That's actually an old joke we learned from a church-planter. While serving as part of a core group to help to plant a Church in the northern suburbs of Chicago in the late 80's we often faced problems and challenges. Often, after talking about what to do for awhile, the pastor would quip, "Do you think its bad enough that we ought to pray?" You get the joke, right? It would be good to make prayer a first thing and not an afterthought.
I'll let you in on a little secret. Jill and I work really hard to keep a relational connection in the midst of marriage ministry. Emotional and physical closeness aren't a given. We have to make time to connect, not just to communicate a huge volume of information about the couples we serve and events we get to do, but to just be husband and wife in an ever evolving relationship. And there's nothing as good as prayer to connect (and to repair us).
After taping a promo for an upcoming event yesterday morning we were both spent. Not a good thing to begin the day mentally exhausted, but not surprising, because public speaking (and taping) requires a great deal of energy and concentration. It was 1045am, and we both faced a day of appointments that wouldn't end until 930pm. "What can we do to connect, and to refresh, as well as to get centered on the priorities of the day?" Let's pray!
So we did, and it was really good. No, it's not the first time we've prayed together, but its the first time in awhile that we intentionally invested in a comprehensive kind of praying; the kind where we go back and forth until everything is covered. Not that we're legalistic about checking off everything that needs to be prayed about, but the kind where the more you pray the more you want to say, because it feels so good to get it off your chest, to give it to God, to share it with your partner, to bless them . . . and last but not least to connect with our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, Lord, Brother, Friend, Comforter, Wonderful Counselor and so much more! (I wish I had words to describe Him!)
Jill began, I took a turn, and she ended by filling in some blanks. We looked up and the world (and our day looked different). We felt different too. Cleansed, relieved, at peace . . . and close. Of course! Close! Why?
Prayer aloud as a couple fulfills one of the essential requirements for relational intimacy: Emotional Openness. To the extent that we confide intimate thoughts and feelings during prayer, we grow close to God (Him to Us), and to each other. We bring forth deep concerns, joys, puzzles, desires and more to the ears and hands of Him who knows us, loves us and guides us. And we become better known by our partner.
Did I mention that this is something we recommend?
Its stunning to discover how many couples have difficulty praying together. But not surprising, given the potential potency of spiritual intimacy with God and each other that results. Could there be Spiritual pressure against it? (that's a polite way of saying spiritual warfare). Is there something about prayer that the enemy might want to frustrate it for couples? This is a topic for an entirely different entry, so I'll get to my challenge (to myself and to you).
Where are you as a couple with prayer? If its regular fare in your relationship, then we simply suggest you ask God to show you how He might like to grow it and protect it (i.e., make time for it). Then, on the other end of the continuum, you might not have ever done it. Don't worry, and don't be ashamed. But there's no time like the present to get started.
Here are a couple of tips:
- Sit somewhere comfortable and private
- Decide who is going to begin
- Prompt yourself to cover three areas:
- Confess concerns
- Give gratitude
- Ask for outcomes
Is this working for you? Maybe, but maybe not. Entire books have been written about prayer, so I'm not trying to say an authoritative word, but rather to prompt a beginning (or continuation) of an invaluable opportunity to make your marriage more what you want it to be, and to discover together all that God has for you in some simple disciplines.
We would love to hear your responses to this post, and comments/suggestions from your own experience praying as a couple.
Prayerfully, Jeff and Jill