Prayer is one of those practices that is undeniably central to our discipleship. It’s a way we communicate with God our hopes, fears, desires and adoration. Praying reflects a connection we have with God and when we pray with others, our connection with them is strengthened as well. In a marital relationship, prayer is an activity that will not only draw a couple close to each other through the expression of their hearts but will even decrease the likelihood of divorce. While the national average for divorce is right at 50% the divorce rate for couples who pray together 3-5 times a week is 1 in 1200.  A statistic this remarkable warrants the attention of any couple that wants to guarantee the success of their marriage.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pray with our spouse. For many reasons we can feel inhibited in sharing this part of our walk with Christ in our marriage. On the next page below is a way to beginning the journey toward praying openly from your heart with your spouse. While simple in it’s approach, it may feel unnatural at first. The goal is to provide a “scripted stepping stone” that gets you as a couple talking with God in front of each other.
- Plan a short time (4-5 minutes) where you and your spouse can pray together uninterrupted.
- Choose one person to go first. This person reads only the first line of Prayer Number 1 and fills in the blank with their own words.
- Now it is the other spouse’s turn. Read the first line and fill in the blank with your own words.
- Continue through the prayer until you have read through all four lines.
The first prayer is a good place to start if you have never prayed with your spouse. As you grow more comfortable sharing this time together, move on to the second prayer. It gets a little more into the heart without being too intimidating. As this way of praying becomes more natural, venture into wording your own prayers or take turns providing prompts for each other. Below are some additional examples of prayer prompts.
Prayer for Married Couples: Number 1
God, you are so ___________ .
(share something with God that you like about him!)
God, sometimes its hard for me to ___________ .
(tell God about a struggle you have)
God, I want to thank you for ___________ .
(show God that you appreciate something he’s done)
God, one thing I ask is that you ___________ .
(tell God something you need from him)
Prayer for Married Couples: Number 2
God, when I think about you it makes me feel ___________ .
Today, I really needed your grace when I ___________ .
When I think of all the things you’ve done it makes me want to ___________ .
God, you always take care of my needs. Something I need is ___________ .
ADDITIONAL PRAYER PROMPT EXAMPLES:
- God, it was amazing today when you ___________ .
- God, I want to work harder on ___________ .
- Please give me strength to ___________ .
- As I think back on my day, I’m real proud that I ___________ .
- God I get so sad sometimes when ___________ .
- God when I read in your word about ___________ it made me feel ___________ .
My prayer for you and your spouse is that you grow to the greatest depths of intimacy in your marriage through your conversations with God.
 Gallup Poll conducted in 1989-90 entitled “Love and Marriage.” Results reported in Faithful Attraction by Andrew Greeley, 1991 St. Martins Press
Back in January I got to hear Mark Scandrette talk about his faith community in California. I was captivated by what he had to say about the Jesus Dojo and decided to attempt something similar with our families at church over this past summer.
We decided that on Wednesday nights we would have “Family Dojo.” Dojo means “way of life.” We wanted our families to center their way of life around the teachings of Jesus. To do this we looked at short passages from the Sermon on the Mount, shared in some discussion then experimented with what it would be like to live those passages out during the week. The response was varied. Some families found it natural to “experiment” in this way, others it was forced. I wasn’t bothered by this since the goal was simply to discover practical ways of living out the ways of Jesus. If it proved difficult for families, then perhaps they were able to reflect on what may need to change about their family rhythm. Families that found the experiments fitting naturally into their lives said the kids would remind the parents of what they were supposed to do!
Below are links to the short devotionals I put together and offered to the families.
- Hokey Pokey
- Praying with Jesus
- Reminder Rocks
- Secret Mission
- Tattle Tale Boomerang
- Trading My Worries Away
- Turn That Frown Upside Down
- Yes Be Yes & No Be No
- You’re Already Bright!
Children see, children do.
To be honest, this is one of the most uncomfortable truths about parenting that I have to face. How many of us have been in the grocery store and had to apologize for what a child said only to realize later that they probably heard it first from us. Or have you ever looked at your spouse after witnessing your child do something and smiled as you jokingly said, “I wonder where she gets that?”
A number of years ago, NAPCAN, Australia’s National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, put out this sobering commercial. Watch with caution as it contains mature content…
For better or for worse, children learn behaviors from their parents. Bad habits, negative personality traits, discouraging phrases and poor ways of handling problems are all passed on to our children. The better news is that good habits, positive personality traits, encouraging phrases and helpful ways of handling problems are also passed on to our children.
Imagine if my child was left to inherit the messy way I deal with life with no real power to overcome the obstacles created for her. Also imagine if the limits of their capacity for making positive changes in their world were set by my own standard of doing good.
I don’t want my children boxed in by the limits of my “goodness” or the depth of my depravity.
Thankfully, there’s a teacher better than us that can use both the good and the bad to redeem our children from our parenting. If we consider the words of Jesus, we can be relieved from the hopeless pressure of raising the perfect child.
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” John 14:25-27 (MSG)
Children see and children do – yes. But thank goodness, there is a Friend, that brings peace in our chaos and equips us to excel beyond what we have witnessed.
I just started reading Dreaming of More For the Next Generation by Michelle Anthony. One chapter in, I am already impressed with the biblical foundation she lays for a family ministry paradigm. The end of the first chapter she invites readers to “reflect,” “respond,” and “dream” about what how might want to awaken us to more in our lives personally and in ministry to children and their families.
Here are a few of my thoughts.
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
We are asked to describe our current wineskin. What a great question! From a family ministry perspective, I would describe our ministry to children and families as “Family Friendly.” The children and youth programs function independently but create opportunities for parents to get involved on some level. The discipleship of children is important and parents are viewed as having a crucial role but they must rely heavily on the programs provided. Little is done outside of the youth and children’s ministry to equip them to be more spiritually focused in their child-rearing.
In my six years working in children’s ministry this model has been a source of frustration at times. I think many times churches want to hire children’s ministers to oversee children’s programs and give a head-nod to the role of parents but are satisfied if mediocre content is taught by volunteers whose arms may have been twisted into plugging a hole on Sunday morning. This has not been the case in every classroom of my ministry career but in praxis has been the general result of the ministry as a whole when not everyone is on the same page regarding what successful children & family ministry looks like. The resulting fruit is families who are not only unequipped by their church family but even hindered in their ability because “spiritual formation is best left to the experts.” In the lives of children, fruit is measured in terms of ministry event attendance and levels of Bible knowledge and skill. We might even pat ourselves on the back if we feel that their Bible class attendance and knowledge of scripture affects the child’s behavior, though none of these provide an accurate measure of faith.
When we are faced with the choice to change the system, lay down our old wineskin in exchange for a new one, we panic or circle the wagons. We worry that without the old wineskins our children will not know the Bible. We become concerned that if children aren’t attending our program, they might not be spiritually formed anywhere. We place on a pedestal our old wineskin and claim that it worked for me when I was a kid without considering that the Spirit knew just what we needed at that time. Now, perhaps the Spirit is choosing for the growing generation a different vintage. The Spirit wants to pour out a new wine but our old wineskins can’t handle it. They will simply burst.
What if we were willing to create (or allow ourselves to be created into) a vessel worthy of the sweet wine the Spirit was ready to pour out? What would ministry to children and families look like that did this? Right now, I don’t know. But I do know that if the Spirit was being poured out and we had allowed ourselves to become a wineskin worthy of receiving him, we would be measuring success in terms of how well we cultivate an atmosphere where parents are primary.
What would your ministry look like if God were pouring out new wine on it?