Praying Together Is Challenging
About the Guest
What is keeping you from praying with your spouse? Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about the challenges they've faced when trying to pray together on a regular basis.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
What is keeping you from praying with your spouse? Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about the challenges they’ve faced when trying to pray together on a regular basis.
Praying Together Is Challenging
Bob: Hey, it’s Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today. We’re going to be talking today about prayer on our program. This is the first day in September, and it’s the first day of FamilyLife®’s 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. You should have already received an email, or a text message, or a notification on your My FamilyLife app about what to pray about today, as a husband and wife.
Here’s what we’re suggesting—the two of you should spend some time thanking God for the gift of prayer together. A husband can pray that God will use this time to help the two of you grow stronger in your love for Him and your love for each other. A wife can thank God for the promises that He has made to those who pray—to ask Him to make your marriage strong in peace and security through Christ.
If you’re not yet signed up for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, you can still do that today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.”
We’ll send you a prayer prompt, each day, for the next 30 days so you can be praying together, regularly, as a husband and wife. It’s simple to do, and we’ll make it as easy as possible.
And by the way, while you are on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, you’ll want to take notice of the fact that, this week and next week, we are also inviting listeners to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We’ve got about 30 of these events happening this fall—they start in a few weeks. If you would like to register today, you can take advantage of a special offer we’re making to FamilyLife Today listeners—you pay the regular registration rate for yourself, and your spouse comes free. So, take advantage of our buy one/get one free registration for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this fall. Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Now, as I said, today, we’re going to talk about prayer. Over the years, Dennis Rainey has put a lot of guys on the spot, challenging them to pray together, daily, and asking them to step up.
Dennis: I have had a lot of fun, Bob, challenging men to begin that process because I think that couples need a personal challenge. Now, I want to ask you a question: “Will you begin praying with your wife for the rest of your married life together?” Are you willing to take that challenge? Better to try and fail than never to have tried at all.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. Again, I'm Bob Lepine. It seems like there ought to be a bumper sticker—doesn't it?—something that says, "Real Men Pray with Their Wives." That’s what we are going to talk about today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. This does not seem like it should be a big deal—calling men and women to pray together on a regular basis / on a daily basis in their marriage. It seems kind of like a "Duh"; but it's not happening. Even when you lay out a challenge for it to happen, Dennis, it seems like it's something that folks feel like they ought to be doing but—I don't know if they don't know how, or don't know why, or don't really care—
Dennis: Well, I think God is trying to get people's attention. It reminds me of a story I heard recently about a passenger ship, where everyone could see a bearded man on a small island, who was desperately shouting and waving his arms, as the passenger ship went by. One of the passengers went to the captain and said, "Who is that?" And the captain says, "I have no idea; but every year, when we pass this island, he goes nuts.” [Laughter]
Bob: Robinson Crusoe; huh? [Laughter]
Dennis: And I think, in a very real sense, God is waving His arms / trying to get our attention, saying: "You know what? There is something I have for you. Would you just stop? Would you stop long enough to participate in something that will change the course of your life?"
Bob: For years, you have been challenging men to take the initiative in this area—to make a decision to pray together with their wives on a regular basis. You've had some men who have stepped up and said, "I'm going to do that"; haven't you?
Dennis: I have. I've had several hundred men who have done that—many of whom have given me their business cards—and I've kept in touch with them over the years. And it's interesting—in preparing to write a book called Two Hearts Praying as One, I emailed a number of these men, just to see how they were doing.
I got some sheepish emails back of some men, who said: "Well, we stopped doing it for a little while. We got out of the habit, and we're not doing it again."
Really, Bob, one of the biggest obstacles to praying together has been couples who have started but have stopped. They don't know how to start praying together again. As a result, they let guilt get them; and they never pick it up again and begin praying, as a couple.
Bob: You feel a little bit like a spiritual failure if you do get out of the habit. We have your co-author with us on the program again today. Barbara—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: You've not gotten out of the habit in 30 years of marriage and of praying together—have there ever been times when you wondered if you would?
Barbara: No, not really—it's just been enough of a habit. I think part of the reason we haven't gotten out of the habit is that we never made it really complicated. We never made it something that was going to take a long time. We always knew that we would pray together—even if it was just a very, very short two- or three-sentence benediction.
Because of that, we never got out of the habit of praying together.
Bob: And some nights that's all it's been.
Barbara: Some nights that's all it's been. In fact, many nights that's all it's been because we've been too tired, or it's been too late, or whatever.
Bob: And it might take 20 seconds.
Barbara: Or 30—yes.
