Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Highly Intimate couples enjoy a high level of intimacy because they have learned to stay connected through having intimate conversations. Of all of the points of connection available between a husband and a wife, none can be more significant than the degree to which they can express themselves through their communication. There is no area of a relationship that is not touched by how well the two partners communicate. In their communication, they find intimacy in words and expressions from the heart that reveal love, unity, and fidelity to one another. In every other relationship we have, we have to be coded, cautious, and reserved in our word choices and the revelations of our thoughts and positions. Just try saying more than, “I’m fine”, the next time someone asks, “How are you?”. However, in a marriage, an emotionally intimate marriage, we seek to express ourselves openly and directly without reservation.
This openness grows in us, first of all, as individuals as we allow our relationship with Christ to whittle our points of anxiety, speculation, unanswered questions, and fears down to a manageable size. I am convinced that those things that cause us to be reserved in expressing ourselves to our spouse never go away completely. Even the staunchest of Christians find themselves in places where the emotions of their heart will dare them to speak the words of their mouth. Yet, the wisdom of Christ speaks power to our souls and shrinks our fears, individually.
The Path to Better Communication
So, if we recognize that we want to communicate effectively but there are hindrances to effective communication and only Christ can overcome those hurdles, then let us seek to elevate Christ’s voice in our marriage. In other words, we have to allow Christ to turn down the amplifier that shouts to our individual fears and the speculations that make opening up to each other a challenge. The way we get there is through prayer with God. I say this to nearly every couple I encounter: “Anything you want with your spouse, you must first seek to have with Christ.” If you want to talk to each other better, than begin talking to God better—through prayer. The same would be true for improved trust, intimacy, finances, etc…if “it” gets better with God, it will have to get better with your spouse too.
As we connect our desire to express ourselves to our spouse, through our prayer relationship with Christ, than as husband and wife we communicate on the same side of challenges, shoulder-to-shoulder, as opposed to confronting each other, head-to-head. You see, deep in our souls we really do want to click; we want to feel and connect with our spouse. We want to open up, but…well, it is complicated, in our own strength.
So then, through prayer our marriage unburdens itself of stifling stress as it finds direction and guidance in God. The prayer life of a marriage can flip the stresses that typically make it hard for a husband and wife to speak into points of strength as the wisdom of God takes precedence. Even areas of challenge that continue to persist in a relationship seem to lose their steam as a couple communicates them to Christ and He then commands uncommon strength, wisdom, and perspective. Yet, for all the hope that prayer offers a Christian marriage, it is too often presented as being very convoluted and hard to grasp.
What is Prayer?
Simply stated, prayer is where and how we talk to God. Consider all of your friendships and relationships: you talk, don’t you? My bet is that on your first date with your spouse, you talked. I would even surmise that the more that you talked to each other, over a period of time you began to fall in love with each other. Well, it is the same way in our relationship with God. Talk to God and you will keep falling in love with Him. Furthermore, in a marriage, when a couple develops the ability to talk to God together, they fall in love with each other over and over again, just as they keep falling in love with God. Of course, it is not really that simple; there are stops and starts along the way. Challenges will still present themselves routinely. But through prayer, God has this way of blending together challenges, pain, disconnections, joy, laughter, understanding, patience, and intimacy.
In no way will this chapter on prayer be a step-by-step version of “How to Pray” There is no shortage of really good Christian marriage books that teach us all about prayer, and specifically the need for couples to pray together. Instead, I want to focus on how prayer becomes an intimate connection point where couples gain wisdom, insight and peace from heaven for their marriage. As the old hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus4 goes: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!” It is the powerful peace of God, captured in the sentiment of those lyrics, with which husbands and wives can connect as they find the best ways for their relationship to connect with God in prayer.
But…We Can’t/Don’t Pray Together
As significant as I believe prayer to be to maintaining marital health, I have to admit that in recent years I have begun backing off from insisting that every couple pray out loud together. My observation is that some couples just are not ready or spiritually in a “place” to pray together. I think we can pretty much agree that a marital relationship is filled with all kinds of positive and negative emotions and feelings. Whether we understand what causes the emotions we feel or not, they clearly make us feel certain ways. Those feelings can then, for some, come out in prayer like this: “Lord, please Lord, help my wife to be a better mother” or “Lord, forgive my husband of his temper.” Don’t get me wrong; these can be well-intentioned prayers by well-intentioned people. However, for some, the words or thoughts used by their spouse in prayer can be more of a distraction or hindrance to hearing from God than an entrance to fellowship with God. Because for whatever is being said, all that is heard is “Get him, God” or “Straighten her out, Lord.” Prayer, misapplied, can in many cases create more distance than the chasm that it is intended to conquer. The idea is that every couple has to find their way to communicate with God. For as many different couples as there are, there are probably that many ways to communicate with God.
I pray that this brings a sense of relief to many because I talk to so many couples that feel that they can only reach God when they pray aloud together. This, then, leaves many thinking there is something wrong with them or with God if they find it difficult to pray aloud together. So I want to provide a Prayer Menu with different options on how to hear from the Lord as a couple. If praying hand-in-hand and out loud is not within the comfort zone of your relationship, then don’t do it. But please, do find a way to pray, to talk to God, to communicate with Him because this is where you connect the stresses of life, parenting, planning, praise, and pain to one another and to God. The connection between a healthy marriage and a praying couple is well documented. However, the solemn truth is that, depending on which study you look at, between two and eight percent of couples actually pray together. If you flip the results of those studies around, then 92 to 98 percent of couples are vulnerable and don’t regularly connect their marriage to God by communicating with Him in prayer together. So for the large majority of Christian couples from the pulpit to the pews that find prayer difficult, here is a menu of ways to communicate with God and build intimacy.
