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It was our first year of marriage and Raquel asked the same question she had posed many times before: “Do you want to pray and read some Scripture together tonight?” I said yes, but she knew I didn’t mean it.
It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to pray with her. We just had mismatched desires for spiritual intimacy. She wanted extended Bible study and prayer, and she wanted it all of the time. I just wanted to get it over with and go to sleep. She wasn’t having it.
I would say goodnight and reach over to turn off the lamp, hoping she would forget our scheduled prayer time. Nope.
“Joshua,” she would say with a hint of irritation in her voice, “you said we were going to pray and read the Bible together.”
“Oh yeah — it’s kind of late though.”
“Joshua, we never pray together. We have to make this a priority. Go ahead and pray.”
Rather than pray, I would complain about her pushiness and she would respond by complaining about my sorry attitude. Eventually I would force out a prayer, which I seriously doubt got past the ceiling, and that was that.
We didn’t fare much better with trying to read the Bible together.
“Why don’t you pick out a passage for us?” Raquel would prompt me.
“OK,” I’d say, throwing my Bible open and picking a random passage from the Psalms or the Gospels. Raquel would criticize my patent carelessness and I would criticize her for having a critical spirit. We’d both end up going to bed dissatisfied: She felt like I didn’t care; I felt like she wanted me to be someone I wasn’t.
Despite the tension, Raquel and I never stopped trying, and our efforts to connect with God over the years began maturing into something I would’ve never imagined during the early days of marriage. I think a lot of it had to do with going through hard times together.
We had an inordinately large number of stressful events over the years that left us feeling crushed and confused. We began using Scripture passages as our guide for prayers, sitting in silence before God, or just begging for breakthroughs. What we didn’t realize was God was providing a breakthrough we hadn’t even asked for: He was making us spiritually intimate in a way that we would’ve never experienced otherwise.
Maybe you and your spouse can relate to going through the heartache that comes with facing life together, but you can’t relate to walking through those times in prayer. That’s OK. There’s never a better time to start than now.
God loves to be with us when we pray, and He’s not looking for a performance. He’s calling to us and saying, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). And while we can connect to Him as individuals, I think it’s a special pleasure to Him when a husband and wife meet with Him in prayer. A lot of couples just need some help knowing where to start.
Here’s what I suggest: Just do it. Pray quick prayers. Pray when you’re too tired to do it. Pray when you’re mad at each other (especially when you’re mad at each other). Pray before you eat and when you go to sleep. Pray long prayers or short prayers — it’s not words or the length of the prayers that matter; it’s the fact that the two of you are directing your needs to your heavenly Father.
And don’t feel bad if your prayer life feels bland. When Raquel and I began our journey of learning to pray together, the vast majority of the time I was just saying a lot of words and hoping that it was somehow meaningful to God. But we were consistently praying before we ate, praying before we went to sleep, and asking God for little things like helping us find our keys. Sometimes we had sweet times of prayer, but those felt like the exception. And you know what? That was OK — we were drawing near to God, He was drawing near to us, and our relationship with each other (and Him) was getting stronger.
Praying together used to be one of our greatest weaknesses as a couple, and although we’ve still got a long way to go, God keeps taking the little we have to offer Him and multiplying into more than we could’ve imagined, “for [His] power is made perfect in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). So don’t be discouraged by your spiritual weakness as a couple — it’s the greatest asset you have in the journey to becoming spiritually intimate.
This post is adapted from my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man: Finding God in the Messiness of Marriage.” If you’d like to learn more about how to be spiritually intimate as a couple, get the book and check out the chapter “Prayer Pressure.”