Dennis: Or a minute—
Dennis: —but it's an acknowledgement of who God is—of His ownership of our lives / that He is the center of what we're all about and that we recognize His authority. It's really interesting—that benediction, even though it's a tradition—and some nights may be—I hate to admit this—but some nights may be not a wholehearted prayer. It just may be—
Bob: A habit?
Dennis: Yes, a habit that is: "Lord, we're exhausted. We love You. Goodnight."
Barbara: But our hearts are in it—it may be a habit, but our hearts are surrendered to the Lord. Even if it's short, we’re coming to Him as children.
We're saying: "Lord, we're just overwhelmed with life. We're exhausted. We're going to bed, and we love You. Goodnight,”-kind of a thing—but it's still a reflection of our hearts being His and wanting to please Him with our lives.
Bob: I want to take a little informal poll with the two of you as my pollees; okay?
Barbara: That's pretty informal with two people. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right. This is unscientific, and the results—
Dennis: This is not a straw poll.
Dennis: Some of our listeners will remember the straw poll.
Bob: This is a prayer poll.
Dennis: This is a prayer poll.
Bob: A little prayer poll here. Question number 1: “Who do you think has a greater desire to pray together in a marriage? Would it be the wife or the husband, in general, who desires prayer as a part of the marriage?” What's your answer to that, Barbara?
Barbara: I think it would be the wife.
Bob: You agree with that.
Bob: So, there are women who are saying, "I'd like this to happen, but it's just not happening."
Barbara: Yes. I think so.
Bob: Okay, if you were sitting down with that woman, Barbara, who says:
“I'd like for this to happen, but it's just not happening. Is there anything I can do to get my husband praying with me more regularly?”—what would you say to her?
Barbara: More regularly or at all?!
Bob: Well, at all—yes.
Barbara: Either one; huh? I think I would encourage her to pray for him—that he would have the desire, that he would be challenged, that he would hear the idea from someone besides her, where he could begin to think about it.
I think that if the appropriate time—and it may be after a long time of praying for him—she might feel that it would be okay to mention it to him—to say something very non-threatening / very supportive and encouraging—that would be something, like: "You know, I'd really like for us to pray together. Would you mind if I said a prayer at night?" or "…Would you mind if we read this book together?”—or something that would help him in a way that didn't take over and take charge.
Bob: Do you think getting a copy of the book and putting it on the bedside table—you've heard that approach—
Bob: —is that a good idea?
Barbara: It's not usually a good idea. Those kinds of hints usually don't work.
Bob: Don't go anywhere—alright.
Dennis: I received an email from a woman, who was listening to our radio program. She said:
I heard the familiar voice of Dennis Rainey on my car radio. He was making a challenge to married couples to make a pledge that they would begin praying together every night, starting tonight, for the rest of their lives. That moment in my car, I promised God that I would do that very thing.
When my husband and I went to bed that evening, I shared with him the promise I made to God. To my disappointment, his reply was “I am happy for you.” That was not what I expected. However, I told my husband I wanted to keep my promise to God and proceeded to pray out loud. Since that night, nearly two years ago, there have only been rare occasions when I have not prayed in bed with my husband. It saddens me that he does not pray too.
Yet, I am thankful that he respectfully listens. One day, I feel certain that he will join in with me.
Now, Bob, I read that for two reasons. Number one—I think it gives credibility to what Barbara is saying. It is usually the wife who desires this spiritual intimacy and who is most spiritually-receptive to begin the process of praying—but, secondly, I read that because I do think one of the things a woman can do is ask her husband for permission to begin to pray over him, over their lives, and over their marriage together. Perhaps, on that occasion, say, "I would really like this to be something that you do with me, but I'm willing to wait until you're ready to join in,"—but begin the process of praying.
If he doesn't like it out loud, then, pray silently for him, for your marriage, and for your children.
I think, sometimes, we want to achieve the major objective—God puts before us an opportunity to begin something very significant—but it may begin very private. It may not be out loud, but it can be something you can do even if your spouse is unwilling to at this moment.
Bob: Barbara, a wife has got to guard her heart, even in this situation. She could become spiritually-smug—have a sense of superiority. It could increase her disappointment, on a nightly basis, when he just lies there and doesn't do anything. She really does have to be careful not to allow the enemy to drive a wedge with prayer in their marriage.
Barbara: Absolutely. I agree with everything you said because it's very easy, I think, for wives, who are more interested in spiritual things than their husbands, to feel spiritually-superior. That's a real dangerous place to be because, then, all of a sudden, you begin to become critical as a result.
Bob: Yes. Here's my second poll question: “If you are praying together, as a couple, which person is likely to be more intimidated just in that process of praying together? Is it more likely to be the husband who is intimidated by it or the wife?” Barbara?
