Over time, the stress and distractions of day-to-day life can gradually cause couples to lose sight of each other. Unintentionally, we allow intimacy to take a backseat. (Think cordial “roommates” with solo lives.)
But it needn’t be that way. There is, perhaps, nothing more revealing and intimate than praying together. In prayer, we humbly pour out our lives before God. When you do this with your mate, you both get to listen and learn each other’s deepest yearnings, concerns and priorities. Want to know what’s really going on inside your mate’s heart and mind? Pay close attention to what he or she discusses with God.
As a therapist and ordained minister, I’ve seen the simple habit of praying together enhance countless relationships. Couples of all faiths who share devotional time tend to view themselves as a team. They are less likely to overprioritize their individual rights, preferences and concerns.
My wife and I have experienced this firsthand. Soon after we were married 31 years ago, Aladrian and I committed to starting each day with a few minutes of prayer and Scripture reading. I am grateful we did. Months later, a conflict between us brought on a season of anger, frustration and strained communication. Surprisingly, it never crossed our minds to discontinue our morning ritual during those dark days. In fact, our devotion time became the only way we could count on keeping communication flowing when we might have opted for silence. Praying together forced us to focus on each other, and it reminded us of God’s interests in our marriage. Not only did we make it through that crisis, but we also got better at working through drama without disconnecting from each other.
In more than 20 years of counseling thousands of couples, I’ve never encountered one opposed to the idea of praying together. Why is it, then, that most couples don’t actually do it? One key reason is fear of failure. That anxiety is rooted in a hidden belief that God and/or your mate will judge your style, vocabulary—and the length of your prayer—as inadequate. If you can relate, it’s not the praying that needs to be discarded, it’s that distorted perception of God. Remember, prayer, at its most basic level, is simply talking to someone who knows and loves you more than anyone does. And as with any other dear friend, if you start talking regularly, the communication deepens. More tips for getting started:
1 KEEP IT SIMPLE. Focus on consistency more than quality.
2 BE PATIENT with yourself and with your partner.
3 LET GO OF LIMITS. You are boldly coming to one who loves you deeply and who is able to meet with abundance and exceeding grace all you could ever ask for.
4 EXPRESS YOURSELVES with gratitude, hon-
est confession of sins, pray-ers for healing, specific requests for your mate and your relationship, worship and adoration and whatever else either of you chooses.
5 PRAY IN SILENCE, IF YOU PREFER. Unspoken prayers are a fine way to establish the habit of shared devotions. I love this advice from David and Jan Stoop, authors of When Couples Pray Together (Regal Books): “First, sit down together and hold hands.” Once the vital connection from physical touch is established, they direct couples to “talk together about some of your mutual concerns.” Then, as you finish the conversation, one of you can suggest that you both cover the issues in silent prayer together. “Whoever finishes first should squeeze his or her partner’s hand as a way of saying, ‘I’ve finished,’” advise the Stoops. “When the other person finishes, he or she squeezes back. Congratulations to you both! You’ve just prayed together.”
6 DON’T USE PRAYER TO DEFEND OR JUSTIFY YOURSELF against a gripe your partner has with you (“Lord, I’m so glad you know how hard I’m trying in this marriage, even if she never gives me any credit for it …”)
7 AVOID ALSO THE TEMPTATION to use your prayers to criticize, complain or “straighten out” your mate (“God, please show my husband how selfish and insensitive he is …”).
8 RECOGNIZE INSTEAD THAT THIS KIND OF PRAYING may indicate avoidance of a necessary-yet-sensitive discussion. Apologize for the spiritual manipulation, and schedule a time to talk. Pray for God’s help before and after that conversation.