Mark: I confess that praying together is not something Jill and I have always done well. As a pastor, I could pray with just about anyone except my wife. Why is that? Fear of judgment. My own lies in my head. My fear of disappointing and not doing it right. Those are all messages the enemy used to keep me from praying with Jill.
Jill: I’ve always longed for us to pray together, but I wanted Mark to take the lead. He didn’t so we didn’t. I have to own what’s mine. My critical spirit kept him fearing judgment. So we had a cycle we both played into and it kept us paralyzed from praying together.
Mark: On top of that was the “when” and “how” questions. I mean when we had a houseful of kids, when we closed our eyes to pray, we could be out in a heartbeat because of sheer exhaustion. We also didn’t see praying outside of mealtime and bedtime in our families of origin so we didn’t have a role model for the practical side of praying.
Jill: Praying together is normal for us now. It’s almost second nature for us because we’re so comfortable with it. Looking back, we took some baby steps that helped bring us where we are today. If you’re wanting to learn how to pray together, here are some practical next steps to make that happen.
Hold hands every time someone prays.
Get in the habit of reaching out and grabbing hands when someone prays at mealtimes, at church, at a meeting, at a funeral, a wedding…ANYTIME someone prays and you are there. Don’t get caught up on who initiates grabbing hands first. Whoever thinks of it just reaches out and grabs their spouse’s hands. This gets you in the habit of praying together without saying anything. It’s a great way to connect spiritually and physically (married couples don’t hold hands enough!).
Pray in the dark in bed.
There’s something about being in the dark that feels safer than in the light. So reaching out and grabbing your spouse’s hand and praying in bed in the dark can also be a great place to start. Again, don’t get caught up on being the “one who always initiates.” It’s more important that you pray together than to get in an argument over who initiates.
Praying together after sexual intimacy is also a great place to start. Just thanking God for the gift of sex and the opportunity to show love to one physically is a great place to start. It might be both of you who pray or it could just be one of you praying a couple of sentences of gratitude and that’s all.
Stop waiting for the other person to initiate. If you think of it, you initiate.
Are we sounding like a broken record here? Whoever thinks of it, makes the suggestion of praying or just starts praying. Sometimes Mark or I will say, “Let’s pray for the kids today while we walk,” and other times, one of us will just start praying and the other will follow.
Pray “popcorn” style.
When you pray with someone else, it can be helpful if you each just pray a sentence or two (or a complete thought) and then the other person pops in and prays in the same manner. You may popcorn back and forth praying about the same topic until you’ve exhausted that topic. For instance, we were praying for our oldest daughter and her husband a couple of weeks ago as he was facing emergency surgery on his back. Here’s what our popcorn prayer looked like:
Mark: Lord, I lift Matt up to you. He needs your healing touch. Give the doctors wisdom as they do surgery tomorrow.
Jill: Help the doctors to see what they need to see. Guide their hands and their thoughts.
Mark: Lord, give Matt, Anne, and the kids your peace that passes understanding. Help them to express their fears but tackle them with faith.
Jill: Give us wisdom and flexibility Father, to adjust our schedule to take care of the kids. Help us to listen to their fears with compassion and to be fully present while we’re caring for them.
After we exhausted that topic, we moved on to another one. This keeps us both engaged. When the other person is praying, we may even sometimes agree aloud with a simple “Yes Lord,” or “I agree with that” aloud or silently. This keeps us focused on what the other person is praying rather than worrying about what we’re going to say next.
Be comfortable with silence.
Sometimes when you’re praying with another person, there may be a lull in the conversation you’re having with God. That’s okay. Just wait, staying tuned for God to lay something on your heart to pray next. If it seems you’re done praying, one person can close the prayer with “Amen.” (Amen means “so be it” in Hebrew.)
Take your eyes off the other person and put them on God.
Most of us are self-conscious when we pray with other people–even our spouse! That’s because we’re focusing on ourselves rather than focusing on God. Prayer is just talking to God. There are no right words when you talk to God…just talk to Him like you would a friend. Are you afraid to have a conversation with a friend in front of other people? Most of us aren’t. So it helps if we just learn how to talk to God just like we would a friend.
If you’re not comfortable praying alone, that might be a good place to start. Just talk to God while you’re driving, walking, or even cleaning the house! You don’t have to bow your head and close your eyes when you pray. You can pray any time…when you’re sitting in a chair fully focused on Him or while you’re going about your daily routines. Get in the habit of having conversations with Him. Then when you add another person into the mix, it feels more normal for you.
Pray when you walk together.
We have recently been more intentional about prayer walking. When we take a walk together, we popcorn pray as we walk. Sometimes we say, “Let’s pray for the kids today,” or “Let’s pray for the grandkids today.” Other times we’ll say, “Let’s pray for the couples we’re coaching this week,” or “Let’s pray for the prayer requests that came in from the “Life on the Edge of Normal e-Newsletter.” We might pray for wisdom for our time management, our 2020 goals, or talk to God about an issue we need to make a decision on or a situation where we’re not in unity.” Other times, one of us will just start praying for what’s on our heart and we’ll just let God direct us to the people or topics we need to pray about.
When you’re prayer-walking, you obviously don’t close your eyes. You just walk and talk to God together just like you would if you had a third person walking with you. The same guidelines for initiating, handling silence, and popcorning back and forth apply when you’re prayer walking.
Sometimes we individually or together prayer-walk around our home if we’re getting ready to host a three-day marriage intensive. We walk around or through the house several times, asking God for wisdom for the needs of the couple that is coming and setting aside our home for this important time.
You can also pray for your neighborhood by walking through the neighborhood and praying for the people or the homes you walk by.
Pray when you drive together.
Prayer-driving is the same as prayer-walking. You’re just praying together as you drive somewhere. All of the same principles for prayer-walking work for prayer-driving. We do this on both short and long drives.
Push through awkward to get to a new normal.
If you’ve never prayed together, it will feel awkward! It will feel awkward to even bring up the subject. It will feel awkward when you first start praying together. It may feel awkward the first 10 or 20 times you pray together. But stick with it! Every time you do it you will feel a little less awkward and over time you’ll create a new normal for your relationship.
The closer we are to God, the closer we are to each other. Deepening our spiritual and emotional intimacy allows us to feel more connected to each other in marriage. Connection is something we need to be pursuing intentionally no matter how long we’ve been married!
What about you? Do you pray as a couple? Would you add anything to this conversation?
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