Why I Don’t Pray with My Wife

September 10, 2012

There a saying that “a couple that prays together stays together.”couple-praying

At least, I think that’s a saying.  I’ve heard people say it at least.

But I don’t know who said it first…

…or if it’s true.

Because my wife and I don’t do it.  We just don’t pray together, unless we’re about to eat.  In six years of marriage, we’ve prayed together…hang on, let me count…three times.

And as the so-called “spiritual leader” of the house, that makes me look pretty bad.

But maybe praying together isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Today, I want to share with you why my wife and I don’t pray together.

Our Dirty Little Secret

As I write this, I just now remembered a resolution I had made several months ago to pray with my wife once a week.

That lasted one week.

But on the upside, let me revise my estimate.  We have prayed together four times.

We tried to do some Sunday night devotionals last Christmas season.  And we do check in with each other.  We just aren’t the type of people to get down on our knees by the bedside every night.  We read theological books (though not together) and discuss what has struck us.  We check in on each other with the ol’ “how’s your Christian walk these days?” I know we both pray.  We just don’t do it together.

And if you think I’m bragging, I’m not.  I’ve confessed this to approximately one other person, and now you.  Because this dirty little secret of our marriage makes me feel really quite inadequate when I think of all our holy married friends who I imagine enjoy rich and satisfying prayer times in between changing diapers and chasing naked toddlers through the house.  We don’t even have a rugrat, so what’s our freaking excuse?!  We must be on the brink of divorce, right?

We aren’t.  We’re pretty happy.  So why don’t we pray together?

The Obese, Diabetic Poster Child of Prayer

Here’s what I’ve realized about myself.

My prayer life sucks.

I don’t get up at 5:30 in the morning for quiet time.  If prayer was a diet plan, I would be obese and diabetic, I fear.

I do pray.  Sometimes, my habits are better than others.  When I fall into a rut, I feel it.  Things dry up.  I feel out of shape, the way you feel when you haven’t exercised in weeks.  But I’ve realized that my wife and I are just on two different planes of faith.  My struggles are not her struggles.  I pray for my wife in her struggles.  And she prays for me.

But the kind of prayers I pray alone just wouldn’t be helpful to her, I fear.  They wouldn’t edify her or build her up.  The kinds of prayers I pray, I fear, would be a waste of time for her.

Couples That Shut Up Stay Together

You know what it’s like to pray in front of people, right?

You start doing a little prayer rehearsal in your head.  But you make sure you aren’t really praying the words you’re thinking!  You want them to have the full effect when you say them, because God won’t answer a prayer twice, after all.

And when you’re praying on the fly, and you’re stumbling over the words, you start stuttering with a million “Father God”s and “Jesus just”s.

In a prayer group, it’s so easy for prayer to become a holy little contest.  Can I say a prayer as good as the last person?  Whew, that was pretty good…Dang it, that prayer was way better than mine.  Would it be wrong to jump in with a follow up prayer?

My wife and I have realized (especially as introverts) that the struggle to pray well, to form coherent sentences on the fly, for the benefit of the other person, completely negates the positive effect prayer would have in the first place.  We’re too busy trying to pray right, that we’re not listening to God.

You know how I said the kinds of prayers I pray would not be helpful to her?  Half the time, I don’t even pray in complete sentences!

Do I Trust Her Father?

You want to know how I pray for my wife?

God, I trust you with her today.

God knows my wife’s needs better than I do.

And even though my wife and I can’t always find the words to share our deepest struggles in front of each other, God knows all about it.  If my wife can’t explain it to me, God’s already taking care of it.  She doesn’t have to force out the words with Him.  I don’t have to form complete sentences.

And that’s why we don’t pray together.

What about you?  Do you have regular devotion time or prayer time with your spouse?  How do you do it?  Or confess that you’re like us!


39 responses to Why I Don’t Pray with My Wife

  1. We’ve prayed together on and off but it seemed like a chore. I found it helpful when we were facing major decisions or going through a crisis, but just praying together every day seemed to be like going through the motions type thing where we both pretty much prayed the same stuff. It was hard going second without just repeating what the other one already prayed about.

