Matthew 18:19, Marriage Imperative?

I raise this topic a lot, but I have no axe to grind with those who pray together daily with their spouse. If they both wish to do so, are able to be truly open of and to the spirit as they pray and there is no motive based on man’s expectations but only to commune with God….then what can possibly be wrong with that?

There are some other questions and points that come up. But before we look at those, lets look at a typical churchian pitch for the practive of husbands and wives to pray together. This from the Raineys:

We believe—and have learned from long experience—that the true secret to spiritual intimacy in marriage is praying together. [ ]

This really troubles me. It means that 9 out of 10 Christian couples today are resisting the number one thing that could draw them closer together spiritually.

Spiritual intimacy. Oneness.

Another guy wrote to tell me he had tried praying with his wife at night before bed, “but I would always find an excuse not to. One day God really convicted me that I needed to step up as a husband and commit to pray with my wife nightly. I came home that day and told her of my conviction.”

In tears the wife said, “I’ve been praying about this for months, but I didn’t want to tell you and pressure you into it. I wanted God to do the work in you.”

The wife desired that her husband pray with her. She had prayed for God to bring this to pass. And of course not once had she expressed this desire to her husband, he was blissfully unaware that she even wanted this, so pure was her motive so as to not put pressure on the man.

I want to challenge you to begin praying together daily. I can promise you, on the authority of the Scripture, that if you pray together daily for two years, you will not be the same couple that you are today (see Matthew 18:19). Inviting the God of the universe into your marriage on a daily basis will change things!

Lets talk about that scripture.

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven

Its a tough one to handle. What is it telling us? It cannot be saying, simply, literally, what the words convey, or can it? My questions and comments are rhetorical because I’ve explored them before, heard it explained, read about it. My focus here though is about spouses praying together for spiritual oneness and how easy churchians pick up loosely related things and form what amounts to almost new doctrines. Its a complicated theological hamster not unlike the one that evangelical feminists listen to when rearranging gender order as described by scripture.

But this hamster is tough, and he has a lot of help. Some of the theologically arrogant will grab onto this with the same gusto as the theologically ignorant. They have the same motivation. They LIKE what is being said, it fits a larger narrative. It buttresses sanctimony in one group and helps the other assuage guilt born off tastes great less filling faith.

I’ve written about the churchian spousal task list for the husband who wishes to be the spiritual leader of the home, and how that is a list born not of scriptural admonishments but of pandering to women’s emotions. There is an aspect of that in the notion of spouses praying together but that is not the full story, because prayer IS a scriptural admonishment. Prayer IS obedient. Prayer IS essential, where reading devotionals aloud to children is perhaps a nice thing to do but no one can credibly state it is a scriptural imperative.

Where does that leave us on praying with the spouse?

One guy who has commented here several times as well as elsewhere around the sphere confessed something he and I realized we have somewhat in common. His situation seemed more rigid than mine, but we each got the point when he described how he does not and will not pray with his wife. He explained it plainly saying that when he does he finds his prayers are being customized and directed more to what his wife was hearing than what he may have wanted to take to the throne of God. I believe he explained the reluctance or discomfort many men feel but had not put a description to yet.

Lets revisit the anecdote the Raineys shared. The story is clear if not read through quickly from the persepective of one who has already drank the churchian Kool Aid.

In reverse, the woman expresses that when her husband had shared “his conviction” she was so pleased because she had not let the man even know she wanted him to pray with her and instead she had cried to God to move her husband in that direction. But the man clearly stated that he had tried to do so and always found excuses not to, that then he was convicted to “step up as a husband” and pray with his wife. Can you find God in that? Really? God is telling a man to do something AS A HUSBAND that is never once mentioned in scripture. God is instructing a man to corrupt his prayer life in the way the poster described as I mentioned above as a way of stepping into leadership as a husband?

But empath, it IS scriptural you say, just read Matthew 18:19. Not so fast. Praying with my wife in specificity, together, for reasons either thankful or distraught….that is per the scripture. Some medical news comes regarding an aging parent, a child is missing, whatever, yes, praying together OF ONE MIND to express that gratitude or that need for comfort finds firm basis in that scripture. Nightly making prayer the equivalent of laying on the therapists couch in order to pander to the woman’s empathy driven emotional needs is summarily NOT what that scripture refers to at all. If you doubt me, ask yourself this….have you ever read or heard taught or expressed that the reason a man and woman pray together nightly is literally because when two pray together these prayers are addressed by God? Or, rather, is it not that women are craving this prayer time with the husband, something mumbled about spiritual intimacy, and a quick dropping of the scripture reference for good measure? How could that woman be praying that her husband would come to pray with her if she viewed Matthew 18:19 as it is written?

To further understand this, imagine the couple who do pray together nightly praying to the instruction of that scripture. They pray in agreement, for their kids, for their needs, they give thanks, so forth. Will that sate the woman? In some rare cases…perhaps. But that is not the nature of the prayer the wife envisions and what will develop this spiritual intimacy she craves. What she really craves is for her husband to emote. Period. The very best prayer together are the ones where they both end with tears. This meets a need of hers. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the need for emotion sharing. There is a lot wrong with playing loose with the scripture and then using guilt  to get men to corrupt their prayer life by  having to fake something they should do with an open heart and mind. There is something voyeuristic about wanting to hear that happen.

