SCH Contributor, Pastor Steve Carr provides expert advice on how prayer can build your marriage and deepen your relationship with the Lord.
Quite often when I counsel couples concerning their marriages, I first try to determine the depth of their spiritual relationship. To do this, I will ask an all important question such as, How often do you pray with your spouse? The response is enlightening because most couples tell me that they very rarely pray together, with the exception of meal-time. Some have declared to me that prayer is of little importance to their relationship. Others acknowledge that prayer is very important to them but they simply fail to do it on any regular basis.
Which do you believe? Is prayer important to your relationship or is it just a formality at meal time? Do you believe that prayer has any real effect on the depth of companionship within your marriage? In reality, whatever you actually do at present in your home is the clearest revelation of what you truly believe regarding prayer.
If you are unsure about the benefits of prayer with your mate, let’s look at how it can actually build your relationship.
1. Prayer unites you spiritually before God. One of the greatest reasons God wants couples to pray together is stated by Jesus when He said, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them . . .” (Matt. 18:19). Prayer naturally brings you into agreement with one another as you hold your petitions before the Lord. In fact, you can’t pray whole-heartedly and in a unified manner without agreeing together. By coming before God you are naturally uniting your hearts for one common end. This unity was the fruit of collective prayer in the early church. When the apostles were persecuted, the believers came together and “raised their voice to God with one accord . . .” (Acts 4:24). The testimony of Scripture reveals that when this group finished praying together that they were “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).
Now is there anything that couples need more than to be of one heart and one soul with each other? How different this attitude is from the independence that many couples experience. However, the agreement indicated in these passages describes a depth of relationship that is truly satisfying. If you desire this level of spiritual unity in your marriage, begin to pray together and watch your oneness grow. This is God’s design for prayer in your marriage.
2. Prayer encourages humility and honesty. Experiencing unity of heart with your mate is not automatic. It requires a special attitude by both partners. Jesus taught that an honest and humble heart was an absolute essential for effective prayer when He told the story of the two men who came to the temple to pray. One man was very self-righteous and ended up praying with only himself because God would not hear him. The other man humbled himself and cried out, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14). Only the second man was received and justified before God, simply because he honestly and humbly confessed his need.
In the same manner, if you want to grow in your prayer life together, it is necessary to honestly bear your soul before your mate as well as before God. As you humble yourself and acknowledge your personal needs before God, you are communicating a special message to your mate. You are declaring that you are open, vulnerable, and sincere. And remember, God gives grace to the humble. All marriages could use God’s grace to smooth off the rough edges.
One of the greatest problems that I observe as a marriage counselor is pride and the refusal to acknowledge any weakness or need to one another. However, praying together is a great way to solve this problem. It’s important for you to remember that your spouse knows you and the problems you face better than anyone else in the world. For you to refuse to pray or to whitewash your problems in prayer only keeps you further from one another and the depth of relationship you long for. Therefore, when you pray together, be honest and humble yourself before God. Allow your spouse to hear you confess your needs openly. You can’t help but be drawn closer together as a result.
3. Prayer develops and deepens your communication. Good communication is a fundamental key to real companionship and prayer is the hand that turns the key to open this door. How does prayer help your communication?
First, read some of the prayers that are recorded in the Bible and notice what happens. Don’t you gain a deeper insight into the heart of the one praying because this person is communicating something honestly from the heart? One such example is when Solomon prayed to the Lord at the dedication of the temple. There were multitudes who heard him that day and who were drawn to an agreement of heart as they heard his communication with God. Scripture declares that when he had finished praying that the people “bowed their faces to the ground . . . and worshiped and praised the Lord” (2 Chron. 7:3). We too are blessed and encouraged because this prayer is recorded for us in Scripture. Our hearts become stirred because Solomon honestly communicated the depth of his soul before God. He declared his humble praise, his faith in God’s great ability, and his commitment to giving God his whole heart. As we read this prayer, it still communicates today a powerful message. We know Solomon’s heart because he communicated it in prayer.
The great thing about prayer is that you say things to the Lord that you would never say to each other in casual conversation. For example, when a woman hears her husband praying earnestly about his situation at work, she may realize, Wow, I had no idea this was such a difficult issue for him. Likewise, when you describe your commitment in prayer to obey and follow Christ, you are communicating to your spouse that he or she can trust that you will be committed to fulfilling all your responsibilities in your marriage too. What a sweet fruit of trust and intimacy this will bear.
Continue reading this encouraging series here: How Can Prayer Build Your Marriage? – Part II
Want more of Pastor Steve? Check out his series What Keeps You From Forgiving Your Spouse?
Click here to learn more on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, www.covenantkeepers.org