Where Two Gather: Praying as a Couple
A couple who prays together invites the presence of God into their marriage and their daily family life.A few months into our courtship, the woman who would become my wife turned to me in the car and asked, “Why don’t we ever pray together?”
Sandi and I had been single throughout our 20s. We finally discovered each other while she was teaching music at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and I was pastoring a university church nearby. Our schedules were overloaded most of the time, but this new relationship was quickly gaining more of our time and attention.
At first, Sandi’s question caught me off guard. I thought, How could I have missed that? But then my defensiveness kicked in.
“I’m a pastor, and I pray with people all the time,” I said.
I was immediately shocked that those words had just come out of my mouth. I was essentially saying, “I’m paid to pray. Praying is my job, and you’re not my job.” Nothing I believed, either theologically or relationally, was even close to that sentiment.
Prayer is more than a line item on a job description. It is what fuels the life of the Spirit in every part of a Christian’s walk. How could prayer not be a part of our closest relationships?
So I reeled back in what I had said to Sandi, and she and I started having a prayer time together at the end of every date. It was a good and holy way to say “goodbye” each night. In fact, it helped our bond continue to grow as we progressed to engagement, marriage, and parenthood.
UMBRELLA OF GRACE
Intimacy ideally starts at a spiritual level. According to Acts 2:42, the early believers devoted themselves not only to fellowship, but also to praying together. Prayer was one of the core disciplines shaping the Church’s community life.
Praying with those closest to us also invokes the power of agreement. Jesus said, “If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Some commentators limit the context to matters of church discipline, but Jesus concluded His conversation about that subject with a rather far-reaching pronouncement: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (verse 20).
Could it be that there is a special with them dimension of the Spirit’s activity when a husband and wife pray together? And might agreement come more easily when two people are one flesh, living in a relationship that mirrors Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:31–32)?
Praying as a couple invites the presence of God into our marriage and daily family life. To this day when praying with Sandi, I picture us coming under a spiritual umbrella of God’s grace.
I’ve heard couples say they struggle with praying together more than anything else. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the enemy of our souls does not want us to pray agreeingly. Satan actively resists such efforts.
It takes more than good intentions or a sense of obligation to overcome this tension. Persistence in prayer requires resolve and dependence on God, along with a plan.
Early in our marriage, Sandi and I agreed we wanted our prayer time together to involve more than short, perfunctory petitions mumbled before falling asleep at night.
Before we had children, we turned off the TV and dedicated one evening weekly to praying together in a more extended way.
When our two daughters came along, Sandi and I settled on a prayer time of Tuesday nights at 9 after the girls were in bed.
Once the children started school and my pastoral schedule allowed me to take Fridays off, Sandi and I started spending the first part of that morning in prayer. Afterward, we had lunch together, walked the beach, or even wandered through Sandi’s favorite decorator stores.
Now that our daughters are grown and have families of their own, Saturday evenings are a regular prayer time for Sandi and me. It is a meaningful way to prepare our hearts for Sunday, without the distractions of entertainment or even other people.
Through all life’s changes, we have remained consistent in our commitment to praying together. It has been our weekly habit for 40 years now.
FINDING A FORMAT
During those years, Sandi and I have developed a format that works well for us. We sit in our family room and start by asking each other, “How can I pray for you?”
We can often guess what the other is going to say, but asking is still important. That simple question frequently leads to deeper conversations about our lives, our anxieties, and our marriage.
Some weeks, it’s hard to find other times to talk deeply. But this on-ramp can lead to 30 or 45 minutes of personally transparent conversation before we even begin praying.
We then spend the next 45 minutes to an hour in prayer together. There is no pretense or spiritual performance. We just pray conversationally back and forth. It starts with praying for each other, and then for our daughters and their families, followed by our siblings and their families.
Some people might prefer a more free-flowing approach, but having a structure seems to help us. What’s important, though, is that we do it.
Sometimes we linger on a particular person or topic as we sense the travail of God’s heart for that moment. Otherwise, we simply name people and requests before the Lord with faith that He will intervene.
During this time, we don’t usually pray a lot for the church I pastor, other than for the services the next day. We mostly dedicate this time to praying about us, our family members, and a few close friends.
However, there are times when Sandi and I pray for God to intervene in a difficult situation at church. We often see a direct correlation between what we focus on in prayer one week and what happens at church the following week.
Once Sandi laid hands on me during our prayer time when I was experiencing a puzzling kind of ongoing pastoral discouragement — and it broke.
We’ve come a long way since Sandi asked me, “Why don’t we ever pray together?” Week after week, our marriage has been enriched by regularly experiencing what it means to come under the umbrella of God’s grace and pursue spiritual intimacy with each other.
Most importantly, Jesus has always kept His promise to be there with just the two of us, as we gather in His name.
This article originally appeared in the summer 2023 issue of Influence magazine. Used with permission.