Marital Prayer Part 1: What Happens When a Couple Prays Together?
Marital Prayer Part 1: What Happens When a Couple Prays Together?
Praying together. It just sounds right. After all, shouldn’t couples that are supposedly seeking God be reaching out regularly as one in prayer? This point touches a nerve in far too many of us. We are instantly uncomfortable. Many will skip this article. Pain avoidance. Why is there such a huge disconnect with marital prayer?
WE’VE NEVER PRAYED TOGETHER
First off, it’s a sad and all too common norm in many homes. If you’re like most Christian couples, you don’t pray with your spouse either. Relational research shows that 92% of couples that call themselves Christians don’t pray together (FamilyLife Survey, USA). There may be the customary ritual at mealtime or a bedtime routine with the kids but to actually pray with your mate…it just isn’t happening. We seem to have a phobia-like aversion to this with a magnitude usually associated with things like spiders, snakes or heights!
FACING YOUR PHOBIA
Why does praying together with your spouse evoke such great fear? Here are a few of the common reasons for the marital prayer phobia. First of all, many of us don’t pray much on our own so how could we ever make it work with our mate? Next, if you are at all insecure or private about your faith, you might avoid it because you aren’t comfortable praying, feeling you don’t know how, and fearing being evaluated. On the other extreme, some are too proud and independent and feel like they don’t really need God. They think that prayer is for people who can’t solve things on their own. I’d be careful – remember pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Further, doesn’t praying together necessitate you must be close to your mate and free of issues as a couple to commune at this deep level? Right. When will that ever happen? And finally, when reaching out to God is not a priority or preference to one or both of you, praying together can easily get squeezed out of our already busy lives. Face it, to pray together with your spouse will take a lot of commitment.
WHAT MARITAL PRAYER IS
What does a couple praying together look and feel like? Here’s the target I am proposing:
Couple prayer is a husband and wife, who being honest with their God and with each other, join together regularly, in spite of their marital imperfections or personal brokenness, to humbly reach out to Him for strength, direction and perspective. They go to God as one. They want His will for their lives and family.
Marital prayer is always a step of faith the two of you take together. Remember, you are both naked before God – He sees all and knows all – so worry less about your words. Get over yourselves. Admit you need the Lord in your lives (Proverbs 3:5,6). He knows you need Him far more than you do. Get your hearts right before Him. Your prayer together is an act of surrender to the God who is there, who cares and responds. Praying together is a good thing, especially in marriage.
BUT I SUCK AT PRAYING
But you say, “I am just not comfortable praying” or worse, “I suck at praying!” You weren’t good at walking or riding a bike at first either. The difference? You stayed at it. For some of you, you need to get used to hearing your own voice out loud when you pray. You may have to face the fear that someone beyond God is listening to you. You may need to overcome your worry about not getting the words right. You simply may not know what to pray. For some, you avoid prayer because you are avoiding dealing with the issues between you and your spouse. May I suggest that you try – “just doing it” (borrowing the Nike slogan). And look forward to specific help on this in Marital Prayer Part 2: How to Start Praying Together.
THE BENEFITS OF PRAYING TOGETHER
Let me try to convince you to start with my top 10 benefits of praying together. Here’s what it could do for your marriage:
1. You’ll hear and understand the heart of your spouse in prayer. It will bring you a growing emotional connection. I met a man in his sixties who was 37 years married if you add together both of his marriages. He had never prayed with either wife. Now, in wanting a sincerely Christian marriage, he took my challenge to start praying that night with his wife. The next morning, he was excited to report that they prayed together for the first time. He said, “I heard her heart. I know it will allow me to get closer to her. I am so excited.” That’s the truth.
2. You’ll face your stresses together at the deepest level. Whether it’s life or family problems, admitting them and asking God for wisdom and help is a good thing. We are called to give Him all our worries and cares as He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). It’s called crisis intimacy. You’re in this together.
3. You’ll keep heading in the same direction as a couple. Unity is a good thing. Build according to His plan maintaining a shared commitment toward a better marriage. “Unless the Lord builds your house, you will labor in vain in building it” – Psalm 127:1.
4.You’ll have a better chance of each of you staying close to the Lord. A soft heart is a responsive heart. A sinful heart separates you from God. By keeping surrendered to Him, you can more easily hear and do what He wants you to do as a partner, a parent and a person. Hebrew 3:12 calls us to watch out for each other “See to it, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
5. You’ll show love for your spouse as you pray with them and for them. You know their needs and concerns. Love is lifting them up to the Lord and in so doing, carrying their burden with them (Galatians 6:2).
6. You’ll enjoy the sense of being anchored to God with your lives. There is something bigger going on than just the two of you. God is with you. He’ll never leave you and knows all you are facing. Let Him be the anchor for the soul of your marriage, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19).
7. You’ll have a softer, more forgiving heart toward each other. Face it. You can’t expect God’s forgiveness if you won’t extend it to your spouse. Go to God either relationally connected or asking Him to help you reconnect. Since you can’t play games with God, why not quit playing games with each other. In marriage, if you walk in the light of the Lord, you’ll have fellowship with each other (1 John 1:7).
8. You’ll keep humble as people and as a couple on your knees. We do need God to make sense out of life. Tell Him so. Fight your human nature that strives for independence from God. Remember, prayer is the two of you as creatures humbly kneeling together before your Creator. He is sovereign.
9. You’ll defeat the enemy who wants to divide you. Remember he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for a couple to devour (I Peter 5:8). Through your sincere and alert prayers together, you unleash the power of God in your lives and marriage. The enemy cannot touch you with his schemes.
10. You’ll prevent your own divorce. Research is showing that couples with shared faith and common spiritual values are amongst those that enjoy a longer, more satisfying marriage (see John Gottman et al.). Of couples that pray together daily, less than 1% of them have a chance of ever experiencing divorce (Gallup Poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, 1997). Go figure. God does have a plan – pray together.
This may appear to be just an old familiar saying but could it be true? “A family that prays together stays together.” It seems so.
I’d love to hear from you about your prayer life as a couple. What works and what doesn’t? Leave a comment and let me know! Look forward to more help in Marital Prayer Part 2: How to Start Praying Together as a Couple. In the meantime, just do it.
© Dr. Dave Currie – December 2012
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