Passing the partially opened door of my pastor's bedroom one evening, I saw a sight I've never forgotten. I was a teenager at the time. I'd been invited to spend the night in the parsonage because I was to accompany Rev. Floyd on a trip the next morning. That evening, through the cracked door, I saw him and his wife on their knees by their bed, pouring out their hearts to the Lord. It was the private side of a successful public ministry — and I was deeply moved.
Such scenes are rare in today's frantic world of ministry. Many of us seldom pray with our spouses, and it's more than oversight. Some race past the throne of grace like speeders through a school zone, their schedules too full, their lives too busy. Others don't realize how powerfully their joint prayers can affect both their marriage and ministry. And some men don't pray with their wives for the same reason they fail in ordinary conversation — it takes them outside their comfort zone, making them feel too vulnerable.
But think of the benefits!
Arkansas pastor Doug Little observes, "When so much of the ministry tends to pull couples apart, praying is what pulls us back together." Numbers of ministerial marriages are troubled today, often because of busyness. Two paychecks. Schedules aflutter. Kids running everywhere. Phone calls and meetings, e-mail and breaking news. But the spiritual dynamic of praying together will echo through the interiors of a marriage and slow things down. It's an intimate exercise. The spiritual, the emotional and the physical are all interrelated. An intimate prayer union adorns the other dimensions of both life and love, enriching the whole.
This kind of prayer also affects the self-esteem of your spouse. "Praying together has drawn me into Henry's ministry," says Virginia Van Kluyve, pastor's wife in coastal Beaufort, N.C. "Sometimes the spouse of a pastor feels excluded from her husband's world. But when we pray together about the needs of the church, it gives me a sense of involvement in the ministry. It becomes our work, not just his."
Dave and Marilyn Tosi of First Baptist Church of Asbury Park, N.J., credit prayer with the success they've had in growing an interracial church. "Many ethnic groups populate our area," says Dave. "Each has its own church. Ours is the only nearby congregation where Puerto Ricans, Cubans, blacks, whites and Filipinos worship side by side. I think the reason is because every evening after supper, Marilyn and I earnestly ask the Lord to bring into our church those He wishes to save. We bathe our church in prayer. As we've prayed, people from many backgrounds have showed up."
Jesus said, "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray together, Jesus enters our marriages and ministries in a special way. While it's a blessing to us, it's a joy to Him.
But how can the two of us agree on anything in prayer if there's no time for it? Well, if we're too busy to pray, our schedules have excluded God's Spirit. Samuel told Israel, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). The apostles devoted themselves to "prayer and the ministry of the word" by relinquishing other seemingly important activities (Acts 6:4).
Dave Tosi is blessed with lots of energy, but Marilyn suffers from fatigue due to diabetes. He's usually up earlier and later than she is, and praying at morning or night didn't work for them. So they decided to join hearts after supper each night. "We made a specific time," Dave says. "Sometimes we don't even clear away the dishes. We just push them aside, read from Scripture and pray together."
The Van Kluyves don't have a regimented routine, but they frequently pray together during the day. "It might be when I'm leaving the house," says Henry, who celebrates his 50th anniversary in ministry this year. "We'll embrace at the door ask God's blessing on our activities that day. We often pray at bedtime and at meals, and always before trips."
In my own marriage, my wife, Katrina, has been a refreshing prayer partner. Often when we pray, I choose my words carefully, praying just the right thing about a situation, still thinking in pastor or sermon mode. But Katrina's prayers are simple and sensible, and I walk away saying, "Yes, Lord! That's what we really need!"
Katrina and I began praying together before we were married, but the trials and troubles of the past 25 years have deepened our prayer dependence on each other — the addictions of a close friend, the ups-and-downs of our children, the deaths of our parents, the onset of a crippling disease. We pray at meals and at bedtime, on trips and whenever a need arises. Often I'll come home troubled about a situation and unable to relax. We've learned to stop and pray, giving it to the Lord. Such times are little turning points for me, enabling me to rest and enjoy the evening.
Praying together isn't a substitute — but a supplement — to personal devotions and ministry. Each morning I arrive early at my office for a period of private Bible study and prayer. Katrina, taking a cup of tea to her desk in the bedroom, does the same. But there are times when, despite my most earnest prayers, I need another to come alongside, to bear the burden, to amplify the prayer and send it to heaven with doubled force. That's when I thank God I married my prayer partner.
Maybe it's time you laid aside this article and called to your spouse, "Honey, I've been thinking . . . "