Barbara: I think it's most likely for the husband to be intimidated.
Dennis: And I would agree with her a second time.
Dennis: And the reason is it's a man's pride of making a mistake—of not saying the right words / of not knowing how to talk with God. In fact, let me just read something from our book, Two Hearts Praying as One. As you know, Bob, the book is built around creating a 30-day habit—it has literally 30 days of different things you can pray together about, as a couple.
Bob: Thirty very short chapters that talk about prayer and then give you—in the beginning—it gives you some sample prayers—
Bob: —and later on, gives you a topic where you can—
Bob: —improvise your own prayers.
Dennis: But one of the women, who responded to an email that I sent out, said this: "I would encourage any couple to learn to pray together, even if it feels awkward at first. My husband often felt that he wasn't good at praying, but I encouraged him to just talk to God like he talks to me."
It's really interesting—I heard from another man, who asked me a number of questions about praying with his spouse—he said:
When I pray with my wife, am I praying out loud with her? Should I be kneeling, or can we just sit on the bed? Do I say a certain prayer? I don't know how to pray in the presence of someone else—even someone as close to me as my wife. In fact, I don't really know how to say what I want to pray for. I'm that inexperienced in prayer.
Then, if I tell my wife I want to do this, she’ll certainly be pleasantly shocked.
Prayer to her has always been something that was very private but not an open thing. Should she pray out loud with me, or is it something that I should just let happen?
I think people move off into the spiritual realm, and I think they get threatened by some of these fundamental questions. The issue is—prayer is conversing with God—it's a sacred privilege and a responsibility of a follower of Jesus Christ. It shouldn't be entered into glibly, but it needs to be entered into—much as you would enter into a conversation with another person.
Bob: So, how did you answer his questions? Is it okay for him to sit on the bed instead of kneeling?
Dennis: Well, sure! There are different postures in the Bible about how we're to pray. Some are kneeling, some are standing, some are lifting up hands—others are lying on the ground on their faces, confessing sin. There are two postures that are not mentioned in the Bible. One of them is sitting when we pray, and the other one is lying down when we pray.
Bob: Did you say he should use a preprinted prayer or improvise on his own—or does it matter?
Dennis: I don’t think it matters. That’s why, in our book, Two Hearts Praying as One, Barbara and I have written out suggested prayers for the first ten days of the 30-day adventure—for a couple to read those prayers together if they don’t know the right words to use.
I would even suggest, if they don’t feel comfortable praying out loud, to take one another’s hands and to take turns praying silently. In other words, both kneel—or both clasp hands—and say: “Let’s spend the next couple of moments praying together and praying for one another. When you are done, say, ‘Amen.’” But begin that process like that—of praying together. The issue is: “Start somewhere that you are comfortable and begin to move forward, from that point.”
Bob: Barbara, should it be both a husband and a wife who are speaking? When you and Dennis pray at night, do you always say something / does he always say something?
Barbara: I don't think that really matters either. I think, ideally, both should pray; and ideally, I think both should pray out loud because, I think when you pray out loud, you hear the other person's heart. You can identify with what they're feeling when they express whatever the issue is to the Lord. So, I think, ideally, both should pray. I think, ideally, both should pray out loud; but I don't think it always has to be that way.
Dennis: Early in our marriage, I made the mistake of being the only one praying. At a point, Barbara said, "You know, I would like to participate more in this." It was interesting—as a young man, the thought had never occurred to me—I didn't know what I was doing. It was early in our marriage—do you remember when that was?
Barbara: Yes, but it didn't really bother me. I just wanted to participate because it's a conversation between us and God together—the three of us in a sense. So, I just wanted to join in that relationship and in that process with you—but I wasn't necessarily offended that you were praying, solely, and that I wasn’t praying—
—because it was really like you were praying a benediction on us together. So, that was okay in and of itself, too, I think.
Bob: There came a point where you said, "Could I say something?"
Barbara: I raised my hand in the classroom and said, "Teacher, can I talk?" [Laughter]
Bob: "I'd like to chime in here."
Bob: Did that change things for you, Dennis?
Dennis: Oh, yes, it grew; and it has grown deeper and deeper. I suppose, over the next 20 to 30 years—if God gives us that many together—that our marriage will grow deeper in the practice of this spiritual discipline. It's not what we wish it would be, even today. We would like to grow deeper in this spiritual discipline.
Now, I just want to say something—because some folks, who just heard me make the statement that, early in our marriage, I was the only one praying—they were offended that I would not consider my wife's needs to pray, at that point. Well, I just want to say—the thought of her praying—that really had never crossed my mind. I just never heard of anybody doing it, and I was practicing this spiritual discipline—
Barbara: Like you thought you were supposed to.
