Praying Together as Husband & Wife
[WRITTEN BY CINDY WRIGHT OF MARRIAGE MISSIONS INTERNATIONAL]
I’ve been shocked to find out how many Christian husbands and wives don’t pray together (other than at meals —and sometimes not at meals either unless someone is over to their home that would inspire them to do so). What’s even more surprising is how many of those who are in full time Christian ministry who don’t pray together either.
On the other hand, I have to admit that my husband Steve and I didn’t pray together (except at meals) for several years after we committed our lives to the Lord Jesus. To be quite truthful, it never occurred to us to do so. That might sound strange, but we hadn’t given it thought. And even though we were members of a strong Bible-believing church, it was never talked about. Praying individually, yes, but praying together as a married couple wasn’t ever mentioned.
HUSBAND & WIFE PRAYING TOGETHER
The subject came up, however, when I was attending a women’s Bible Study. One of the women shared that every morning, before she and her husband got into the busyness of the day, they prayed together. She told us how much this meant to each of them and how much it caused them to grow closer to God and to each other.
As I heard her talking about this I thought about asking my husband if we could do the same. It was funny. As soon as I brought it up, he said the same thing I did when I heard this woman share her story. He said, “I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me for us to do that. Let’s try it tomorrow morning, at the start of our day.” And so we did. That was over 38 years ago. And we’ve very seldom missed praying together each morning since.
It’s difficult to describe the closeness I feel for my husband as we pray together. And it’s a wonderful way to begin our day to ask the Lord to guide us, protect us, and address the needs of those we love so much.
WE PRAY REGULARLY TOGETHER
Now we pray together at other times as well. If one of us is troubled, or if someone asks us to pray for them, or during emergencies, and/or during times we just want to get on our knees and thank God for His blessings, we pray together. It’s been great.
But I’ve found out by talking with others and by reading, that some couples struggle with praying together. They may be self-conscious, or don’t feel close enough emotionally to do so, or for many other reasons.
STRUGGLE IN PRAYING FOR SPOUSE
Author David Stoop, in the book, When Couples Pray: The Little Known Secret to Lifelong Happiness in Marriage, disclosed the following about his struggle in praying with his wife Jan,
“Part of my reluctance was quite simply, ‘What’s the big deal about praying together?’ Just as long as I prayed personally, I couldn’t see why praying together was so important to Jan. Obviously, I never verbalized this, for somehow I knew that this was not the right attitude for a husband to share with his wife.”
He went on to explain,
“Someone described the process of a couple praying together as two people suddenly becoming naked spiritually with each other, and I related to that. My impression was that what Jan wanted me to do was to bare my soul before God in her presence. Later, I found out that wasn’t her expectation at all, but when I wasn’t willing even to talk about it, how was I to know?”
He goes on to say the following about his struggle,
“Richard Foster describes my struggle well. He says, ‘We today yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are attracted to it and repelled by it. We believe prayer is something we should do, even something we want to do, but it seems like a chasm stands between us and actually praying.’
“In my case, not only was there a struggle within me, there was a struggle between Jan and me, with Jan representing the yearning and me representing the hiding. Perhaps, as Foster goes on to say, I was waiting for everything to be ‘just right.’ Or perhaps I was waiting to become better at praying, or more willing to ‘pray deep.’
“Whatever the reason, I do remember feeling like I just wasn’t ready to do this ‘praying together’ with Jan. I know now that part of my problem was that I was making everything too complicated. Neither Jan nor I knew how to get past the barriers until we just jumped in and began, with a few simple words.”
David’s wife Jan, said the following about their experience of starting to pray together:
“Once we started praying together, Dave’s objections simply went away. He found it wasn’t as scary as he had thought. The key for us was to begin in a very simple way. When we asked one couple how they got started praying together, they said, ‘We just opened our mouths and said, ‘Dear Heavenly Father…’ At first, it seemed like they had missed the point of our question, but as we reflected on their response, we realized they were right on: keep it simple —just open your mouth and start.”
RISKING BEING SPIRITUALLY NAKED
And that’s what we found for us. Sometimes it is the anticipation of what is expected of each of us that can get in the way. Sometimes it’s just better to dive in and work the details out later (if there are any). If a husband and wife can’t risk being spiritually naked in front of each other, there’s a deeper marriage problem going. And in that case, they need prayer all the more!
“The old adage is true: ‘The couple who prays together stays together.’ That’s because prayer itself is such an intimate activity. When you pray not only for, but with someone, you’re agreeing to make yourself vulnerable. As you and your spouse pray together, concerns may arise that otherwise could become big issues and cause division in your relationship down the road.
