Monday, November 30, 2015

The Habits of Marriage: Establishing a Prayer Time

We said last Monday that we wanted to share five good habits for your marriage. A habit should be a regular practice, something you naturally do. While some habits might be developed subconsciously (biting your nails, for example), a good habit usually has to be fostered, developed, cultivated. In short, good habits come from intentional choices we make every day. 

Today I want to post about establishing a prayer time with your spouse. 

For some, this topic might sound challenging. You might think: We’re too busy; our schedules are off—I’m coming when he’s going; and by the time we get to the end of the day, I’m too exhausted to pray. If that’s you—I have some encouragement…

But others of you (wives, especially), might think the idea sounds amazing and spiritual—and now if only I could get my husband to participate, right? 

For our wedding, someone gave us a devotional book for married couples. I thought that sounded fantastic—Yes, let’s do devotions and hold hands and pray together, every. night. forever. 

But, like most of our first few years of marriage, myexpectations were ridiculous and unattainable (even for myself). I had a picture of what spiritual looked like, and we hardly measured up. 

For one, I could never get Howell to lead, no matter how much I nagged. What I didn’t know then is that my husband didn’t lead because I was busy playing boss. What I also didn’t know then is that he felt inadequate to lead because when I “reprimanded” him for being such a “terrible spiritual leader,” I was actually reinforcing what he already believed about himself. 

I thought having a prayer time with your spouse meant hours of praying together, praying in the spirit, pouring our hearts out. If the prayer time wasn’t long and if it wasn’t emotionally satisfying, then it was not enough

No wonder we weren’t consistent. No wonder Howell felt defeated. Who can perform like that every single day? 

I use the word perform intentionally—what I was looking for in Howell, and what I was doing, was in fact a performance. 

You see, the first step to establishing a prayer time with your spouse is establishing your own GENUINE, personal prayer time. 

And the first step to establishing your own personal prayer time is receiving by faith your status as a son or daughter, your righteousness, your new identity in Christ. 

When you see yourself as He sees you, you don’t have to perform for Him. Your works don’t please Him. Jesus already did that—on the cross; it’s a finished work. He’s already pleased. 

When you see yourself as He sees you, you don’t have to earn His love. Your works don’t increase His love for you; neither does your lack of devotion—the missed bible study, the forgotten prayer time—diminish His love for you. His love is immeasurable and complete; it already IS.

For Howell and I both, when we began to realize who we are in Christ, our righteousness, our status in His Kingdom, His love for us—then the way we approach Him changed, too. 

Prayer becomes a conversation, not a duty. 

Prayer becomes a way of life, not a task list. 

And a prayer time becomes less about an hour of our day and more about the daily seconds of each hour.

Dear friends—whether you’ve been married a long time or not, you won’t create a genuine habit of praying with your spouse until you have first created a habit of spending time with Your Father, Your Savior, and Your Helper. 

Not only did my personal prayer life change from performance to genuine connection, but also I stopped putting expectations on what Howell’s prayers should “look like.” As I began to encourage him, to praise him when he led us, to thank him when he prayed over me, he began to grow in confidence to lead. The problem was never Howell’s ability to lead; the problem was I needed to get out of the way if I wanted him to step into his God-given role. When I did, he did. 

And as he grew in learning who he is in Christ, he grew in leading our family. I didn’t do that. God did it in him. 

So if the first step is developing your own personal prayer time, then the next challenge might be to create time to pray with your spouse too. 

I understand busyness. I really do. You have to find what works for you and your partner. If you are both up in the mornings, pray together then—before the kids get up, before you go to work, before the craziness sets in. If you have different morning routines, then pray together at night—after the kids are in bed, after you’ve finished your day. 

Personally, we have different morning routines. We spend time with the Lord on our own in the mornings. And we pray together at night before we go to bed.

Some nights we pray longer. We share what God’s doing in our hearts. We press into where His Spirit is leading us. We desperately listen for Him to respond. 

But some nights, we don’t. Some nights we pray for less than a minute, and some nights, we forget to pray. (That’s okay, too! ;-))

Praying together doesn’t have to be dramatic—as I once thought it did. :) It doesn’t have to take a long time either. 

In fact, my busy-friend, my prayer is that if you put expectations on yourself for what praying together should look like, or if you feel burdened by praying together because you already feel like a failure—ask your Father to show you how He sees you, how He sees your marriage. I promise you’ll find that He’s pleased with you because of Jesus, and He is FOR you and your marriage. He’s not disappointed in you, and praying together or not praying together does NOT increase or diminish His love for you in any way. 

Let that be established in your heart! A good habit is not about fueling works righteousness. 

But we wouldn’t be emphasizing this topic if we didn’t deeply feel that it matters, so here are four reasons praying with your spouse is a good habit to cultivate: 

  • When you pray with your spouse, it’s hard to hold on to any unforgiveness or bitterness that is poisoning your marriage.  
  • When you pray with your spouse, you confirm the hedge of protection that God places around you to protect your marriage from the enemy.
  • When you pray with your spouse, you connect your hearts on a spiritual level.
  • When you pray with your spouse, your prayers of agreement move mountains in the Spirit realm. 

Creating the habit of a prayer time looks different for everyone, so don’t put yourself or your marriage in a box. And you or your spouse may be at different places spiritually—that’s okay too. Don’t put your spouse in a box either.

But when you can come together and pray—if not daily, then weekly or monthly—I promise you’ll see God move in your heart and move in areas of your life where you seek Him. 

We’ve said, commitment plus consistency equals results. Practicing this first habit will produce positive results in your marriage.

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