Hi Thriving Marriages community, this is Josh, the guy bringing you this content each day. In addition to running this site I am also a communicator who speaks about marriage around the country. If you are looking for someone to speak for your church service, weekend retreat, or marriage conference and like the content you see here at TM, get in touch with me here for more info on how we could partner together. Enjoy today’s post!
Intimacy has never been easy for me. I grew up in a family committed to each other, but rarely vulnerable with each other, where phrases like “that hurt my feelings” or “I feel sad” or “I need some space” had no space. Feelings, on the whole, were problematic. On top of that, the spiritual heritage I created had a high emphasis on the importance of discipline and good moral behavior, and I was an extremely-emotional, impulse-control disinclined kid who wanted to follow the rules, but didn’t know how to.
And so around 6th grade I came to a realization: I can’t share my inner, spiritual world with my family. Both in terms of emotional vulnerability and what I perceived to be my spiritual inadequacy, intimacy wasn’t safe. Which is probably why it’s so hard for me to be spiritual vulnerable with my wife, Christina. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.
I was in pastoral ministry for 11 years, and several times heard fellow pastors – men I respected and saw as spiritual role models – say they didn’t pray very often with their wives. I’ve seen Christian husbands and wives who have combined their finances, had children, built a life together, keep their spiritual worlds apart. This isn’t surprising. True intimacy is hard, and few things are as intimate as praying together.
But it’s because it’s so intimate that it’s such a powerfully important practice for every married couple. I would go so far as to say that a couple that prays – honestly and vulnerably – together, has established the #1 most important habit for sustaining a lifelong marriage. Here are three reasons why praying with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your marriage.
Because Prayer Changes Things
We’re told in the book of James that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective and that often we don’t have what we need, because we don’t ask God for it. Throughout the life and ministry of Jesus we see him praying to God for what he needs, and God answering. There’s a great mystery to this for sure. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and if he rules over the near-infinite vastness of millions of galaxies, if he sees each of the 7,000,000,000+ people on this planet and care for them, then how can our prayers make any difference?
I don’t know! But we are told by God that our prayers aren’t pointless, and that our Father in heaven wants us to ask for what we need. And I know that I have found this to be true in my life, and especially in my marriage. God is rooting for every marriage – he is actively and aggressively pro-your marriage and wants to unleash every good gift he has on your marriage.
So what can you and your spouse ask God for together? Are finances tight? Pray together for God’s provision, as well for peace and confidence that God will provide. Are you and your spouse having issues with your sex life, pray together about it. Obviously don’t use your prayers as a passive-aggressive way to “talk sideways” to your spouse, but rather with gentleness and humility jointly ask God to teach you how to have great sex. Are you so busy you barely see each other? Ask God to show you how to carve out space for times to connect.
There is something amazing powerful about a husband and wife who come before God and say “help us.” One of the best benefits of this is it helps you remember you’re not depending on your spouse to meet your needs, demanding things of them they can’t provide, but rather you are jointly depending on God.
Because Spiritual Attack is Real
It’s not accident that the first fallout of sin entering the world in Genesis 1 is Adam and Eve’s intimacy alchemizing into shame. Before the enemy deceives Adam and Eve they are co-partners in ruling God’s world together, naked and not ashamed, living out the ideal marriage. And then, after the enemy’s attack, they see their physical nakedness and become embarrassed, they hide from each other and from God.
I’m not claiming to be an expert on spiritual attack, but I do know this: there is a spiritual enemy that prowls this world like a roaring lion, looking for prey, and there’s nothing he hates more than intimacy. If God’s plan in the Garden of Eden (and one day in heaven) is for a perfect unity between God and humanity, and between all people, then the enemy of God’s game plan is to twist our longing for that unity into something shameful and selfish and destructive.
Every struggling marriage is fighting the same battle: a God-given desire for connection, meaning, and passion, turned toward destructive ends. What if the primary problem in your marriage wasn’t your spouse working too much, or their sarcasm, or a perceived sexual incompatibility, or whatever your marriage’s biggest felt pain is.
What if the primary source of conflict in your marriage was an unseen spiritual enemy, who was hellbent on destroying your marriage’s intimacy? And what if you and your spouse united in prayer against him?
Because Prayer Is Sexy
Seriously though, it is. When you and your spouse pray together, there’s something mystical, magical, spiritual (whatever word you’re comfortable with) that occurs. I have always been fascinated by how the Bible links marital sex with the doctrine of the Trinity. In Genesis 1, shortly after God says “let Us make humans in OUR image” it says shortly after “this is why a husband and wife become ONE FLESH.” In the book of Corinthians Paul talks about how sex creates ONE FLESH from two people.
It’s in God’s very nature to be in a self-contained community with himself. God is the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Three in one, one in three. I believe that in a partial, incomplete way, what marriage is meant to be in essence is a merging of two lives into such perfect harmony and closeness and intimacy that they experience a tiny, tiny, tiny glimpse of the Trinity.
And here’s why prayer is important. We are told in Romans 8 that sometimes when we pray the Holy Spirit is interceding on our behalf, praying for us. There’s a lot of amazing facets to discuss about this, but one is that when we pray we are engaging with God on a spiritual level of which we’re only partially conscious. I believe when a husband and wife pray, that the Holy Spirit inside both of them is at work, not just joining them in prayer to God, but creating unity between the husband and wife as well.
You are being united before God, and experiencing a level of intimacy and closeness that is inherently spiritual, and special, and deeply bonding. And that’s sexy!! If all this sounds sacrilegious to you I’d suggest reading the Song of Songs again, or observing how when Adam sees Eve for the first time he slips into poetry to try and describe the site of her, or how flowery the famously left-brained Paul gets in 1 Corinthians 13 when talking about love.
When a husband and wife pray it creates an intimacy that stokes the fires of the love they have for each other: a committed love, an affectionate love, a spiritual love, and a sexual love. What if the most powerful aphrodisiac for your marriage was prayer?
These are the three reasons prayer matters in a marriage. Next time we’ll look more practically at how to integrate prayer into your marriage. But until then, forward this post to your spouse and use it to start a conversation. Set aside time to have a conversation about how this post makes you feel, what you’d like to improve in your marriage after reading it, and how to go about that. And if you start making out at the end of the conversation, all the better.