I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret: Although I am very happily married to a man who is a strong spiritual leader in our home, we haven't prayed together very often in our 13 years of marriage other than at meals or with our kids before bed. We didn't think we liked to pray together. Life is too busy. We get up at different times. We stay up too late. We have good intentions to pray together, but they never quite materialize.
But when you teach an adult Sunday school class, every now and then you have to challenge yourself to establish new spiritual disciplines. Well, actually, you have to constantly challenge yourself. And so, two weeks ago my husband stood in front of our adult community and issued a challenge: pray with your spouse 5 days a week for 6 weeks, for a total of 30 days. The 30-day Prayer Challenge. Starting with us.
So for the last almost three weeks I've gotten up about 45 minutes earlier than usual (not because we pray for 45 minutes, but to be up before the kids), my husband has put on a pot of coffee so I could keep my eyes open, and we've prayed together. It's been a challenge, but not as big of a challenge as we anticipated. Here's what I've learned.
1) We actually like to pray together. It's not hard and the time goes by quickly. And now that the habit is established, I think we'll be more likely to pray about issues we're concerned about instead of just discussing them.
2) It helps a lot to have something specific to pray for. My husband has been putting together a prayer guide for each week, but here's one you could try if you want to try your own prayer challenge:
Monday--pray for your kids
Tuesday--pray for your church (ministries, church leaders, people in your small group, church members who are ill, etc.)
Wednesday--pray for missionaries you know or support and/or children you sponsor
Thursday--pray for each other and your various roles and activities
Friday--pray for national and international issues you're concerned about (legislation, national leaders, persecuted church, etc.)
3) Starting a new habit like praying together only works if you set the goal together. If I had decided this would be a good thing to do and dragged my husband along for the ride, I think it would've last about one day. And it's even better if you're in a community where other couples are praying together too.
4) It's a lot easier for me to concentrate on prayer when I'm praying with someone else. It eliminates distractions to speak and listen in prayer.
5) I've learned new things about my husband and about prayer. I've glimpsed facets of his priorities and desires through what he prays for that I wouldn't hear in ordinary conversation. He prays for different things and in different ways than I would, and there's much to be learned from those differences.
6) There's nothing in the world as encouraging to me as being prayed for by my husband. I hope he feels the same way when I pray for him.
7) Getting up early is a good thing. It helps me face the day feeling more on top of things and ensures that I get my Bible reading in before the kids start running wild. Unfortunately I seem to need to relearn this lesson every couple of months.
I'm so glad my husband issued this challenge. I don't know how many other couples in our Sunday school class are still going strong at the halfway point, but if nothing else has come out of it, I'm thankful that we're praying together regularly during this busy spring season.