Prayer is like cocoa
Around Christmas time, I made a batch of cocoa cookies. I had made this family recipe many times, so I was quite surprised when I bit into the finished product and it tasted like burnt play-dough.
What had gone wrong? Why had my cooking skills suddenly turned into a cooking curse? I checked the milk to see if it had spoiled. Nope. I went to the cupboard and pulled out the cocoa jar, thinking that perhaps it was expired. After examining it briefly, I realized that someone had actually put cinnamon in the cocoa jar and never bothered to re-label it. Apparently, I’d put in three tablespoons of cinnamon instead of cocoa.
Voilà! I’d invented a new recipe! Unfortunately, my family was not as excited as I was about my culinary creation — my dog wouldn’t even eat it.
Prayer is a key ingredient in a relationship, giving it flavor and depth. Yet, so often we leave it out and then wonder why our relationship has no rich savor. We skim over prayer nonchalantly instead of making it the main ingredient that binds our relationship together.
Statistics bear out prayer’s importance. The divorce rate among couples who regularly attend church together is fifty percent. However, those couples who pray together on a regular basis have a divorce rate of less than one percent. How’s that for divorce-proofing your marriage!
We seldom think about how prayer affects our relationships, but if prayer is so vital in keeping a marriage together, wouldn’t it be a good idea to start praying as a couple before we get married?
Back to the basics
Prayer. That’s how we began our Christian walk, repenting of our sins and acknowledging Jesus as Savior. Prayer is also vital to continuing our Christian walk — obtaining strength and wisdom from our Father above. Similarly, a Christian couple needs to begin their relationship with prayer and continually cover it with prayer.
Unfortunately, prayer is severely lacking in our culture. George Barna said that “for many Americans, prayer is like snacking — we don't really think about it, but we do it out of habit and without much passion."
Prayer meetings are generally the least attended function of a church. Honestly, if my pastor says, “You’re all invited to an hour-long prayer meeting after tonight’s service,” I immediately think of all the terribly important things I should do instead — you know, like my laundry and watching the latest Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode.
Praying is not always easy, but it is vitally important in our Christian walk. Likewise, if we want it in our relationship, we have to make a point to do it. Prayer won’t magically happen on its own. You have to take the time to discuss it with your boyfriend/girlfriend and establish a prayer routine you can stick to.
You might say, “Isn’t that risky? People say that praying together will cause us to stumble.” I know I’ve heard it whispered around church circles. Older couples encourage “Keep your purity by not praying together.” I’ve even heard peers say, “If you pray together, you’ll grow too intimate spiritually and emotionally. You should just wait until you get married to do that.”
But something about that argument doesn’t seem right. We pray with church acquaintances, neighbors, friends, and sometimes even with complete strangers. But praying with our boyfriend/girlfriend is off limits? That doesn’t make sense. God encourages his children to pray together. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
Before we marry, our boyfriend or girlfriend is our brother or sister in Christ. If praying at church with a group of acquaintances is okay, how can it be wrong to pray with the person who may one day be our spouse?
A dating/courting couple should be trying to discern whether they can serve God better together or apart. To figure this out, they need prayer — and lots of it! But how can a couple grow together spiritually if they do not pray together? How can a girl experience her boyfriend’s spiritual leadership if he never leads her in prayer?
If prayer is what holds marriages together, isn’t it a healthy habit to set up before marriage and even before engagement? We can’t expect to jump into a powerful prayer life once the pastor to says, “You many now kiss the bride.”
Three ways to keep prayer pure
1. Pray in a safe place
Praying alone in a room with the door shut and the lights dim with no one else around probably is not a good idea with any person of the opposite sex — especially with someone you’re in love with! Consider praying in a public area like a table at Starbucks, at mid-day in a busy park, or at home in the living room while there are others in the kitchen a few feet away. Or, think about going on a prayer walk around the neighborhood.
2. Pray over the phone
Praying over the phone provides a physical boundary, yet allows you to connect at any time of the day. You can call and say, “Hey, I might have the opportunity at lunch today to share the gospel with my co-worker. Will you pray for me really quick?” You can lift each other up and encourage each other in brotherly love.
3. Pray with wisdom
Some of you may be a few years into your relationship, while others might be only three weeks into the relationship. Either way, it is important to remember that God may not call the two of you to marriage. For this reason we have to guard our hearts, even in prayer. So share prayer requests with discernment according to the state of your relationship. For example, an engaged couple will share more personal things than if a couple who has only been together for a few months. If you have difficulty figuring out if something would be appropriate to share, ask your parents, your pastor, or another strong Christian couple you know for advice. They will be happy to help.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” —Colossians 4:2
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” —Ephesians 6:18