    • That’s our problem I think. We have different timetables for an “appropriate” length of time to pray, so it feels like a chore. One of us struggles to get the words out, the other gets impatient and thinks about what else we need to get done.

  2. My husband and I have been married almost 22 years. The only time we routinely pray together is over meals, and he does the praying, not me. Other than that I’d say we frquently pray together when we’re struggling as a family. If I noticed that he’s ha ing a hard time trusting, I ask him to pray with me. He prays, and I very ocassionally add to it. I think its just like everything else in an authentic Christian life. There are no formulas. Its organic and messy, and we don’t always “do” it right. But we don’t have to.

  3. Many, many thanks for this post! So glad to hear how others are like us. And now I’ll just shut up, because for sure nobody needs to hear how down and frustrated I’ve felt during my many more than 6 years of marriage over not praying together. :)

  4. Solid.

    My wife and I have prayed together in the past and it gets really awkward. we start speaking King James and it is really…awkward. So we stopped.

    Thanks for making me feel better about myself today.

    That’s what it is all about!

  5. Matthew 6:5-8
    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

    Because God wants to hear real prayer from our hearts.

  6. I’m sure this will make me sound holier than thou, but Rose and I pray together 95% of nights before we go to bed. It’s nothing long but it’s a habit we have. We make sure to pray our praises, requests, but most important we try to pray for some family and friends, so our prayers aren’t only about us. I find this rhythm or habit to be vital.

  7. Well, my husband wasn’t a Christian when we got married, and right now he’s alternatively open to and suspicious of Christianity in general. We’ve never prayed together except for at our wedding and over meals occasionally. I think trying to come up with some kind of organized thing where we pray together would freak him out quite a bit. He’s okay with our rector saying a blessing over him, but that’s about the extent of it.

    And, aaaaaaaaargh, do I hate praying aloud. It just feels so fake whenever I try to do it. I’ve always been more used to praying silently by myself (sometimes literally in my closet–often the only time I have alone is while I’m getting dressed in the morning). Anymore, if I have to do any praying in front of people (I said the blessing when I did Thanksgiving at my house) I look up something out of the Book of Common Prayer.

    I have a theory that the BCP was written for non-spontaneous pray-ers like myself.

  8. I feel so relieved.

    We’re the same way, and from my end, at least, for the same reason. We do pray together on the “big stuff”–kid crises, job changes, stuff like that. And we both are part of many other more public prayer gatherings–in our small group, with our ministry prayer team, etc.

    We’ve been married 33 years. Could we be closer? Of course, but I think we’re doing pretty well!

  9. I hear ya Matt. On the best of days my prayers still sound like a voiceover of a Terrence Malick film. Not exactly easy to follow or coherent.

    My wife and I typically don’t pray together that much, when we do it’s spontaneous and one of us prays. We’ve tried following a routine but as was mentioned it feels rote and scripted.

    On another note, I’ve never understood what it means to ‘bless the food’. Thanksgiving I get, but why does my caesar salad need to be prayed for? 😉 Great post!

  10. Wow… I’m glad to finally hear we aren’t the only ones… We do pray together at times of big decisions or crisis. But that’s about it. We’ve tried to do regular times of joint prayer, and it never lasts…
    But we are surrounded by a peer group that firmly believes that it’s a requirement for a happy marriage to pray together and do your morning and evening devotions together… It gets a little awkward to have to lie about us doing that too…
    Oh, and I would strongly say we have the about the best, happiest, strongest marriage I know of.

  11. Thanks for posting this- I am not married, and I’m trying to make sense of all the convoluted dating advice I’ve gotten from Christians over my whole lifetime. I thought that Christian couples were supposed to pray together, and if they didn’t, then they should feel really bad about it- what a huge failure- you’re supposed to have a perfect, adorable, Christian, God-focused relationship. Etc.

