The poll results have been very interesting from the questions I asked last week. I am so thankful for so many women (and men) answering my questions. It helps me to get a much better feel for what is going on in your prayer lives and what we may want to discuss together here. 🙂
After 297 people answered, here are the results:
- Does your husband ask you to pray with him (other than at meal times)?
Never = 41% Rarely = 27% Sometimes = 13% Daily = 7% Often = 7% Other = 4%
- How often do you pray alone?
All throughout the day = 47% Daily = 37% A few times a week = 13% Rarely = 3% Never = 0%
- Do you wish your husband would initiate prayer?
Yes!! = 87% It doesn’t matter to me = 7% Other = 4% No = 2%
- Does your husband ever ask you how you are doing spiritually?
Never = 61% Rarely = 18% Sometimes = 13% Often = 4% Every day = 2% Other = 2%
- If your husband doesn’t pray with you, are you able to be content in Christ alone?
Often = 37% Always = 31% Sometimes = 23% Rarely = 4% Other = 3% Never = 2%
- What is the most intimate activity with your husband – in your mind?
I value emotionally connecting/sex/prayer equally = 36% Emotionally connecting = 32% Sex = 18% Prayer = 12% Other = 2%
NOTE about the women who answered my poll questions:
80% of their husbands are Christians, 10% say their husbands are not believers in Christ, and 8% are not sure.
I think that a lot of us go into marriage as Christian women believing that our husbands should pray with us and read the Bible with us in order to be “spiritual leaders” in our homes. We hear that a lot and, truly, these are VERY GOOD things. It would be awesome if married couples and families all pray and read the Bible together.
But – reality is that for the vast majority of Christian wives (at least who read this blog), husbands are not “leading” in these particular ways.
Should we really use joint prayer and Bible study as a measure and score card to rate our husbands’ spiritual leadership? Should we try to force our husbands to pray and/or read the Bible with us? Should we be upset if our husbands don’t want to do these things with us? What do we do if we want to pray with our husbands and they are not interested?
Before we write off so many husbands as spiritual failures, I think it may be important to look at a few observations from Scripture that somewhat surprised me as I researched this week:
- I am not aware of a passage that features a married couple praying together just with each other in Scripture – perhaps someone can find a reference that I have missed?
- I am not aware of a specific command for married couples to pray together or for husbands to initiate prayer with their wives. Again, maybe someone can find a reference that I have missed.
- In biblical times, people didn’t have copies of Scripture in their homes, so there would not have been any Bible reading at home for anyone – privately or as a couple or a family. Jewish boys and men heard the Old Testament read in the synagogues. New Testament believers heard letters from the apostles that were read at house church gatherings from time to time. (How blessed we are that we can have the entire Bible in our own homes and we can read it whenever we want to!)
- Enoch, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses apparently prayed alone based on what is recorded in Scripture.
- David and Solomon apparently prayed alone.
- Daniel prayed alone in his upper room three times a day.
- All of the prophets prayed alone – from what I can tell from Scripture – and were given revelation by God in private.
- Hannah prayed alone for a child – and God blessed her later with Samuel.
- Mary prayed alone in Scripture. She did praise God to her cousin, Elizabeth, out loud.
- Joseph, Mary’s husband, always received instructions from God privately.
- Jesus greatly emphasized private prayer in His teaching and by His example – He also gave us a warning about sinful motives in public prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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.” Matthew 6:5-6
- Jesus also gave instructions “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:7-8 So we can see that prayer need not be long and drawn out to be effective.
- Believers are commanded to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which appears to me to be a command to pray privately in the heart. It is surrounded by other commands to be thankful and joyful. It could involve praying with others, as well.
- The church is encouraged to pray together and there are many instances of corporate prayer in the Body of Christ – particularly in the book of Acts. Some of the prayers of the apostles during these gatherings are recorded.
- There is the promise: “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20 I think this is a wonderful encouragement for us to pray with other believing women, with groups at church, and with our husbands and families.
- Jesus often went off to pray alone. Yes, He gave the disciples The Lord’s Prayer (or The Model Prayer) as an example of how to pray in Matthew 6. (Please note how short and concise it is.) And He did pray in front of them at times – briefly – before performing miracles, but it wasn’t really “praying together” in any of the gospel narratives that I can find. Most of His praying seemed to be done in seclusion and in private – or He was praying to God out loud in front of His disciples and other people. I don’t see where Jesus and His disciples sat around holding hands taking turns praying out loud they way we tend to expect to do today.
- Married couples are commanded not to withhold their bodies from one another, but to be available to each other sexually – except for the times they agree mutually to abstain from sex in order to focus on prayer. But I don’t see where this prayer is necessarily joint prayer. It may be private prayer.
- I find no record in the New Testament of any of the disciples praying with their wives. To be fair, they may have privately prayed together – and it may just not be recorded.
