I struggled to “forgive and forget,” still smarting from a wound that refused to heal. At last I figured out I could not release the hurt until I revealed it. Clearly I was going to have to say something. Otherwise that same injury could potentially cripple my marriage.

After plenty of deep conversation with God and my counselor, I found both the words and the courage to tell a wonderful man he had behaved very badly. My therapist offered this sound advice: “Wrap the negative in a positive. Acknowledge the best in him before you point out the worst.”

It made all the difference.

Before I said anything else, I declared what I knew to be true: my husband was an honorable man. Brent had made a point to treat me with respect from the moment we met. (It’s one of the reasons I began dating him in the first place!) He has remained a man of honor and integrity ever since. One careless act could not change who he is.

A profoundly intimate exchange takes place when we “call out the character” of those we love.  When we feel distant and divided from others, perhaps it’s because we are too focused on what they do—and have forgotten who they are. However, we can deepen our understanding and our appreciation once we declare the truth of their nature.

The same is true of our relationship with God.

If we seek meaningful connection with Him, we begin by calling out his character. When Jesus instructs “this then is how you should pray” (Matthew 6:9), Step One is a thorough identification of God. “Father. In heaven. Your name is holy.” The ACTS prayer model (Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication) follows this same order. Before we tell God what we’ve done and what we need, we first proclaim who He is.

The best part is . . . God never acts out of character.

God cannot be false to himself because he is truth (John 17:3).

God can never go back on his word because he is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9).

God will never change because he is unchanging (Psalm 100:5, Malachi 3:6a).

Something profound happens when we call out the character of the God we love. We achieve greater intimacy with God as we affirm the nature of God. As we declare all that is true about him, we recognize there is nothing we cannot say—nothing we cannot ask—nothing we cannot believe.

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NIV)