It’s true. Husbands and wives who pray together usually stay together.
After church one Sunday morning, a wife, with her husband at her side, said to me, “I’ve always heard that the husband is head of the home just as Jesus is head of the church. If this is true, my husband isn’t doing his job! Will you set him straight?” Talk about being put on the spot!
Her statement and question were more about relationship than about theology. What she really was asking for (and needed) was a husband who would pray, be a servant leader and set an example of Christ in the home. How can a husband meet the needs of a wife in the areas of prayer and spiritual leadership without having to conform to a role that his wife—not God—expects him to fill?
The Private Prayers of a Husband
One frustrated wife accusingly berated her husband in a Sunday school class by saying, “My husband is always praying, but never with me! Every morning he goes off by himself and prays. I just don’t understand why he must always be alone to pray.”
The truth is, men prefer to pray in private. I have met so many wives who fail to understand this. Yet in counseling and sharing with scores of men, I have discovered this reality: Men have private prayer lives. They dislike expressing their true thoughts and feelings in a public setting, especially when their wives are present.
The men have a point. Private prayer is important. In fact, before public prayer becomes authentic, private prayer must be practiced.
Without private prayers of repentance and confession, the public prayers of a spouse often become arrogant, proud, preachy and religious. Wives discover that husbands who pray with them publicly without first praying privately may use that prayer time more to preach at them than to talk with God. How humiliating it is to have an arrogant husband, unbroken by God, use prayer to manipulate, correct, judge and berate his wife.
In a marital counseling session years ago, a wife confessed that she hated praying with her husband. “He preaches at me when we pray,” she revealed. “I learn about all my faults, failures and his unfulfilled expectations. I dread our prayer times!”
When I asked the husband about his personal quiet time with the Lord, he confessed that he had difficulty with it. The only time each day he spent with God was the time he and his wife read the Bible and prayed together. Since he was never broken before the Lord privately, he had nothing to share or minister with his wife in their public prayer sessions together.
It is healthy for husbands and wives to confess their sins to each other in prayer “so that [they] may be healed” (James 5:16, NIV). But repentance in private prayer gives a man the strength and courage to share more transparently and become more vulnerable with his wife when they are praying together.
His Needs, Her Needs
As a couple learns to express their needs to God in prayer, trusting Him to be their source, they will learn to express their needs more openly to one another. People have different needs spiritually as well as emotionally and physically in a marriage.
The key to prayer at this point in our discussion is simply this: Ask for what you need. If your husband never or rarely expresses a desire to pray with you, then you be the one to ask for what you need. Refuse to become frustrated or angry over his failure to initiate prayer. As a royal priest in Christ, you have as much right to initiate prayer as he does (1 Pet. 2:9).
Share your needs and concerns in a nonjudgmental tone. Refuse to put him down for not praying or initiating prayer the way you would like. Instead, ask for what you need; if he still refuses to pray with you, go ahead and pray aloud when he is around to hear you. Praying aloud can effectively communicate to him not only your need to pray with him but also your prayer concerns.
Is There a Spiritual Wall Between You and Your Husband?
Coming home from church, Mariann turned to Tom and confessed, “I hate going to church when we are such hypocrites.” A river of tears began to stream down her cheeks. Stunned, Tom reached for the right words to respond.
What had seemed to be a wonderful and uplifting worship service had suddenly cascaded into an abyss of hurt and pain—and Tom didn’t have a clue why!
At the root of their spiritual crisis was a wall that had risen higher and higher between them from years of prayerlessness and the lack of spiritual intimacy. Tom needed to admit that the wall existed. But the only person who could speak the truth in love about that wall was his wife, Mariann.
Now here’s the shocker. Wives often hope that someone else will reach their husbands.