Challenges, Communication, Podcast, Priorities

How Do I Pray with My Spouse? (Part 1)

Nothing changes our hearts like praying with the living God! In this episode we talk about the why, when, and how of prayer, particularly for married couples and spouses praying for one another.

Readers often ask the question “How do I pray with my spouse?” Here is a quick look at what prayer is (why we pray), when to pray, and how to start. As usual, this is taken from our personal experience and growth in this area. We are still learning and have much room for growth. Heads up: I thought this would be a short post, but there’s just too much to cover. Therefore, the topic is broken into two parts: why, when (part 1) and how (part 2). Read the second part here.

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First, a Confession

Honestly, I struggle with praying. I find myself checking my phone first thing when I wake up when I should be consulting with God and bringing myself to Him before anything else. God has been convicting me (deeply) in this area, and I’m still far from where He wants me to be. By His grace I’m aware of it! And by His grace I can be transformed in this area.

Just know that as you read my words, I’m writing them to myself as well.

1: Why do I pray with my spouse?

The short answer for why we pray is “because God commands it” (see #4 below). That truth should be enough to convince us! It’s also helpful to recognize that God commands it for good reasons.

Reason 1: Need

We fail to pray when we fail to recognize our need. We don’t pray to God because we think we don’t need God. This rings especially true in marriage for those of us who are doers and fixers. (*Raises hand.) If that’s you too, let this be a warning. Lacking a prayer life is perhaps the clearest indicator that we’re living by our own strength and by our flesh.

When we recognize our need (even our need for more need), then we begin to pray. We plead with God—first for more of Him, and second for more of His active help and intervention in our lives. Prayer is a core part of the Christian life; naturally it should extend to our most intimate relationship: marriage!

Reason 2: Unity

To some couples, praying together is a foreign concept. Selena and I have found it to be both essential and enjoyable. When we pray together, we metaphorically and physically align ourselves, and place our entire focus on God. Prayer unites us in purpose as we express thanks to God, seek His face, bring our concerns to Him, and ask Him for guidance.

I would contend that praying with and for each other is one of the best ways for a couple to be united, to feel closer, and to have deeper compassion for each other.

Prayer is one expression of Christian friendship. Henri Nouwen writes,

“A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer…With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.”

Reason 3: Submission

Consider this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” When we pray to God in this way, we are saying to him, “Your plan is better, your ways are higher, and I need to align my heart with you.” What could be more liberating than reminding our hearts that God is in control and that we aren’t??

Submission gets a bad wrap, but it’s truly a gift to be able to submit to a loving, perfect, holy, and glorious King. Praying to him is our ultimate opportunity to express trust and devotion to God, and doing so alongside each other in marriage is the straightest route toward agreement in everything that matters.

Reason 4: Obedience

To put it bluntly, God tells us to pray so we should. (He’s King, remember, and we’re not!) Plus, we flourish most when we obey God most—it’s just the way things work. In lieu of expounding more, let’s just defer to the Bible:

Matthew 6:9-13
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:17
pray continually;

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 John 3:22
And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

And many, many more… 

2: When should I pray with my spouse?

We get asked this more than I would have anticipated. Folks asking aren’t wondering about the time or day to pray, but rather “on what occasion” is it appropriate to pray together. The usual concerns include:

  • It’s hard to pray when he/she won’t initiate or participate
  • It feels awkward and I don’t like it
  • My husband/wife is a nonbeliever
  • I feel like our prayers are too shallow
  • Every time we start building a habit, we fail to keep it up

Each of the above concerns are very real. Praying can be tough—it grates against our flesh, it takes faith to trust that God hears and acts, and praying out loud reminds us how bad we can be at articulating our own thoughts and feelings. I get it, but let me encourage you.

The question of ‘when’ to pray is best answered by revisiting ‘why’ we pray. When should you pray? ANy time you need God. When do you need God? all the time. So, we ‘pray continually’ because we need God more than we need air. That’s our starting place.

Now, when to functionally pray with your spouse has to do with your family culture and marriage dynamics. For most people reading this blog, it will be primarily a function of setting up new habits and rhythms to simply remind you to do it. For others, it could take more effort. In an effort to be practical, I’ll address each concern above briefly below:

  • It’s hard to pray when he/she won’t initiate or participate
    Initiate as often as necessary. The objective is to talk to God together, so do what it takes. If your spouse doesn’t want to participate, pray anyway by yourself, and pray that God would soften his/her heart toward him and toward prayer.
  • It feels awkward and I don’t like it
    Prayer usually feels awkward because we are fear man (others, ourselves) more than we fear God. Remember whom your talking to: the living God! Boldness gets easier the more you do it and the more accurately you see God’s character. Fight through the frustration, trusting that prayer is a worthy habit.
  • My husband/wife is a nonbeliever
    Invite him/her to pray with you in a welcoming, non-judgemental way. If they refuse, still pray. Remember, it’s not up to you to change their heart toward God or about prayer. It’s your job to need God and to go to him, so do so with confidence.
  • I feel like our prayers are too shallow
    If your kids aren’t sophisticated enough when they talk to you do you tell them to shut up? Probably not (I hope not). Just talk to your loving Father! The more you do it the more you will bring deeper desires up and lay them at his throne.
  • Every time we start building a habit, we fail to keep it up
    Try, try again. Prayer is worth fighting for. Breaking a habit of self-reliance is a lifelong struggle, so never give up and go with God’s grace surrounding you. He loves you no matter how many times you have to restart.

Conclusion

As we can see, there’s tons of evidence illustrating the importance of prayer in the life of a Christ follower. It’s a natural conclusion to think that prayer, therefore, must be part of our marriages. The question still remains: “How do I pray with my spouse?”

In my next post, I’ll answer the “how” question the best I can. I’ll take a closer look at Jesus’ example of prayer. I will also illustrate some key components of prayer Selena and I have found beneficial. Lastly, part 2 of “How do I pray with my spouse?” will conclude with a starter prayer that I hope will get you and your spouse headed toward a healthy prayer life together.

Question: Do you pray with your spouse? What types of things do you pray for together?


Resource: The 40-Day Prayer Journey

Prayer is your first and most powerful weapon when fighting for your marriage and contending for each other.

Our ability to pray is one of God’s most radical, life-changing gifts. We have been given free access to the eternal God of the universe! What could happen if we diligently and consistently sought God’s heart for our spouses? How different would our marriages be? With this bundle you will:

  • Pray Scripture over specific needs in your spouse’s heart
  • Experience the joy and challenge of a consistent prayer life
  • Learn to see your spouse through the lens of God’s Word
  • Grow as you journal and watch God move in your marriage

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