Highly Intimate marriages stay connected through intimate conversations with each other and with God.
Pray Aloud: This is the way that most couples think of prayer. They are typically in the same room and they verbally converse with God on behalf of the concerns of their marriage and each other. Some find reading a devotional or Scripture to be helpful to shaping what they will pray about. This is where we call on the name of Jesus for strength, not just for wants but for wisdom and guidance in our lives and marriage. It is where we line up with God.
Prayer Walk: Get out, go for a walk in the park or around the block, and pray while you walk. Let the focus be on God and not your spouse. Admire the beauty of God that surrounds you. Take note of the trees, how they bend and twist, how they differ from one to another. Marvel at the sun, which never rises late or sets too early. Notice the undulation of the earth and the uniqueness of birds. As you walk along, hand in hand, admiring God’s handiwork, talk to God together. Thank Him for your spouse, thank Him for life, thank Him for your children or house, thank Him for salvation—just thank Him. As you mutually marvel at the vastness and lack of limitations to God’s power and beauty, He might just put seemingly major parenting, relationship, or health concerns into perspective. So, go for a walk.
Text a Prayer: For a while I resisted this one. But texting has become a viable and accepted way of communicating. For busy, two-ships-passing-in-the-night couples, sending prayers via text might help to stay connected. One of the plusses of texting is that it naturally creates a record of what you have been praying about. So, when you have some down time, you can always go back and look at the thread of prayers that you have been sending each other. Texting prayers also can be a great point of re-centering in the middle of a hectic work day. Imagine being slammed at work and getting a text that says, “I am praying God’s blessings for you today.” It has a way of bringing you close to each other, even when you are apart.
Exchange Prayer Requests: One powerful way to pray together is simply to ask each other to name three things you can pray for on their behalf. For example, do you want to go back to school, lose some weight, pay off some personal debt, or make it through a difficult presentation at work? Exchange personal prayer requests with each other and as you do you will reinforce a sense of selflessness and togetherness in the relationship. Your commitment to pray with and for them says, “I care and I want to walk with you through the challenges of life.” How many people are in our lives that volunteer to walk with us through the valleys of life? We want our marriage to be that place with that person where we can share the things that trouble us—things that we may not share with anyone else. What a way to intimately connect with each other as you open up about what you need. At the same time, God will move you closer to Him as a couple, as you see Him answer some of those prayers or redirect the course of your marriage.
Shared Activity/Service: There are projects all around us that need to be taken on. Get out of the house and find a project to do together. Work in a soup kitchen, help a single mother, mentor another couple, clean up a neighborhood eyesore—the possibilities are endless. Then, sit down and talk about how you saw God in your shared service unto Him. As Paul said in Acts 20:35 after ministering and serving Christ in Ephesus, In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We hear this passage often in reference to financial giving, but in context it is about serving others. Become intentional about giving and serving others in shared service and see how God blesses your marriage with deep intimate points of connection.
Silent Prayer: Create a quiet space, just the two of you, silently, internally praying. Prayer is so personal and sometimes praying audibly is uncomfortable. So pray in silence. You are together and God is in the midst of your silence as you pray for each other. He hears the cries of your heart, whether they ever reach your lips. Cuddle up on a couch, get quiet, and pray for each other silently. Your bodies are close, your hearts are tender, and God is in the midst.
Prayer Notes: Write it down.A hand-written note becomes undeniably personal. Over the years, written prayers create a prayer history or dated timeline of what God has brought your marriage through. Sometimes the editing power of an eraser helps to make sure our prayer captures our heart. Be creative; write a prayer of thanks to God for your thoughtful husband or caring wife, then place it somewhere that they will find it later. Similar to texting, writing out your prayers leaves you with a written history of your prayers. Imagine being 50 or 60 years into your marriage and being able to look back on the prayers from the early years of your marriage.
Designate Prayer Times: We make time for what is important to us. So make prayer a priority and designate a time and a place where you will meet to pray. It instills a dual sense of commitment to bonding with God as a couple, both on earth and in heaven. These consecrated times become special meeting moments with God.
Declare a Fast: The next time you drive to work or church or go on one of your regular drives, count how many eating establishments you pass. You will be surprised! The point is that fasting, also known as “not eating,” is counter-cultural. The fact that it is against the accepted or expected norm could very well be the point of fasting. We take a period of time to set aside the expected and to focus on God in prayer. God is never impressed by how long we can go without eating. Rather, it is the time we put back into our day, praying to God instead of preparing, cooking, eating, and then cleaning up, that captures His imagination. Take that time, as a couple, and seek the Lord.
This is not an exhaustive prayer list or, excuse me, a Prayer Menu. The idea is that however a couple communicates with God, their own marital communication is intimately strengthened. So just like when we go to our favorite restaurant and we begin to check out what’s on the menu, we are not expected to eat everything on the menu, but we are expected to find something that we would like to try. Similarly, you don’t have to try all of these or even pray the same way all of the time; there is a whole menu of options that lead us to the wisdom of Christ. Different seasons of life might call for different ways to pray. Be creative. But by all means, please connect with God as often and as intimately as possible, to gain God’s wisdom for your marriage.
Excerpt from Edward’s latest book, Elevate Your Marriage: 7 Practices of Highly Intimate Couples. Click here to purchase the book