In our early dating days, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I liked to wander into a little church in Chicago, to sit in the light of the stained glass windows together and take time to pray. We loved this church, with its grand sweeping sanctuary and gothic arches; it was easy to feel in awe of God in the midst of such ornate beauty. The church is right on Michigan Avenue, the bustling shopping district downtown, but once you stepped inside the sanctuary, everything was calm. It was this little pocket of quiet right in the midst of the city. We decided to make a habit of praying together there every Friday, after each crazy week of schoolwork, to pause, sit in the presence of God, and seek Him together.It was not easy at first to be so transparent with each other, but it soon became one of our favorite parts of the week. We both felt that by praying together we were positioning ourselves and our relationship where it needed to be: in God’s hands.
I learned about Zach listening to him pray, I liked how he talked to our Father with reverence but without pretense. He didn’t feel the need to use impressive vocabulary; he was sincere. And I learned about God when Zach prayed, as he praised God’s unique workings and character in ways I had never thought about before. After a few weeks of praying together at the church, I knew Zach was someone I could trust to lead me spiritually, something I was looking for.
Unfortunately, where married life has brought us, we don’t have a cathedral on hand or unscheduled spans of time where we can drop everything and get on our knees. It’s harder now to carve out the time and find the motivation to pray together, but I suppose that’s the nature of spiritual disciplines: you have to discipline yourself to do it, but once you establish the habit, you experience rich rewards.
And the rewards are many! Spiritually, your marriage is focused and centered on Christ when you pray reguarly together, and relationally, your marriage is significantly strengthened. When you listen to your spouse conversing with God, you develop respect for him/her and cultivate emotional intimacy with each other. Praying together allows the two of you to feel united as you seek life direction and God’s will in your decisionmaking. It’s also harder to stay mad at each other when you pray together! You’ve probably heard the saying, “The couple who prays together stays together,” and statistics prove this. Father Jonathan Morris recently reported that only .3% of couples who pray together get divorced, in constrast to the widely reported statistic that 50% of marriages today end in divorce.
The first year or the early years of marriage are the time to start establishing the practice of praying together, so that you will continue in years to come. Praying together is a discipline, it won’t just happen all by itself without being intentional and mutual commitment. It will not always be easy to bare your soul to God before your spouse, and you will not always feel like praying out loud together. In our premarital counseling, Zach confessed that one of the most intimidating things about getting married to him was the fact that he was somehow supposed to be a “spiritual leader” in our marriage. Praying together can be intimidating or uncomfortable, but few things strengthen our relationship with our spouse and our relationship with God more than seeking Him together. Here are some practical considerations as you begin praying together.
- Talk About Expectations: Do you expect your husband to take the lead in your spiritual growth as a couple? Do you want to switch off with your wife as you pray before meals? How often do you want to pray together, what should this time look like, and how long should it last? Sit down with your spouse and have an honest conversation about what you hope for in your prayer time; this open communication will help you to avoid the cycle of missed expectations, disappointment, and resentment of each other.
- Try New Things and Find Out What Works for You: Don’t fall into thinking there’s only one way to pray together as a couple. You and your spouse are unique and have your own needs and preferences, so take time to find out what works for you. Maybe you don’t like praying out loud, so you keep a prayer journal together instead, or you pray silently before ending in prayer together. As part of his wedding present, I gave my husband a daily devotional book based on the liturgical year for us to work through together. But we are both visually-oriented, and found it hard to focus when one of us read the devotion out loud and the other merely listened. So we decided to switch gears and read the devotion separately as we each had time, and then we would discuss what we learned together.
- Set Reasonable Goals: When you’ve discovered what works for you, try to set reachable goals for yourselves. Establishing a regular routine, such as praying together every night before bed or Sundays after church, can help you stay consistent. If you both know when it’s time to pray together, it’s easier to initiate it and remind each other.
- Don’t Guilt Youself or Your Spouse: There will be times when you don’t meet your goals, when something comes up and you miss your prayer time together. When this happens, avoid fostering a mindset of guilt. Neither of you are perfect, and you need to be patient with each other. Don’t blame your spouse or focus on his/her faults in the matter, just start over the next day and keep going. It takes time to establish a consistent routine.
- Lay Down Your Cares and Concerns Together as You Pray: Phillippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Praying with your spouse is a way to present your concerns to God, so pray practically. Pray for your relationship to strengthen and thrive, job decisions, financial worries, personal attitude adjustments, or other everyday needs. You don’t have to deliver a doxology every time you pray; just be honest before your spouse and before God about what’s on your heart. You will draw closer to each other as you express your shared anxieties or needs, as your put yourself on the same page before the Throne of God.
1 Peter 3:7 has a beautiful expression of a husband and wife’s standing before the Father, calling them “heirs together of the grace of life.” When a couple prays together, they are invoking God’s grace together in their lives and marriage, and they are practically living out the eternal reality that a marriage was created to be composed of three: the husband, the wife, and God.