    But you’ve given reasons that in your case, it doesn’t really make sense to pray together. And I think that’s how these things should be approached- in some cases it’s a good idea, in some cases it’s not. It depends on the personality types of the people involved.

    • I think a good rule #1 should be that there is really no such thing as a “perfect, adorable, Christian, God-focused relationship”. Anyone who says they have one of those is probably fooling somebody.

  12. This is an interesting article. I hope, when I’m married, to pray with my wife. I pray with the girl I’m dating at the moment.

    This post spurred me to write one of my own looking at the idea of being an introvert or extrovert (if you don’t mind me linking it can be found at http://youthworkersyarns.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/extrovert-and-introvert.html).

  13. My husband prayed with me all the time. Help Annie get better, help Annie do better, help annie help Annie help Annie…. then he fucked the nanny, and paid me to leave.

    What you do isn’t as important as where your heart is. Even God says so in the Bible.

  14. We’re not 100% consistent, but we try to pray together twice daily – once in the morning before we depart for the work day – and once at bedtime.

  15. We pray together before heading off to work, which means on weekends it slips by. We mention the family and ask God to keep our own heads on straight. Other than that we usually do our own praying. I surely couldn’t hurt to do more prayer together, but we don’t want to pray out of some twisted sense of obligation.

  16. I really appreciate you admitting this because I feel sometimes that we are in the minority. We don’t pray together either. It’s been something we’ve thought about and have wanted to do, but neither of us have the initiative to get it started. Like you I’m an introvert and have great difficulty praying with and in front of people.

  17. What we started doing for our pray together time, is we pray right before we go to bed. It’s not some long fancy thing… it’s sort of like prayer over dinner, but less “rehearsed” than our dinner prayers always end up seeming. It helps us reflect the day together. Also, since we’re usually quite exhausted from the crazy day by this point, it doesn’t matter how coherent our sentences sound. We don’t do devotionals together (though family Bible time sounds like a good idea once W is a little older).

    Another thing we don’t do, that sounds weird, is we don’t ask each other directly, “How is your Christian walk?” or however you want to phrase it. Whenever someone asks me, it makes me feel awkward… I don’t know why… I get the same feeling as when I’m praying out loud in a group setting and you have to use the correct Christian-eese. We do talk about it often, though. We are very open about our relationship with God with each other. It is just the direct question that always makes me feel stage fright.

  18. My husband and I prayed together almost every night until kid #3, reading couple’s devotionals. Then praying together became harder when we would fall asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow. And I became a night owl, loving the peace and quiet that eluded me. However, we have prayed for each other throughout our marriage individually. We have started praying together once a week again.

  19. I’m not married yet, so I can’t say too much about this. But I can at least say I have heard people say that you need to pray or read the Word together with your spouse.

    But every body is different, so that probably means every couple is different.

    Is this helping any Mr. Matt?

    I’m trying to encourage you. 😀

  20. My husband and I have been married over 40 years. When our children were small we found it practically impossible to pray together. So when our routine included the children going to school, we started reading a small bit from the Bible and then each day a different person would say a quick prayer before they ran for the school bus. Now that the kids are grown and it is just the 2 of us, after breakfast we read a devotional together and pray about the day ahead and/or a theme: Mondays – pray for the kids, Tuesdays – extended family, Wednesday – missionaries, etc. But I must confess, my husband prays for me faithfully and I pray for him occasionally. Why? I don’t know for sure. Perhaps I depend on him to “have it all together.”

  21. This is definitely an interesting read, but I think more on the focus of how you view prayer itself and not just prayer with a spouse.
    I get what you’re saying about your one-on-one prayer time not being complete sentences or even fully coherent – I definitely get that way. But I’ve found that when we both take time out at the end of our day to just thank God for the day together, it doesn’t have to be coherent sentences, it doesn’t have to be fancy Old King James language, but just a conversation with our Father, thanking him for a day and the blessings in our lives and praying for the difficulties. God’s not looking for a deep, specific, rehearsed prayer. God’s looking for heartfelt emotion. As an introvert myself, I find that once I get my focus off of myself (because really, why am I praying if I’m only going to pay attention to what I’m doing instead of what God’s doing in me?) and on to God, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I stumble over some words or use the phrase “Lord God” 18 times. It matters that God is listening. It matters that God hears my prayers and is there with me.