“Natalia and Jamie discovered that truth when they decided to spend brief daily prayer times together. ‘Jamie and I always prayed over our food,’ Natalia admitted, ‘and sometimes we prayed together for other people’s needs. But it wasn’t until we began to pray directly for and with each other that I was able to reveal to my husband how I felt about myself. …and the past he knew nothing about. Praying together was the most important step we’ve taken in our marriage. It helped us work through our backgrounds and make us stronger as individuals and as a couple.’” (Ramona Cramer Tucker, the Todayschristianwoman.com article “Making a Connection”)
PRAYING OVER IMPORTANT MATTERS
In the book When Couples Pray, author Cheri Fuller, shares of a time when she and her husband had some very important decisions to make together that had previously caused problems in their relationship. They made a point of praying together over the matter. And God answered their prayers in some wonderful ways. She writes,
“But God’s direct answer to our prayer, wonderful as it was, was not the most important result of our praying together. Even more precious to us was that our hearts began to be knit together through the incredible closeness we felt as we prayed to our Father.
“Without a counselor to tell us what was wrong, God Himself began to heal our marriage. And with every prayer we prayed together, Jesus became that third strand of a braided cord, binding us tightly together and giving us strength. With this increased spiritual bonding came emotional intimacy. The heart-to-heart connection with my husband that I had desired for so long slowly began to become a reality.”
PRAYER KNITS HEARTS TOGETHER
Cheri writes how, in the many years since their first times of praying together, God has knit their hearts together:
“My husband and I have discovered a special, heart-to-heart connection that is only available through prayer and spiritual interaction. When we’re fresh out of love and patience with each other, God has an inexhaustible supply of each, ready and waiting for us to ask.
“God has taught us a lot through simple prayers uttered over coffee or at our kids’ besides. And although we’ve seen Him work in our lives and our children’s lives over and over as we’ve prayed, we still have not arrived. We are still whispering, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ And we’re still finding that He loves to show us more!”
And that’s what my husband Steve and I have found as well. Praying together bonds us in ways that we might not normally have experienced any other way. For one, we’ve found that we can’t pray together and still be mad at each other. It doesn’t make for a very sincere time of petitioning the Lord when our own hearts are not united.
PRAYER IS A GIFT LEFT AT THE ALTAR
I’m reminded of the scripture that says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift“ (Matthew 5:23-24). This is a principle that even applies to marriage.
So my husband and I know that if for no other reason, the next morning when we come together to pray, we need to have some sort of reconciling going on between us. It’s helped us in many ways (besides the Bible verse that tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger), to keep short accounts with each other in how we deal with our negative feelings towards each other.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON PRAYING TOGETHER
To give you additional thoughts and ideas on praying together as husband and wife, we came across several articles on the Internet that we encourage you to read.
The first article is written by Rachael Phillips. She shares something that a lot of us can probably relate to. She writes,
“Consumed with family, patient, and church needs, we both learned to pray. A lot. But not together. It made sense to me that praying together would draw us closer to God and to each other. [My husband] Steve didn’t see it.”
You may or may not be able to relate to this problem, but what’s really amazing is the journey that God took Rachael through to get to the point where they started praying together regularly. She had almost given up hope but, “The Holy Spirit had not.” Here are a few tips Rachael learned about praying with her husband (which she shared in a 2007 Marriage Partnership Magazine article, “Not Tonight, Honey”):
HOW DO WE START?
We married couples work, play, and sleep together. We know each other’s bumps, frumps, and slumps too well! So why does spoken prayer together seem awkward, almost indecent? If you and your spouse feel a little weird, these tips will make your prayer adventure more natural.
“I DON’T DO MORNINGS” BOTTOM LINE.
Choose a daily place and time when you can pray together. Couples who stay up with babies or wait up for teenagers will find late night prayer more reassuring than Leno or Letterman. Others who commute together can pray in the car before driving. Partners able to keep their eyes off the lasagna might practice pre-meal prayers. (Personally, I would pray afterward.)
Youth workers wisely patrol church hallways and prayer services. Their credo: Don’t touch! Years later, married couples may still disconnect the physical from the spiritual. According to Ephesians 5, however, marriage represents Jesus and his church in loving, intimate communication. So hold hands while you pray. Hug each other under the quilts.
DON’T PRAY FOREVER & EVER AMEN.
Keep your sessions short, especially at first. Pray for each other before you name every cousin thrice removed. No one can pray for your spouse like you—and probably no one will. Focus on one issue your spouse will face that day: a difficult client, a dreaded parent-teacher conference, or relatives from outer space. Jesus cares.
LIFE HAPPENS – PRAY ANYWAY.
Steve sometimes interrupts prayer to discuss medications or (eww!) urinalysis results on the phone. We’ve learned to carry on afterward. If we must trim prayer time one day, we pray as usual the next.
