I heard a wife talking about how prayer had enhanced her relationship with her husband. “When we pray together,” she said, “we are communicating with God, but we are also communicating with each other and sharing our common love for our Savior.”
She is absolutely correct. They are communicating with each other. For men caught in the empathy trap, the yes dear lifestyle, and the fear of the exploded marriage, praying with the wife is an abomination, not a blessing. I said abomination and I meant it. Why?
I hope this doesn’t sound either irreverent or intrusive to you. I hope it doesn’t make you feel threatened or bashful to know that part of what is happening when you’re praying together is this: Your spouse is listening to you and gaining a deeper understanding for what’s going on in your heart.
The truth is, when you actively listen to each other in prayer, you are able to empathize at the deepest, most honest level. You are putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Prayer becomes a much more significant experience when you are listening carefully to the burdens your spouse is repeatedly bringing to the Lord so that you can join him or her in praying for those same things, as well.
Empathy, again, as the goal. Not sympathy….empathy. Empathy is not even real as expressed here. You cannot reach empathy by hearing another person’s circumstances and suddenly feeling the same way they do about them. I suppose it is possible to have a shared experience, the death of a child for example, and come close to feeling what the other spouse is feeling. But that doesn’t happen because of some pointed effort either or both of you expend. It happens because of coincidence.
We started a new small group Monday evening. We liked the people and will likely stay with it. But something happened, no ones fault, that illustrates what I am saying perfectly.
When it came time to mention prayer requests and to pray one there was lots of deference to one particular woman whose husband had lost his job recently. There were some expressions of empathy from the other women in the room…”I know how that feels” kind of statements. My wife and I remained silent, not because we are shy, but because we are at the tail end of a ten year financial vivisection and have endured bankruptcy, foreclosures, tax liens, living on credit cards, etc. We never went hungry or anything but suffice to say I COULD NOT empathize. But I could sympathize.
Failure to empathize is seen as a flaw. My example seems like some kind of arrogance about who has the bigger problem. It is neither. It is the elusiveness of empathy, and why nearly all empathy is a bold lie. Hence an abomination.
Taken in the outward prayer context I cannot help look upon some things my wife would express concern about as petty or trivial. I can’t help it. She, on the other hand could not avoid looking upon some of my struggles suspiciously which would lead to conflict later. Imagine a man praying about sexual temptation. Sorry, this ain’t Shangri La here folks. And men are simply going to
play pray to the audience so to speak. The same women who would demand any and all information that passes through a mate’s mind are the ones most prone to weaponize it.
This can only happen, of course, when each of you is willing to honestly verbalize what’s on your heart, when prayer is not a routine exercise devoid of real-life substance and content, when prayer becomes your heart’s genuine cry before the Father. Only then can you go to the Lord God almighty together–with both humility and confidence–asking the Lord to encourage your wife when she feels like a failure as a mom or asking God to grant your husband increased wisdom when he struggles to be the leader of your family.
And when the man (and in some cases when the woman) does this and gets negative feedback over time from the other, these prayers gravitate exactly to where Rainey says they should not be. Rote and void of substance. Fool me once, like that.
From our own experience, Barbara and I can assure you that your times of prayer together will be greatly enriched and more productive if you communicate openly and listen attentively.
I have no idea what the Raineys pray together about. I know that topical prayer, together, for the safety of a child, for provision, for shared and common things of the family, is something we do. But instilling a sense of false false empathy experience in the woman, and negative feedback to the man if he dare share the gut honest truth about how compelling sexual temptation can be at times is disingenuous both ways.
Why would God, who desires our prayers, want to see us, with tears even, as we mouth filtered platitudes and feel good weaknesses for which we can pray? Do I want to confess the sins of my mind to God? Absolutely. Do I want to inflict worry and doubt on my wife with those, or worse, invite her ire or suspicion? Absolutely not. Which is why:
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.
This says it better than I could ever:
6:5-8 It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of two great faults in prayer, vain-glory and vain repetitions. Verily they have their reward; if in so great a matter as is between us and God, when we are at prayer, we can look to so poor a thing as the praise of men, it is just that it should be all our reward. Yet there is not a secret, sudden breathing after God, but he observes it. It is called a reward, but it is of grace, not of debt; what merit can there be in begging? If he does not give his people what they ask, it is because he knows they do not need it, and that it is not for their good. So far is God from being wrought upon by the length or words of our prayers, that the most powerful intercessions are those which are made with groanings that cannot be uttered. Let us well study what is shown of the frame of mind in which our prayers should be offered, and learn daily from Christ how to pray.
I read several blogs and articles about husbands and wives praying together. I was unable to find a single commentary that came against this practice or even expressed caution about it. I note that the ones that are the most compelling suggest certain things to pray for, limiting it to FOR the kids, FOR the marriage, FOR provision, FOR health, FOR whatever….except none of them mentioned confession of temptations. I wanted to kind of go along with these guys.
One used scripture to buttress his points. I find this kind of playing loose with scripture a little offensive because none of what he says is supported at all by the scriptures he mentions. Neither is the scripture against his points. The scripture, in this case, serves to gin up the right emotions about the opic without really getting into the topic directly.
Another did not mention specific scriptures but make a good case for, as mentioned above, limited in scope praying with the spouse. The problem comes blasting through all the feel good emotions when you get to one comment a woman left after that blog.
Wow! If only all husbands would read this and put it into practice. I can’t imagine the intimacy that would be fulfilled for so many desperate and struggling wives!! Great post!!
If there was such a thing as Christian Game, praying with the wife, kneeling by the bed holding hands, would be on the list of things to do. It is an abomination not unlike someone faking the existence of their actual faith.
Single guys, take heed, or rest up because this is endless work.