I spend a lot of time with women. It’s my vocation, my mission, and it gives me great joy. I am blessed to spend time hearing the stories of women, sharing in their sorrows, and encouraging them in their walk. But wait, this is an article about men. True statement.
When I speak with women, one of the most frequent phrases I hear is, “I wish he’d pray with me.” This statement isn’t a criticism, gentlemen, so don’t stop reading. This statement is spoken deep from a woman’s heart. It’s one of those desires knit in her by her Creator and encouraged by Scripture.
This, kind sirs, is an invitation. Praying in marriage matters.
Many of you know this already. But sometimes, even the things we know require a bit more convincing to make them reality. You will be hard pressed to find a Bible verse that directly references prayer in marriage, or even a Biblical example of a couple praying together. But if we build our understanding from Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, and the wise and foolish builders of Matthew 7, we will see quickly that one of the primary purposes of marriage is intimacy. And one of the primary ways God has designed for us to be intimate with one another is prayer. Jesus prays for us in John 17 that we would remain intimate with Him and He with us in and with the Father and the Spirit.
Think about your relationships and how prayer changes things. When we pray, we share our hearts, our sufferings, and our joys. It gives those that we pray with an internal glimpse of all that matters to us, whether we are praying about our personal needs, about the needs of a friend, or to end social injustices in the world. This is true in corporate prayer and even more so in private prayer between friends. Friends who pray together are likely sharing on a much deeper level than those in friendships that do not involve prayer.
So, how much more true is this in our marriages? She wants you to pray with her not only because this is a work of the Church on earth, but also because she wants to know you and she wants to share all of it—the joy, the suffering, the struggle, the wrestling, the confidence before the throne—with you and with her God. In marriage we are one flesh, united in Him and invited to grow more intimate with each other each day. Prayer offers the opportunity to heal the wounds of arguments, set seemingly unsolvable problems before an everything-is-possible Savior, and rest for a moment from the world.
Okay, so now you’re convinced—“I’d like to pray more with my spouse!”—but getting it done is another story. For all the reasons we talked about above, prayer is also, I’ve discovered, intimidating for people. Sharing your heart, even in confidence before God, is intimidating before others, even our spouse. And frankly, we don’t see it as very manly in our culture. Time to throw all that off. Here are four ways to get started praying together.
- Try holding hands and praying together silently first. I first found this suggestion somewhere on the Internet, many a year ago, as a good way to begin praying together as a couple, and I have seen it work! Sometimes it’s the words we get stuck in, the sharing of prayer that leaves us feeling naked. Throw that excuse off. Start by praying vicariously, without the sharing.
- Write prayers in a notebook and pass it back and forth. This does not need to be fancy or flowery in any way. If your first response is, “I don’t have any pretty words,” try a list format in your notebook. List your kids’ names, your needs at work, friends who are sick, and so on.
- Pray by rote together. There is nothing wrong with the common table prayer, Luther’s Morning or Evening Prayers, or the Lord’s Prayer. They often speak what is in our heart, and there is a reason they have survived through time. They help keep us in the practice of prayer when we ourselves feel incapable. We can take refuge in the Spirit and Christ Himself interceding on our behalf when we have no other words (Romans 8).
- Then, add petitions. You can do it! This is the place where the devil may clobber you with a thousand different reasons to keep your mouth closed, literally. But allow the Spirit to well up in you and push those requests and thanksgivings out in the light. Let the spouse with whom you share your bed, your home, and your children also share your deepest parts with you and your God.
Gentlemen, women are wowed by a man who prays. It sounds superficial, but I promise you it is not. Why? Because this is your testimony to your family. This is your testimony to your wife. Pray from your heart; pray with His Word. This is a gift that will build the intimacy in your marriage like nothing else. It invites Christ into all the rough places, into all the joy filled places, into your relationship and your life.
Deaconess Heidi Goehmann, MSW, LSW, serves as deaconess to ministry wives for Grace Place Wellness Ministries.