“Parents especially must keep a flexible outlook, as babies fuss and small children may invade their prayer space. Jesus isn’t nervous. Snuggle up and include them for a minute or two. Your kids need to know you pray for each other and for them.
FORGIVE YOUR SPOUSE.
No human prayer is perfect. Our attention drifts. Like Jesus’ disciples, we ask his help in learning to pray—and we help each other. When Steve appears comatose amidst my praise and petitions, I tap his ribs. When I nod off and bless dinosaurs aloud, he applies a gentle elbow.
“Fortunately, Romans 8:26-27 declares the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Our tired, distracted circle of two becomes a holy circle of three: thee, me, and God. And God never falls asleep.”
THE SAME IS TRUE FOR US.
My husband and I have found the same thing to be true for our marriage, and surprisingly, for a lot of the same reasons.
To learn what Dennis, his wife Barbara, and Steve and I have discovered about prayer, please visit Crosswalk.com to read “PRAYER: The Secret to a Lasting Marriage”.
FRESH & SEASONED PERSPECTIVES ON PRAYING TOGETHER
Tobi Layton (married 8 years) and Deborah Raney (married 35 years) give both “fresh” and “seasoned” perspectives concerning praying as a married couple (and challenge you with discussion questions on the subject as well) in the article, “MARRIAGE PERSPECTIVES: Pursuing God as a Couple”, which you can read by visiting Crosswalk.com.
But above all, it’s like what Evelyn Christenson said,
“Praying together is like riding a bike. You can read how to do it or have someone else tell you; but until you try it yourself, you’ll never learn how to do it.”
And we sincerely hope you will!
Here’s a closing thought given by Kathleen Groom, from an article she wrote titled, “What’s Your Best Advice for Newlyweds?”
“Nightly, I used to lie in bed waiting for my husband to initiate prayer. When he didn’t, I wrestled with whether or not I should do it, since I desired my husband to be our spiritual leader. A friend shared an idea that works beautifully, and we’ve been praying together regularly ever since. My husband initiates prayer on odd days of the month, and I begin our prayer times on the even days. Now when we crawl into bed, the first words we often speak are ‘What day is it?’ followed by ‘Dear Lord …’” (Today’s Christian Woman, May/June 2006 issue)
DAILY PRAYER STARTERS
**INCLUDES WRITTEN-OUT ALTERNATIVE FOR THOSE JUST LEARNING TO DO THIS**
Take a moment to thank God for prayer – the opportunity to have open communication with him. Ask God to open the lines of communication with your spouse, so that your marriage will experience great sharing, listening, and understanding.
“Dear Heavenly Father, Help my spouse and me to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Help us listen to understand and speak to be understood. Give us patience and self-control, especially when we face conflict. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Take a moment to thank God for what your spouse brings to the relationship through their work and responsibilities. Their job, their parenting, their help around the house. And pray for any challenges they may be facing in those areas.
“Lord, I thank you for my wife. Thank you for all the work she does to serve and love our family. I pray you will make me into the man she deserves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“Lord, I thank you for my husband. Thank you for the all the work he does to serve and lead our family. I pray you will make me into the woman he deserves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Marriage decisions can be difficult. Ask God to help you and your spouse with any upcoming decisions or challenges you face. They could be related to work, school, vacation, finances, children, even where to have your next Date Night.
“Dear Heavenly Father, the Bible says anyone who lacks wisdom should ask you and you will provide it. Help my spouse and I to make wise decisions about (fill in the blank). In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Think back to when you first met your spouse. What attracted you to them, when did you know they were the one you wanted to spend your life with? Thank God out loud for what you love most about your spouse, and what you want most FOR them for the future. Ask God to help you be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader.
“Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the ways my spouse exceeds my expectations. (Give a recent example.) Help me to have realistic expectations for my spouse, and help me to exceed their expectations of me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Pray for your spouse’s relationship with God. Pray they will experience the love, acceptance, forgiveness, and strength that comes from knowing Jesus as Savior.
“Dear Heavenly Father, Teach us to pray together. Help us overcome the fear and anxiousness that sometimes comes with praying out loud. Bring us closer to you and each other. Help my spouse to experience the life Jesus wants for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen”
Take a moment to think about your love languages. How has your spouse loved you this week in your language? Thank God for that. How could you love your spouse in their language this week? Ask God for help with that.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I know my spouse’s love language is (fill in the blank). Thank you for creating them so uniquely. Help me to find ways each and every day to speak love into their lives in their love language. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Ask God to help you and your spouse provide each other rest throughout the week. How can your spouse look to you as a safe harbor from the stress of the world around you?
“Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for times of rest in our week. Help us to slow down and remember you, and to take rest. Help me be a safe person for my spouse to talk to, someone who listens and cares and has their back. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
You can find a printable version of this article here.