Why do we pray? To whom to we pray? What are the express purposes of prayer? If the answer to those questions can coexist honestly with where you are in your together prayer life, that’s great.

If not, this is one of the more insidious manifestations of churchianism and its in your marriage too.

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8 thoughts on “Matthew 18:19, Marriage Imperative?

  1. The wife says: “I’ve been praying about this for months but didn’t want to pressure you into it, &c.”

    It sounds more like an excuse to avoid having sex with the husband at night. And of course, if she’s praying, he’ll never suspect the bad-boy lover on the side…

    If women didn’t hate men so much, this issue of spousal joint-prayer wouldn’t even be an issue. They would pray together anyway (and spontaneously) because their interests were the same.

  2. My husband and I don’t pray together, except in two cases. The first is when we pray with our kids at the start of the day when everyone is heading in different directions for the day. Prayers of safety, of God’s ennoblement of us to reflect His character, etc. A different family member says the prayer each day. In fact, the whole family is praying.

    The only other time we pray together is on occasions when we are praying for someone else. A person or family in distress of bereavement, etc.

    But no, we don’t pray together as a matter of course. It’s never been an issue for us. I pour my heart out to God alone, and He does the same. We believe that is as it should be.

    Of course, I imagine the Rainey’s, Dobson’s et al would say that there is no reason why a couple can’t do both; pray together and pray separately.

  3. Praying together is good but I don’tPraying together is good but I don’t see it being anything except that. If the wife asks than fine but a true prayer is when there are no strings attached in what the person REALLY has to say. Regardless I don’t see how this is spiritual itimacy when I’m suppose to praying to God anyway. If I pray for my wife than thats what I do but I don’t see myself reallying giving it to God with her around. There is always that what if I say the wrong thing around her and she just flips.

  4. There are three things I’m picking out of this.

    1. It’s ‘one more thing’. One of that endless list of things that pop up that women seem to want for no real reason. It’s not about what you’re going to pray for, or about remembering to have a regular attitude of thanksgiving towards God, or about reaffirming your faith in God, or any of that–it’s about an emotional connection thing. “If you love me you would do…” It’s part of a woman looking around wanting to control one more thing.

    2. It’s a trick. It’s one of those things that only SOUNDS good–I mean how can you NOT want to pray if you’re a Christian.

    3. Churchianity is basically woman friendly now, and so it focuses on women friendly stuff–from worship to prayer to evangelism. Many of the praying moments in the Bible are moments of action or important communication with the Lord, and are always surrounding a sense of purpose. Examples:
    – Morale building. (many of the Psalms are about gathering courage, faith, strength in times of despair)
    – Affirmation of God’s goodness (other Psalms)
    – Pleading for righteousness (Prophets, Psalms, Christ, Apostles)
    – Praying for healing (Book of Acts, for example)
    – Praying for wisdom, courage, understanding (Epistles, Prophets, Judges, etc)
    I wouldn’t mind the “Jesus is my boyfriend’ stuff it it wasn’t something that is constantly drowning out Christ crucified and resurrected, God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm and so on. I think that the woman-focused church hears that Abraham was in constant prayer and imagines one of those evangelical moments where everyone is kneeling, still, tears running down their faces, and people exclaim”ooooooh they were at prayer for HOURS!”
    That’s all very well and good, but almost EVERY instance in the Bible of important encounters with the Lord happen when people are actually just living their lives. Job’s at the worst moment of his life, Jonah when he is repenting, David when he is hunted like a dog, the Apostles as they are fishing, crossing a sea, Joseph in prison, Gideon in a winepress, Moses after he’s given up and working for his father-in-law.

  5. When a couple continues kneeling in prayer together on a regular basis, spiritual intimacy between that husband and wife is greatly increased. The habit of praying together is essential and foundational for building spiritual intimacy in couples.

  6. When a couple continues kneeling in prayer together on a regular basis, spiritual intimacy between that husband and wife is greatly increased. The habit of praying together is essential and foundational for building spiritual intimacy in couples.

    Why do you say so? Its a sincere question. Youve only restated the premise that I challenged, you’ve stated what we are told by the church and by marriage ministries, but not by God’s word. The terminology is man made, the ideas are man made, and the outcome may by 100% real for some, but to claim supernatural cause and effect is without good basis in my opinion

  7. @ Carter:

    I don’t disagree with you that people who pray together regularly can have a new dimension added to their relationship. There’s a reason I don’t solicit prayers from just anyone. but what you are asserting is not Biblical.

    What, for example, is “spiritual intimacy?” From everything I’ve read is Scripture, the oneness of a man and his wife is built on the foundation of the commitment to sacred vows and sex (one flesh). Nothing about praying together is found in Scripture anywhere.

    Not that there is anything wrong with it, but what we have found in our marriage is that simply resolving that no one is going anywhere because we promised and God commands it does wonders to build intimacy, even if we never pray together.

    Praying together is a noble endeavor, but making some kind of panacea or evidence of the health of a marriage is just more Churchian dogma piled on making it easier for a spouse (usually the wife) to declare that something is “wrong”: with the marriage when the marriage may be just fine.

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