I also want to look at the prayer life of one of the most revered Christian men in recent centuries concerning the topic of fervent prayer – E.M. Bounds. He prayed alone. He prayed for hours and hours most days – usually from 4am-7am, sometimes getting up at night and wandering around town to stand in front of people’s homes to pray for them. Everything I can find recorded about his prayer habits are that he prayed alone – unless he was in a room spending the night with other pastors – even then he prayed alone, but out loud – and they all heard him. He led prayer together with a group of men from his church for revival for the town. Perhaps he prayed with his wife? I don’t know. I haven’t seen any reference to him praying with his wife.
Of course, there is no prohibition on married couples praying together in Scripture – and I believe there is plenty of support for prayer among believers that would mean that a couple praying together would be a very good thing. I am the biggest proponent of couples praying together if possible!
LET’S CAREFULLY CONSIDER OUR EXPECTATIONS:
We hear so much in our Christian culture today about husbands “being the spiritual leaders” in the family and all that they “should” do. Obviously, God delights in His people’s prayers. Prayer is an amazing gift from God!
Prayer in marriage could be a very good thing – provided that both spouses’ attitudes are honoring to God and they are both willing to pray together. That would be wonderful!
But – I would like us to consider – is there a biblical model that commands husbands to specifically do all of the things that we believe they are supposed to do as “spiritual leaders”? Is it right for us to resent our husbands or get angry if they don’t initiate prayer, ask us how we are doing spiritually, and read the Bible with us? Maybe our husbands prefer to pray in private, which is – arguably – the most important kind of prayer. Maybe they can observe our attitude, words, and actions and tell how we are doing spiritually, so they don’t feel like it is necessary to ask how we are doing? There may also be issues of differing personality types or issues of tension/disrespect in the marriage that may play into the dynamics here that we will touch more on this coming Thursday.
Where do we get our ideas about what our husbands should do? I wonder if our definition of “spiritual leader” may need revamping?
Are we possibly condemning, criticizing, or resenting our husbands unjustly? Are we building up bitterness and resentment against our husbands because they aren’t meeting our expectations, when perhaps these things aren’t even spelled out in God’s Word? A believer not praying privately is a big problem. But is it necessarily wrong or sinful for a believing married couple not to pray together if they are praying privately to God? Could a husband be a godly leader even if he doesn’t pray with his wife or read the Bible with her? (We will be looking at 1 Timothy 3 to see the qualifications for the men who are to be spiritual leaders in the church in the next post to attempt to find some answers to this question.)
Here are some sobering thoughts:
– Our cherishing bitterness, a critical spirit, contempt, hatred, and/or resentment in our hearts or allowing disrespect to fester against our husbands in our hearts WOULD be clear sin.
– Our trying to take control of the marriage and family would also be clear sin.
– Our using joint prayer and Bible study to judge our husbands’ spirituality could be sin.
– Our attempting to find spiritual security in our husbands’ spiritual activity with us rather than in Christ would be sin.
Wouldn’t the enemy love to get us to sin in our hearts and to destroy our marriages and families over the issue of prayer? Wouldn’t he love to use an issue ‘this spiritual’ to create division, heartache, pain, and destruction?
Some questions I would like for each of us to ask ourselves no matter what our current situation with our husbands:
- Am I willing to lay down my expectations and focus on my own walk with Christ, my obedience, my faith, my responsibilities, my time in God’s Word, my sin, and my prayer life?
- Am I willing to allow God to work in my husband’s life as He sees fit, and accept him for who his is without trying to force him to do something? Will I do this even if it takes a lifetime, and even if my husband never prays with me?
- Am I willing to lay down my dream of my husband praying with me? Is it possible that this dream of him doing certain spiritual things for me could be an idol in my heart that I hold above Christ and from which I expect to find contentment, security, fulfillment, and happiness?
- Am I willing to be content in Christ alone and in my own times of private prayer?
- Perhaps I can pray that God might provide a godly woman prayer partner for me to pray with? But even if He does not – am I willing to be content in Christ alone? Am I willing to acknowledge that He alone is enough?
The key, after all, to prayer – is not our husbands’ presence – but God’s presence! As long as God hears our prayers – that is the most important thing of all! It is God that we all most desperately need, not our husbands!
Even if my husband prays with me three times a day for 30 minutes at a time, if I am looking to my husband to meet all of my emotional and spiritual needs, I will never be satisfied. I will always want more. My husband praying with me is not the most important thing. It would be nice – yes, of course! And it would be a good thing for our marriage IF we both are in right standing with God and we both have right motives. But me having time with Christ privately and time in God’s Word privately is critical. THAT is what I can’t do without. Christ is able to always be completely connected with me spiritually and emotionally (unless I am cherishing sin in my heart). He can meet my deepest needs every moment. He will never fail or disappoint me. He alone is my true need! Christ is my husband’s greatest need, as well.
Jesus is more than sufficient for me!
In Part 2, we will look at reasons why husbands may not pray with their wives and the many benefits and advantages of private prayer. Next week, we will look at Scripture’s definition of a spiritual leader.