Three Essentials of Marriage: # 1–Praying Out Loud

IMG_0408We are down to three wedding dishes: one salad plate and two (chipped) cereal bowls. If I’m remembering correctly, that’s reduced from 40 original pieces, 8 each of the aforementioned dishes plus 8 dinner plates (all gone) and eight goblet drinking glasses (alas, all long gone). I vaguely remember when the first dish broke, probably sometime in the summer of 1999. It was sad. Our set was no longer complete; now if we had three couples over, someone would be without a goblet. Future breaks became much less painful, until eventually they were accompanied not by gasps or moans or glares at the clumsy person who did the breaking, but instead by a casual toss into the trash.

So in honor of those two bowls and a plate, I would like to share here the three things that I think have helped Heather and me in our not-perfect but actually-pretty-great marriage. These are the three, as far as I am concerned; I’m not sure I could think of another even if we still had another dish. I will share them one post at a time, beginning with:

#1: Praying Out Loud
Bla bla, prayer, of course that would be # 1 from a pastor’s blog. But stick with me here. Heather insisted from the beginning that we pray every night before we went to sleep. (hmmm, that’s what one might call “spiritual leadership,” by the way, which is something we share in our marriage and family . . . but that’s for another post). We have held to her insistence. We pray together. Every night. Out loud. I remember early on Heather would pray for a long time. I would do my best to pay attention, and then eventually groan in some way because she was still praying. Other times when it was my turn to pray, even though my prayers are generally much shorter, Heather would fall asleep, and I would have to wake her with an extra, extra loud, amen. I remember nights not wanting to pray, because I was tired, or grumpy, or just wanted to go watch The Office. But we still prayed. Some nights of prayer involved laughter, and some involved tears, and many were perfunctory and routine (Dear God, please bless our marriage and our children and give us a good night of sleep, amen.)

So what’s going on here? Does prayer really matter in marriage? Well, yes. For one thing, I actually believe that God has answered those prayers. We have been faithful because we have asked God for faithfulness; we have been (mostly) wise parents because we have asked for wisdom; God has worked through us because we’ve asked him to do so.

And then there is this: whenever Heather and I pray we are acknowledging that we can’t do it on our own. We are naming the fact that we are not alone, that the God who brought us together is sustaining us, that the promises made on July 3rd, 1999, were made in his name, and it is he who will keep the promises. It is acknowledging that the union we have is spooned into a more profound union, that which each of us has with God. Sorry, I guess, about the spooning image, and sorry about the overly-ideological language, but I believe what I am here saying. The vow that choked me up on our wedding day was the “with God as my witness” one. I knew then, and I know all the more now, that we cannot do this without God. Praying is our daily claiming of that truth.

To be honest, though, it’s weird. It was particularly weird at first, and still is, at times. Two people talking out loud in the dark to an unseen Someone? I can’t really blame those who might think that is silly, or those who believe in this Someone but don’t engage in this practice. This is an awkwardness that is worth pressing into, and through, however. Heather’s trust in God, her obedience to God, her longing for God, her faith (in short) is the very core of who she is. It is the sweet spot of her beauty, as far as I am concerned. When we pray out loud together, we are talking to that unseen Someone who has made each of us. That’s why the out loud part is so important. We also pray for each other silently, especially when we are apart. And those prayers are essential, but they don’t bring us together like those nightly 10 second–five minute prayers do. What relationship is not based on conversation? How can two people come together without speaking, and listening? Praying out loud is how we bring God into this conversation. Because we have pushed through that awkwardness, we are able to face all of the awkward, strange, wonderful, beautiful, difficult, and hard things that life throws at us.

I suppose I am making praying out loud sound like some kind of silver bullet that makes marriage awesome. I suppose I believe it is, actually. It is one of the three dishes that remain, and our commitment to it will not be broken.


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  1. […] In honor of the three wedding dishes that have survived 16.5 years of marriage, I am writing about the three things that I have found to be essential to married life. Number One, I said, is Praying Out Loud. […]

  2. […] the three wedding dishes that have survived 16.5 years of marriage. Essential # 1, I suggested, is praying out loud, and essential # 2 is telling your […]

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