As a Christian desiring the best marriage and a close walk with God, you may wonder why you and your spouse don’t have a deeply-connected prayer life together. You say a blessing over the food, and you pray for the missionaries, but you seldom if ever pour out your hearts before God together.
Many counselors suggest that praying together builds intimacy, resolves conflicts, and forges connections. In Scripture, we read pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1), and where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).
With so many reasons to bond strong marriages and with so many reasons to pray, why is it that only 10% of couples claim to experience “spiritual intimacy”?
There may be a valid reason why 90% of even godly couples are not spiritually intimate in prayer together. Since the fall, couples have been hiding, draped in fig leaves, ashamed, fearfully aware of their nakedness before God and each other. Couples in Scripture didn’t pray together. In fact, when couples did find themselves together in the presence of God or holy beings, it didn’t go very well.
Adam hid. At the first chance, he sold out Eve. He was self-conscious. God mercifully intervened.
When God spoke to Abram about Sarah having a baby, Abram couldn’t include her in the conversation because she was laughing too hard. When the three men appeared the next time, Abraham did not invite Sarah to join them in prayer. He invited her to bake up some bread. (The passage suggests that they did finally get together when the Lord reprimanded Sarah for laughing.)
Lot and his wife didn’t do well when angels appeared at their door.
Isaac prayed for his wife, but not with her.
Surely the Psalmist, the man after God’s heart, prayed with one of his wives? Surely, the Proverbs 31 woman prayed with her husband? Silence. No one would question the intimacy of the Song of Solomon lovers, but it doesn’t appear that it was in prayer.
An angel appeared to Sampson’s mother and father separately. Hannah prayed solo. The angel appeared to Mary and Joseph separately. An angel appeared to Zachariah alone, in the temple where Elisabeth could not enter.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and husbands and wives are expecting that they can recover Eden and come naked and unashamed together before God on a regular basis? Okay, you can try; but you will have to pass up the spirituality of Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph, Zachariah and Elisabeth, Hannah, the man after God’s heart, and the Proverbs 31 woman.
So how did we get this idea not only that couples can pray together but that praying together is the mark of a godly marriage? Generally speaking, wives want a greater level of intimacy with their husbands. It’s safe to say that Christian husbands and wives want to honor God in prayer. Somewhere we merged those two goals. In our highly-efficient world, we wanted “to kill two birds with one stone.” We resourcefully joined creating intimacy with a spouse and honoring God in prayer. It works in theory; so why are so few couples kneeling in intimacy before God? I think it has something awful to do with the fall of man and shame and a holy God. Could Hannah have poured out her heart so intimately before God with Elkanah beside her? Do you want to re-live on a daily basis what must have been one of the horrifying moments in history—God finding Adam and Eve in the garden? If God appears to my husband and tells him we’ll have a baby when I’m 90 (or that he’ll quit his job and go into ministry or that we’re cashing in our 401k for an orphanage in Uganda), I’ll gladly miss that conversation and hang out in the kitchen baking bread.
We ought always to pray—wherever and with whomever we are. Prayer is for worship, supplication, and abiding. Prayer in order to create intimacy with a spouse? That’s expecting a lot. Walking with God in the cool of the day didn’t make Adam and Eve naked and unashamed. Because they were naked and unashamed, they could walk with God.
My goal is certainly not to discourage couples from praying together or to give an excuse to quit trying. My goal is to free you from the guilt, the manipulation, the expectations, the one-upping a spouse, and the ulterior motives. Set yourself free from the thinking that something is missing from your marriage because you don’t pray together! Naked and unashamed is only found one time in Scripture. One time. Give yourself permission to embrace the sheepskins that God so mercifully provided to his fallen humanity.
Marie Wellmond is on staff at MarriageHelper.com, an organization that helps saves troubled marriages through an intensive marriage workshop in addition to a powerful video series for marriages who have been hurt by infidelity. Please follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.
Publication date: July 30, 2014