What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

 Part 2

Today, as we continue our look at the hopes and reality of a Christian marriage, prompted by a look at the married couple in the movie Overcomer, we have a singular focus:

Prayer.

One really sweet thing about the movie Overcomer is how it portrays the couple praying together. We see them as people who pray for their own heart and for each other, but also as intercessors for others God brings into their lives. The example set by the movie in this regard is both encouraging and a realisitic example of how to live – if a couple takes the personal initiative and follows the prompting of the Spirit to live this way.

Prayer is a paradox. It is at once an elementary thing, simply talking to God, yet, at the same time it can feel extremely complicated. Any 3-year-old can offer a genuine prayer on behalf of one they love, while we mature, educated, Christian adults often stammer and stall when trying to voice a prayer. At some point in our life, most of us have dreaded praying out loud, probably because of a fear that others listening will think we’re not doing it correctly. But even in our personal prayer life, in those unspoken heart prayers, we may struggle. We may feel at a loss for what to even pray. Our desperation, fear, and need may leave us without words. We may grow weary and give up while waiting for the Father’s timing of His answer. We may pray words in doubt and worry, rather than in faith. We may feel as I’ve often heard others express, that “my prayers didn’t seem to be getting past the ceiling.” The good thing is that they don’t have to get past the ceiling! God is not “up there.” His Holy Spirit is in your heart. He hears.

In the early years of my marriage I felt awkward praying out loud with my husband. I’d been raised a Christian, but prayer had always been private. I struggled to know how to open up to that deep intimacy with God and my husband together. I guess I worried that my husband would see the real, sinful, selfish me if he heard my earnest prayers to the Father, because folks I just get real and talk with God. None of the thees and thous and have-your-own-ways. I just talk like it is my real, fleshly daddy I’m talking to. I have been known to ask God to straighten that person out, to tell the Father how mad I am at someone, or even to gripe about my disappointments with my husband! Not the kind of talk that I wanted my young love to hear. Therefore, I would typically allow him as “the spiritual leader” – at least that was my excuse – to pray first and then I would rubber stamp it with a “me too Lord” kind of prayer.

But through the years as my husband has gotten to know the real me and not just the facade I put up so he would want to marry me, I have opened up in praying aloud with him. And what a blessing it is! He hears my heart’s desire poured out to the Father and joins me in agreement. He is strengthened by hearing what I pray for him as he heads out to work or faces a tough decision or struggles with change. I’ve learned to pray for him just like I pray for myself, and he encourages me when he does the same. We’ve prayed through many a family crisis with tears pouring. We’ve prayed and fasted together for spiritual changes in our children, and we’ve seen God move dramatically. We’ve prayed joyful, laughter-through-tears prayers of celebration and rejoicing. We’ve faithfully interceded side by side for our church body and leaders, our friends and family, and many, many sick, grieiving, hurting, broken lives that are dear to us. Our prayer life has become a rich, valuable facet of our marriage. I treasure it so much that I didn’t even grouch at him this week when he woke me up at 5:20 before going to work to pray over some things going on around us.

arabic-belief-black-and-white-1487953Below are a few concepts to keep in mind about praying with your spouse and 4 powerful portions of scripture that have been the foundation of my belief in prayer as a key component of a healthy marriage.

1 – Intercede for your spouse. Pray for him on your own. In depth. Specifically. Pray scripture. I daily pray Proverbs 3 for my Sweetie. (Praying scripture is a powerful way to pray for your husband, because God’s word will accomplish what He desires and achieve His purposes! Isaiah 55:10-11) Pray for his work, his walk with the Lord, your home, his health, his success, his friendships, and anything else you can think of.

2 – Pray in all situations. Pray when you’re worried, in doubt, sick, fearful, needing answers, seeking the Father to act on your behalf or when you’ve sinned and need to come clean and be forgiven. But also pray when you’re happy, thankful, praising Him, and celebrating His goodness. And especially when you are trying to forgive your spouse.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 NIV

3 – Intercede together for others. There is no better feeling than praying together for God to move and then seeing Him act! You celebrate together and can’t quit talking and reveling in the mighty acts He performed that you got to be a part of together. It is much harder to be selfish and see your spouse as an enemy if you have experienced tangible answers from the Lord to your humble prayers.

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:16-20 NASB

4 – God’s power and presence are multiplied in your marriage when you pray together. God’s ways are not ours. For some reason there is added power through agreement in prayer. And the bonus as we see in the verse above is that He will be “in their midst” – in the middle of you two as a couple. But His presence isn’t there just to keep us from being a meany as a spouse, Ecclesiastes reminds us of the practicality of including God in our marriages.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB

5 –  Pray when you don’t have the words. At some time in your life, you have been so broken hearted or confused or desperate that you simply had no words to pray. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you will at some point. My first experience with this came through a heart-rending, emotional circumstance with one of my children. My deep grief overwhelmed me. All I could do in my prayers was to call out to Him, “Lord!” My husband was in the same place. When we needed to pray the most – nothing. Looking back on this I learned 2 things.

First, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we can’t pray or don’t know what to say. Romans 8:26-27 tells us,

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

We don’t have to have human words. We have a translator for those heart prayers that can’t be adequately expressed.

Secondly, we need a community of believers around us. The Christian man and wife are not a self-sustaining island. We are a unit. But we are members of a greater unit – the body of Christ. As such, we need to have our close community who is willing to know us and pray for and with us. (James 5:13-18) I’ll never forget at that crucial point in our life when I couldn’t pray, I went to a ladies meeting where a godly woman prayed a prayer over our family that I didn’t even like. It was one of those whatever-it-takes kind of prayers. Scary! But that prayer of a righteous woman was powerful and effective and was the turning point in our situation. So I encourage you, wife, have your people to pray with. Husband, have yours as well.

Prayer is powerful and effective, not only in the life of an individual Christian, but also for a couple and a family. Our enemy wants to keep us from the work of prayer to make us ineffective as a family unit. Remember his goal – to kill, steal, and destroy. Your emeny is seeking to destroy your marriage, your home, your kids, and the image of Christ your marriage presents to the world. Besides having our Creator in our marriage acting on our behalf when we pray, another benefit of praying together is that we are strengthened as individuals, as Christians, as husband and wife, and we are woven together with God, that third strand to our rope of marriage that makes it strong!

Take time to pray together today. You can’t take the risk of not praying together.

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