Dennis: —like we were supposed to, as a couple.
And I think the point for couples, listening to us today, is to say: "You know what? I'll take that challenge. We'll begin, tonight, to pray together for the rest of our lives." And if you miss a night or two, that's okay—just pick it up and begin again.
Dennis: Now, I want to ask you a question, Bob.
Dennis: Did you pray together every night, starting at the beginning, with Mary Ann?
Bob: No, we didn't.
Dennis: When did you start?
Bob: It's been spotty and somewhat irregular, but more regular than it was in the first 20 years of our marriage. It's one of those disciplines that we've had to cultivate, and develop, and stay with.
Dennis: Do you think part of the reason for that is because you're more of an evening person and Mary Ann is more of a morning person?
Bob: I think that's a small factor in it—I mean, I think that's a factor—
—but I think, ultimately, it’s just that decision—that that's going to be a marriage discipline. I mean, it doesn't matter whether you're a morning or an evening person. You can stay awake another 30 seconds, or you can wake up 30 seconds earlier for some prayer together—if that's what we're talking about.
So, I think it's a cultivated pattern or habit in a marriage relationship. It's a conscious decision and something that both a husband and a wife have to feel is valuable and important, not just to them, but to God. Then, when you do slip, you've got to pick it back up and just get started again.
Dennis: And, really, that's the reason why we're talking about the subject of praying together, as a couple, all this week. I think that couples need a personal challenge, and it's not possible for me to reach through the radio on the dashboard or in the kitchen and to shake a man's hand and to say: “Look me in the eye. Will you begin praying with your wife tonight” or “…tomorrow morning for the rest of your married life together?
“Are you willing to take that challenge?"
I have had a lot of fun, Bob, challenging men to begin that process because I think that's all that's missing from many men's lives—they've not had an older man in their life who has talked to them practically about how they can be successful / how they can do this and feel good about it. Hopefully, this book, Two Hearts Praying as One, is going to provide some very simple steps—some ABC’s of how to get started—so that a man can, not only step up and take the challenge, but he can also be successful in implementing that challenge.
Bob: And I need to ask you, Barbara—Dennis gave the challenge to men—a wife who is listening who has no idea whether her husband is hearing this broadcast or maybe she knows he isn't, but she'd like to pray together. Should she say, "We're going to start doing this, and I'm going to challenge my husband to do it when he gets home"?
Barbara: I think that would be fine because I think a wife can decide that she wants to pray for her husband and for her children every day for the rest of her marriage and to pray for him that he would begin to be interested in praying with her. So, if it's okay with you guys, I think that would be fine.
Dennis: I think so. And this is not the only time a person is going to pray.
Barbara: Right; exactly.
Dennis: Both Barbara and I have our own times of prayer, throughout the day, that we practice. This is just a cooperative/unified time when we join in prayer together.
Again, if it's a woman, who is praying silently—even if it's silently—for her husband, her family, for their relationship—those prayers are being heard by God, whether or not the husband hears them or not. It's not an opportunity, by the way, to preach a sermon—that's for another broadcast, later in the week.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a portion of a conversation with Dennis and Barbara Rainey on the subject of praying together, as a couple. And this is a month when we’re challenging couples to do just that. We’ve put together a 30-Day Prayer Challenge for husbands and wives—where we are inviting you to sign up and receive a daily email, or text message, or notification on you’re My FamilyLife app that will remind you to pray together and give you something to pray about each day. We’ll suggest a topic and coach you in praying together. We want to make this as simple as possible.
We’ve got a lot of couples, who have already signed up to do this. There is still an opportunity for you to sign up for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. You can do that when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and sign on for the challenge.
There is also information on our website about Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, Two Hearts Praying as One.
You can order a copy of that book from us, online, if you’d like; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy of the book.
Let me also remind you that, this week and next week, we’ve got a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners who would like to join us at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We start our season of getaways, here, in a couple of weeks in Florida. It continues all the way into December. If you’d like to find a location and join us for a great weekend getaway, and you’d like to take advantage of a special rate, now is the time to get in touch with us. You pay the regular rate for yourself, and your spouse comes free. So, it’s a buy one/get one free opportunity, where you can save on the cost of attending a conference. This rate is only good through next week.
So, take advantage of the opportunity today. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’d like more information about the Weekend to Remember.” Find out when it’s coming to a city near you.
Or go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,”—and then, look for information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Plan to join us at one of these events.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about the importance of prayer for a marriage relationship. We’ll introduce you to a couple who has learned how powerful prayer can be. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with help from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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