The first year my husband Mike and I were married, we prayed together mainly at meals. Our praying was basically at the ceremonial level, filled with clichés and trite phrases. I guess we did it more out of obligation or habit, rather than from heartfelt devotion. Occasionally, we would stammer through a deeper prayer when we had a problem or big decision to make, but it was rare and mostly reserved for emergencies.

At that time, deep and worshipful prayer was something that was hard for me to do alone, much less with my new husband. Praying out loud with Mike felt awkward and a bit too close. Honestly, as two people begin the process of joining their lives together, many things initially feel uncomfortable and take time to develop.

Why It’s Important

Praying together opens us to each other on a spiritual level, to a place that can be intensely private. While this can initially feel clumsy and revealing, it is important to do. I believe marriage is about two people becoming one. Becoming one in a marriage occurs on several levels: body, soul and spirit. It’s important in becoming one to share not only our physical and emotional lives, but our spiritual life as well.

Praying together is literally sharing our personal relationship with God, with each other. In prayer we share our deep desires, struggles, victories and hope. This type of sharing bonds a marriage together. It is like spiritual glue that cements a deep and lasting connection.

Over the last 26 years of marriage, I have learned the value of praying together. I believe God honors it. Joint prayer takes effort and sometimes we have neglected it and other times we have clung to it daily. I have learned some things during the years that I wish I had known earlier – it would have made developing a prayer life together much easier.

Mistakes We Made

1. Using prayer as a time to teach my spouse. It is not a time to list helpful hints or have a theology lesson. It is a real conversation with a real God. I often made the mistake of putting in a little comment that I thought Mike needed to hear, but this is fairly obvious and counter productive to oneness as well as to the purpose of prayer.

2. Using “churchy” phrases or clichés. I believe prayer should be a communication from the heart, not a repetition. This prevents prayer from becoming a ritual and keeps it meaningful and real.

3. Saying long, unfocused prayers. Marathon, rambling prayers make it difficult for the other spouse to stay focused and can discourage praying together. Sometimes I would go on and on instead of being sensitive to Mike. Selfishly, I didn’t always leave him enough opportunity to chime in or agree. No one spouse should dominate the prayer time – being wordy can do this. Prayer is a time for a couple to share mutually with God and one another.

4. Not expressing gratitude. Thanking God together for what He has done helps us adopt an attitude of thankfulness. Acknowledging answered prayer and God’s provision gives us further purpose to pray. This opens up conversations that are positive and healthy: recalling together the things that the Lord has done, as a couple.

5. Not praising God for who He is. This helps center thoughts on Christ and away from distractions. All prayer should contain praise, but sometimes we go right past praise to what we want God to do for us. It is important for a couple to praise and worship God together. This makes Him become our God and it becomes our faith, rather than yours and mine.

6. Assuming you know what your spouse needs prayer about. I made too many assumptions. Comically, I thought I knew exactly what he needed! Instead, I should have asked what his concerns and needs were and why these things were important to him. This is true sharing. It helps us know each other and understand each other on a deeper level. It helps us define and communicate our needs to each other and to the Lord.

7. Not praying together for the marriage. There is something humbling and honest when you pray for God’s help with your marriage in front of your spouse. It shows that you know you are not the perfect wife or husband. Prayer invites God’s power and presence into the marriage. It gives us a chance to acknowledge the gift that our spouse is to us and to ask for the grace to appreciate them more.

Looking back, I can see that God used prayer to draw us closer to Him as well as to each other. In praying together, the initial awkwardness has evaporated and a comfortable freedom has emerged. I guess that is the gift of growing together in our faith on the spiritual level. It has been my great discovery to find that growing closer to God somehow helps me grow closer and love others more, starting with my husband.

What about you? Do you find praying with your spouse difficult? What things do you wish that you had known about prayer earlier in life? How could these same principles apply to praying with children or friends, with a group or with the elderly?

[Image via Irina Patrascu/Flickr]