Here are eight suggestions for beginning to pray that were given to us by the couples who responded to our questionnaire. They come from their own experiences and were developed through their own struggles to begin to pray together.
1. Take the time needed to talk with each other about your thoughts and feelings about prayer and praying together. Do this without pressuring one another or trying to make the other feel guilty. See if you can agree that this is something you both want in your marriage. Talk about your fears in as open a way as possible. Talk also about your expectations up front, so they don’t undermine you later on.
2. Pick a specific time and make a commitment to each other to begin praying at that time. You’ll never get started praying together on a regular basis if you don’t make this definite commitment to a specific, agreed-upon time.
3. Don’t be upset if you miss a day. It’s important, if you miss a day, to just start again the next day. Consistency will come over time. Let yourself off the hook here.
4. Decide who will do what. For example, who decides where you will pray together? Who reminds the other it is time to pray together? Couples reported that they couldn’t just make a commitment to a time and then assume both of them would remember. It helped for one person to take on the responsibility and say, “Hey, it’s time for us to pray together.” It’s interesting to note that for the couples who were successful, it was more often the husband who did the reminding.
5. Start where you are both comfortable. This means that if only one of you is comfortable praying out loud, then you don’t start there, for both aren’t comfortable at that place. If one of you insists that you pray together silently, then both can be comfortable in that place and that’s where you begin.
6. Set a time limit. It was surprising how many couples made this point. “No long-winded prayers,” they said. One wife wrote, “No long monologues with fourteen items in them!” Another couple suggested, “First start small and grow from there. Anyone can pattern five or ten minutes into their lives, as opposed to one hour.” Another couple said, “Start with five minutes and then gradually, over time, see what happens. Don’t try to take too much time when you begin.
7. Agree at the beginning that neither of you will preach in the praying. Nothing can stop the process like using the time to pray together as a way to preach to your spouse, or to make suggestions in your prayer. Sometimes just making this a rule will give a reluctant spouse the freedom to get started, for a common fear is that one’s spouse will use this time to preach rather than to pray.
8. One husband suggested: “Start with a list of things you want to pray about. This could be done individually or together. Then pray individually about your time of praying together before you actually come together for prayer.”
From When Couples Pray Together by David and Jan Stoop © 2000 by David and Jan Stoop. Published by Servant Publications, P.O. Box 8617, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107, Used with Permission.[schemaapprating]