One reason that more couples do not pray together is that they do not understand how essential prayer is to a godly and joyful marriage. Tim Keller writes about studying prayer in the Psalms. His research helped to prepare him for challenges after 9/11 that he would face as a pastor in New York and also for family trials. Tim's wife Kathy was suffering from the effects of Crohn's disease and Keller himself was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. (1).
Keller writes: "At one point during all this, my wife urged me to do something with her we had never been able to muster the self-discipline to do regularly. She asked me to pray with her every night. Every night." Kathy urged her husband "if we don't pray together to God, we're not going to make it because of all we are facing. I'm certainly not. We have to pray, we can't let it just slip our minds." (2).
For both of us the penny dropped; we realized the seriousness of the issue, and we admitted that anything that was truly a nonnegotiable necessity was something we could do. That was more than twelve years ago, and Kathy and I can't remember missing a single evening of praying together, at least by phone, even when we've been apart in different hemispheres. (3)Kathy Keller, in the midst trials, knew, what many of us fail to see, that without prayer we are not going to make it. At least, we are not going to make it in a joyful, productive, Christ-exalting and marriage-building way. Prayer is God's chosen means to imprint his character upon our hearts. It is also his way of providing enabling grace for every trial and windfall.
The Song of Solomon does not directly reference prayer. However, it does illustrate the importance of tenderly loving one's spouse. To the woman, her husband was the one "whom my soul loves." (3:1). For the husband his wife was "my love." (4:1) Marriage is about Jesus and his love relationship with his church. Jesus prayed for his church: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17) Later the apostle Paul wrote: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." (Ephesians 5:25-26) It is obvious in Scripture that when one loves another, they will pray for them.
Let me ask you again. Do you pray for your spouse? Do they know? Do you pray with your spouse? If you really believe that you are not going to make it, in the way God intended, unless you pray for one another, then you will pray.
1. Stop what you are doing and pray for your spouse.
2. Tell your beloved that you are committed to praying for him/her each day.
3. Ask your spouse if he/she will pray with you before retiring to bed at night.
4. If they say yes, pray with them. If they say no, still pray for them and for your marriage.
Question from wives: Is it ok for me to ask my husband to pray with me? Yes, of course. A Christian husband should not mind you asking and, though he may feel inadequate for some reason, he will ultimately not mind praying with you. Be patient, kind, sensitive, and encouraging.
Another Question from wives: Is it ok for me to lead prayer if my husband does not want to pray, or if my husband simply wants me to sometimes lead the prayer, or if my husband is not a Christian? Some women feel as if they are never to initiate intimacy, Bible reading, or prayer. If your attitude is godly, humble, and submissive, then there is no reason why you cannot lead the prayer, on occasion. Certainly husbands are to lead their wives in all things, but that does not mean that wives are to be passive regarding practicing spiritual disciplines in the family. In many marriages both husband and wife pray together each morning and/or evening. If your husband is not a Christian then ask him if you can pray with him (and you lead the prayer) regularly. It is interesting to note in The Song of Solomon, that the lady speaks more than the man. She is portrayed as sometimes initiating physical intimacy. She is not afraid to make her requests known to her husband concerning her desires. While a wife should never attempt to usurp her husband's authority in the home, there is no reason why she should not be actively engaged is promoting spiritual disciplines in her home.
Now, I have to be honest, confess, and make some changes in my marriage. I pray for my wife. I pray with my wife during family worship times and meal-time blessings. However, I rarely pray with my wife--just the two of us. Three ways that I will love my wife today: 1. I will pray for her. 2. I will tell her that I prayed for her. 3. Before we go to bed tonight, I will pray with her.
One more thing. Be biblical and be brief. Use the Bible (especially Psalms to help you to pray) and offer up a simple prayer to God for your spouse, your marriage, and your family.
1. Tim Keller, Prayer. (New York: Penguin, 2014), 9.
2. IBID., 10.
Ray Rhodes is President of Nourished in the Word Ministries.