When Mike and I were first married, I admit we prayed together more from habit, than we did from the heart. Mostly we prayed together at meals, rattling off a few quick clichés and routine catchphrases before we ate.

When we tried to pray deeper, more authentic prayers, it felt a bit awkward, so it was easy to skip praying together.

Honestly, prayer was hard enough for me to do alone—much less with my new husband—so we only got around to praying together (besides mealtimes) when we had an emergency or a big decision to make.

I’m thinking maybe you can relate.

Praying with your spouse can be difficult because prayer opens our hearts up to each other, to deep places that are private and vulnerable. Initially, this can feel awkward and revealing, but it’s important to do.

Here’s why: some studies show that among couples who pray together regularly, the divorce rate is less than 1%.

A less than 1% divorce rate? Amazing.

If those studies are even close to accurate–and I think they are–they indicate that praying together actually does help us stay together. It’s one of the most powerful things you and I can do for our marriages.

When we pray, we experience being in the presence of God together. We come before the Lord’s throne hand in hand to make requests, admit our struggles and celebrate our God.

Like spiritual glue, a rich experience of prayer can bond our hearts together. It can help us understand each other more deeply. It can rekindle our love.

Recently, we celebrated our 31st anniversary (how could it have been that long?!).

Through many ups and downs, we’ve learned the value of praying together. I know God honors it. I’ve witnessed how He has used our times of prayer to draw us closer, heal and strengthen us.

And yet sometimes we still neglect to pray together, but we are always blessed when we do. Over the years, our initial awkwardness has diminished, and a comfortable freedom has emerged. Now we find a lot of strength and comfort as we pray together.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Here are 7 mistakes that we’ve learned to avoid as we pray together:

Using prayer as a time to teach. Prayer isn’t an opportunity to list helpful hints or to give a theology lesson to our spouse. It is a real conversation with a real God. I’ve often made the mistake of putting a little comment (or a zinger) in my prayer that I thought Mike needed to hear, but this is really obvious. Instead of promoting unity, it can backfire into promoting distance, frustration and arguments. (Been there, done that)

Using “churchy” phrases and clichés. Prayer is a conversation with God from the heart, not a canned, meaningless repetition. In the past, we used to use too many clichés, instead of keeping it real. 

Praying long, unfocused prayers. Marathon, rambling prayers make it difficult for the other spouse to stay focused. This can discourage you from praying together. At times I’ve been too longwinded in prayer, not leaving Mike much time to chime in. This is really inconsiderate (I’m trying to do better). Since praying together is a shared experience, no one person should dominate.

Not praising God for who He is. Sometimes, we’ve skipped praising God and gone straight to our wish list. But it’s best to praise and worship God together before we start asking Him for things. Praising and worshipping together helps us see Him as our God and helps us practice our faith, rather than thinking of it separately, as yours and mine.

Assuming what the other spouse needs. I have to be careful not to assume I know exactly what Mike needs. Instead of making assumptions, it’s best to ask him what he needs and why it’s important to him. This is true sharing. It helps us know and understand each other on a deeper level. Communicating our needs to each other and to the Lord helps us refine them.

Not being honest. It’s difficult to admit your faults and ask God for help, right in front of your spouse, but it is healing. Don’t make the mistake of holding back or pretending. It won’t bring you nearer to God or each other. Nothing is more endearing than being open and authentic.

Not praying together for our marriage. It’s humbling to pray for God to help me be a better wife, but whenever I admit that I need help, I feel relived. Praying together invites God’s power and presence into our relationship. It also gives both of us a chance to thank God for our marriage.

Looking back, I can see that God used our times of prayer to draw us closer to Him and to each other. And I’m thankful for each time we’ve held hands, bowed our heads and prayed together.

So, what about you?

Praying can feel pretty awkward, so maybe you tend to skip doing it, like we did.

Or perhaps you’ve been too busy to pray together, lately. (I get it!) 

Or maybe you’ve never tried. (The prayer “cheat sheets” below can help)

Praying together can be a struggle, but it’s worth it. Nothing will bless your marriage more. Set aside a time to pray together each week. If you miss it, don’t be discouraged, simply try again. Remember, God is more interested in your prayers today than the prayers you missed yesterday.

Here are a few Scriptures to encourage you:

The Lord is close to everyone who prays to him, to all who truly pray to him.” Psalm 145:18 NCV

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

“Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:18-20 GNT

Now that I’ve reminded you of what not to do, I’d like to encourage you by giving you a few key things to do as you pray together. Email me at hello@maypatterson.com to request these FREE prayer cheat sheets which feature 7 keys to help you along with key verses: