Having Devotions as a Couple

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Do you and your spouse have regular devotions together? Devotions are a specific time when you both read the Bible–and perhaps a devotional guide–and pray together. Through our years of working with couples we have observed that only a small minority of couples actually have a plan for drawing close to God together.

As a follow-up to our post on 3 Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Intimacy we felt it would be helpful to follow-up with some practical next steps.   For the health of your marriage, we are challenging you to begin now to incorporate a plan for growing together spiritually. And men, we are charging you with the responsibility to make sure this happens!

Before you panic, we have four simple steps to ensure success.  Ready? Here are the four steps:

Relax!

Taking the spiritual initiative in the home does not mean that you have to be the expert. This isn’t about having all the answers, knowing all the books of the Bible, or how long you’ve been a Christian. The only one who is putting that pressure on you is you. All you have to do is be the initiator and…

Plan

This isn’t something that will take a lot of time. Consistency is the key, not longevity.  We suggest spending 5-10 minutes total a day. It could be that your schedules are such that a daily routine isn’t possible. So initiate a conversation where the two of you determine together what time of day is best and which days of the week are optimal.

Again, you don’t have to be the expert, just the initiator. Part of your plan is knowing what you are going to read. We’ve found that reading 2-3 paragraphs at a time and working our way through a book of the Bible has been a good pace. Perhaps you will start in one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) or a highly application oriented book like James.

An additional resource would be to use a devotional book which will have readings as well as suggested Bible verses to read. Here are some suggestions:

When you’ve figured out what you are going to read, then it’s time to…

Initiate!

When you have your timing chosen and your plan figured out, take a deep breath and dive in!  Again, husbands, you be the one who makes sure that the plan is enacted.  At least initially we recommend that the husband do the reading out loud, though over time you might decide to take turns.

Be consistent in your time together. Protect against intrusions and excuses. There may be rare exceptions when you will choose to be flexible, but overall, you want to stick with the plan. Either before or after you read together, be sure that you…

Pray!

We’ve written about praying together here and strongly urge you to read more about it. It is vital for the health of your marriage to pray together–out loud. Couples who pray together significantly decrease the risk of divorce and increase their intimacy and connectedness!

What have you done to grow together spiritually? Share your ideas below and build your marriage!

“All In” or Holding Back in Your Marriage?

Thumbs up couple

In our work with couples we have seen an alarming trend where one or both persons aren’t “all in” regarding their effort to build their marriage. The end result of not being “all in” is a marriage that is disconnected and dissatisfying at best, and eventually divorced at worst.

Why People Hold Back

While the reasons for withholding from one’s spouse can be complicated, there are some general underlying reasons that we have identified:

3 Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Intimacy

Couple praying

 

If you want to grow close as a couple, then you have to be committed to cultivating spiritual intimacy. This is one of the greatest challenges for couples to initiate in their marriage.

While it isn’t specifically gender related, many husbands hesitate in this area because they really don’t know what steps to take. They haven’t opened up much about their spirituality  with anyone, let alone with their wife. And for wives, while they would like their husbands to take spiritual leadership, they aren’t sure how to broach the subject or what they would like their husband to do! And so what tends to happen is that couples don’t do anything to cultivate spiritual intimacy and they miss out on the joy and the unity which God desires for them.

The good news is that it isn’t that complicated of a process! What is required, however, is an initiator. We recommend that the husband be the initiator in cultivating spiritual intimacy in the marriage, but if he is reticent to do so, then certainly the wife can get the ball rolling!

Here are three simple things that you can do in your marriage starting today:

Read The Bible Together

Early in our marriage we set aside time before going to bed to simply read the Bible together. These weren’t marathon reading sessions—some nights it was no more than a paragraph or two. But we began to work our way through different books of the Bible, and little by little over about three years we read much of the New Testament! This didn’t take the place of spending our individual time alone with God, but it drew us closer together as we would read Scripture and sometimes have conversation after the reading.

If you aren’t sure where to start, perhaps you can start in the Gospel of John or in a very practical and applicational book like James.  If your schedule doesn’t allow for the two of you to spend time every day reading the Bible, then figure out which days of the week work best for you. Then try to discipline yourselves to incorporate this into the fabric of your marriage.

Pray Together

Statistically, only about 5% of Christian couples actually pray together. And yet prayer is one of the most important things that you can do for the long-term stability of your marriage. In his book, Relationship Rescue, Dr. Phil writes about…

“… an interesting statistic shared by David McLaughlin in his wonderful series entitled The Role of the Man in the Family reflects that the divorce rate in America is at a minimum one out of two marriages. But the reported divorce rate among couples that pray together is about one in ten thousand. Pretty impressive statistic, even if you reduce it a thousandfold.”

We talk about this in-depth when we speak at conferences, but this doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just hold hands, and simply say a prayer asking for God’s favor on your marriage, your family, and your endeavors. Usually the person who is least accustomed to praying out loud should pray first, then the person who is more accustomed to praying should simply match that prayer in length and style. That levels the “praying field” and creates a safer environment in which to open up a very personal part of one’s life.

Celebrate Together

It’s easy to look at all of the things that are going wrong in life. Our money might be tight, health may be challenged, relationships may be stressed. Make it a practice in your marriage to talk about all of the good things that God is bringing into your life: food on the table, a roof over your head, friends who care about you, and a church home where you belong. As you practice verbally expressing thanks for all that God has given, your mutual faith and trust in God will grow and draw you closer together as you face the future hand-in-hand.

What have you done which has been helpful in cultivating spiritual intimacy as you Build Your Marriage?

4 Words to Eliminate From Conflict

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhoto.net

There’s an old adage that, “Hurt people, hurt people,” and in conflict that can easily be manifested in our words. We can use words to bring comfort when our spouse is sad or discouraged, or we can fling words in their direction as weapons of mass destruction.

Because we are both strong-willed, first-born individuals who are communicators, we have natural and developed skills in using words. In the intimacy and vulnerability of a marriage relationship, we learned through the years how to skillfully aim our words in such a way that they usually found the spot where they would do the most damage.

Perhaps you can relate to this either as a “word-flinger” or as a “target.” In our hurt, frustration, or anger we selfishly tried to make the other hurt like we did. Or we used our words to trump the argument—winning the conflict, but losing the intimacy and security in our marriage. We have long since repented and asked forgiveness for that era in our marriage, and have experienced healing as a result of change.

There are four words that we know have no place in any marital conflict and we want to share them with you. Do all you can, with God’s help, to eliminate them from your conflict vocabulary. They are:

Divorce

Invoking the word “divorce” in an argument shatters security. It is saying that even God isn’t big enough to guide you to reconciliation, so you’re giving up on His help and the marriage.

Think about this: while God could reconcile us from sin and death through his Son, you are declaring He is unable to reconcile two people who once took vows “till death do us part.” That is a lie that is driven by frustration, anger, hurt and egged on by the Enemy of marriages.

God can bring healing and restoration to any couple that is willing to submit to Him and seek wise counsel. We have seen it in our marriage and countless others. Let God grow your confidence in Him as you work through the conflict and honor your commitment to your spouse and to Jesus.

You

Throwing “you” statements into a conflict puts your partner on the defensive. Its effect is to assign blame. It’s like is a verbal finger being jabbed into their soul. The focus is no longer about the issue at the core of the conflict, but suddenly the focus becomes personal and accusatory.

Instead, make a conscious effort to zero in on the real reason for the conflict. Put the matter in terms of how you feel, or how you see yourself impacted.

For example, if a husband leaves his dirty dishes in the sink after being asked to regularly put them in the dishwasher, his wife could attack him saying, “You’re so lazy you didn’t rinse and put away your dishes like you said you would.” Statements like that simply escalate quickly into conflict and defensiveness.

Instead, she could say, “I am frustrated and feel taken advantage of when I find dishes in the sink like this. It would help me a lot if you (non-accusatory) could put them in the dishwasher, please.” Over time, this approach maintains the relationship and will bring about the desired response.

Always and Never

Using these words is an attempt to stack the deck in our favor. They put our spouse on the defensive immediately to prove that “always” and “never” don’t apply to them. Frankly, always and never are almost always 😉 gross exaggerations. It may feel true, but their use only heightens conflict.

We’ve had to retrain ourselves to use words like “at times,” “often,” and “on occasion.” It presents an honest assessment and keeps the conversation focused on the issue, verses defending ourselves.

This week, pay attention to the words you use if you face conflict. Work hard to eliminate these four words as you Build Your Marriage!