  22. I’m still enjoying all these comments as they come in, and it’s made me realize that this is one of many topics that, once again, we use as a means between ourselves to guilt-trip each other. I applaud those that find themselves praying together effortlessly. However, I can empathize with those who say, “I’ve heard that we should…,” because those of us in this group carry around the weight of that little guilt trip, that others put on us. It’s nice to recognize that the Lord didn’t put it on us.

  23. I pray with my husband. I pray with my kids. I pray with the neighbors. I pray with anyone. It’s what I do. Nothing I can take credit for, it’s my gift given from God. I am also an extrovert. I pray what people ask me to pray for, and I pray God’s word over people.
    Prayer is not about us as much as it’s about God (in my little world).

  24. This is really interesting…me and my husband are horrible Christians in every way (watch all the wrong TV, don’t do the music, make fun of pretty much everything) except that we DO pray every night. Honestly, I think it has probably saved my life. So many little things I want to hide and keep for myself…that 30 second prayer before we roll over and go to sleep has been the one thing keeping me ever-so-precariously hanging on to both God and my husband, the one thing keeping me from losing myself in self-absorption and self-destruction. Sure it has felt like a chore at times, and some days it felt hateful as hot coals being heaped on my chest, but I can’t deny it’s been a saving grace. I’m a total proselyte for daily prayer with the mate. Highly recommend.

  25. We are really trying to develop a habit of praying together for a few minutes every night before we fall asleep. It is hard to remember sometimes, but we are getting more consistent. It gets easier and easier and often if it is awkward it’s because there are person issues in my walk with God anyway that is keepin me from speaking to Him freely and humbly. I can understand it being difficult with small children (we don’t have kids yet). We’ll see what happens when we get there. However, I have heard several awesome sermons on the importance of corporate prayer (prayer with others) so I think, even if it doesn’t happen regularly, prayer with others is something very important to do. It takes time to get to a point where you’re okay being non-scripted. I’m not totally there yet! But I believe this is an important part of our walk with God to work on, even if it isn’t on a “regular” basis. I’m sure my husband and I praying together will look different at different times, but it’s always something I was tot strive for.
    P.S. Snuggling while praying can help you feel close and secure so that you feel more freedom to “embaras” yourself in front of your spouse with your “bad” prayers. Or it could be distracting. Worth a try. =)

  26. I appreciate the honesty. It is widespread – I attended a conference where the theme was prayer and one of the topics concerned praying with spouses. Two key speakers (Frances Chan & John Piper) “confessed” – surprised me. Piper said it was the toughest thing to consistently pray with Noel. Chan said basically he hardly ever did it – he followed by saying he needed to do better. Of all the people in the world I should pray consistently with it is my wife. She knows me more intimately than anyone else and loves me more deeply – why would my soul-mate not be my prayer mate? Let us not give-up trying to get it it right. Always easy to quit –

  27. I certainly understand that feeling. My husband probably spends 2 hours a day in the bedroom praying, and eventually he opens the door and asks me to pray. At the end of that time I’ve usually read, prayed, and started on dishes. It’s frustrating to stop what I’m doing to go sit and listen to a rehashing of his prayer session. When we first were dating, even then I loathed that fake “I’m praying to God and you” feeling. But after a year or so of just sucking it up through the awkward and doing it… You learn to love interceding alongside one another. It’s kind of like witnessing, it’s uncomfortable and seems so ridiculous at first but if you keep at it the Spirit can totally work. It still is like being stuck late for a meeting at work some days, but even for the 1 out of 10 prayers where you know God is among you, it’s worth it. The church has lost coorporate prayer, looking at the New Testament church, almost every time they are praying it is together.

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