Thursday, December 7, 2017

Marketplace Reflections (11)

Subject to Authority - (2)

When we submit ourselves to the authority of God, and when we submit ourselves to the authority of God as it is expressed in the authority structures of this age, we position ourselves to learn obedience and to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

In Hebrews 2:10 we see that the Father perfected Jesus through sufferings, and in Hebrews 5:8 - 9 we read, “Although He [Jesus] was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect He became to all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” In Philippians 2:5 - 11 Paul writes that Jesus “...humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even on a cross.”

The writers of Hebrews and Philippians are exploring the Incarnation and the mystery of God becoming a man; as they draw back the veil they tell us that Jesus engaged in a Divine - Human process of maturation, Divine in the sense of God acting upon humanity, Human in the sense of responding in obedience to the Divine.

In Hebrews 10:5 - 9 and Psalm 40:6 - 10 we see that God prepared a body of flesh for Jesus and that Jesus came, according as it was written in the Divine book, to do the will of God. We also see in John 17:4 that Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will while He was on earth - as Philippians says, even to death on a cross.

One of the points of the above is that Jesus didn’t do what He whimsically wanted to do; He didn’t do what was convenient, He didn’t go with the flow; Jesus lived a life of deliberate and intentional obedience to the Father and this often entailed suffering - in fact Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” - for He took the sorrow of the world upon Him.

Another point is that it was through His obedience and suffering that He was (humanly speaking) made mature and perfect. While I don’t pretend to understand this incarnational mystery, I do know that we are called to participate the the Divine Life in Christ as His life is lived in us and through us in obedience to the Father, which necessarily means that we live subject to earthly authorities.

To be sure there are myriad tensions in all of this, or at least there should be. If someone is living a life under authority without tension then most likely he or she is asleep and simply going with the flow - after all Jesus, even though He is a Son, learned obedience by the things which He suffered. If we are always seeking to remove ourselves from difficulties, or if we live lives of acquiescence to the ways of this age, or lives in rebellion against authority - we are removing ourselves from a place where the Father can transform us into the image of the Son. We are called to live intentionally obedient lives to the will of God.

To go back to the previous post in this series, what was it that the centurion recognized about Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13)? The typical answer is, “He saw that Jesus had authority.” That is incorrect. The centurion says to Jesus, “For I also am a man under authority.” The centurion understood that legitimate authority is derived from beyond the person in a position of authority, and that legitimate authority is under authority.  When the centurion spoke to his soldiers the Emperor was speaking. The centurion saw something in Jesus that caused him to know that Jesus was not a loose cannon, that Jesus was not out doing His own thing, and that Jesus was living a life of accountability under authority. The centurion may not have known exactly who Jesus was or what Jesus’ mission was, but he knew that here was a man under the authority of a particular nature, and so unusual a nature that the centurion knew that all Jesus had to do was to speak the word and his servant would be healed.

An element of being under authority is the willingness to bear the consequences of disobedience when we disobey earthly authority in order to obey heavenly authority. A danger is that when a conflict arises between earthly and heavenly authority that we use the conflict to justify our own rebellious and ungodly attitudes - if we cannot obey earthly authority because it conflicts with the will of God, our focus should be on obedience to God and a sensitive witness to others, including those who we cannot obey. We must ask God to guard our hearts and minds in these things lest we become people of vitriol and rebellion and assume the cloak of the those who pull down and destroy.

Conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness in the workplace provides the Christ-follower with an opportunity to share Christ with others. It gives us an opportunity to think things through and to hopefully engage others on the problem. How can we help others think about the consequences of their actions? Can we show them another way? Can we appeal to their God-given sense of right and wrong? If we cannot obey or endorse an action or way of thinking, how can we respectfully and thoughtfully communicate our decision? We are not called to shut doors on relationships but to considerately engage others. How is God using difficult circumstances to form us into the image of Jesus Christ?

Living under the authority of Jesus Christ means obedience to Him and service to others. When we must disobey the authority of man, that disobedience must be not disobedience to man per se, but obedience to God in service to both God and man...whether others see this or not.

We are not our own, we are bought with a price..

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Altar

The Altar
Robert L. Withers; December 6, 2017

Let my heart be an altar
On which the fire of love for You,
Of worship and of praise,
Shall never die or smolder,
But rather shall ascend to You
With increasing fervent
Heat and light.

May  this altar radiate warmth for others,
And may its flames direct
Their eyes upward to You.
Let the fire of Your Holy Spirit
On this altar consume all
That is not of you, and let the
Son of Man be seen in its flames.

Oh may the hot lava of Your love
Flow from this altar.
Purifying and renewing my mind,
Burning away blindness from my eyes.
May Your Word from the altar
Shine a pathway for my feet,
Guiding the work of my hands,
Infusing my tongue and lips with life.

Behold the dwelling place of God is in man,
And man comes home to live in God.
Heaven and earth kiss each other.
The Word was made flesh,
Is being made flesh;
Christ in you, Christ in me, Christ in us.

Let my heart be Your altar,
Let it know no unholy fire.
Guard it, protect it, watch over it,
Let Your Holy Spirit and Your Word tend it;
May it be joined with other hearts and altars,
And by Your grace may we set souls aflame
With the fire of Your love in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Letter to a Brother - Marriage (page 3)

Jesus is Lord

A few years ago as I was preparing to meet a husband and wife whose marriage was in crisis, I found myself reviewing the various approaches I could take in my initial time with them. There is no shortage of material on marriage for the average person or for the pastoral counsellor, and I learned early in vocational ministry that it was easy to be overwhelmed by the volume of advice and coaching - it was like dining at an “all you can eat” buffet with hundreds of options.

While my typical approach to initial meetings with couples in crisis is more of asking questions and listening and praying than anything else, I had a sense that this was going to be different because I knew that this husband and wife had reached the breaking point - they had a volatile history and it seemed that a final eruption was possible. I did not know either the husband or wife well, having only lived in the area a few months, but as I prayed about meeting them I had a sense that I needed specific direction from God to relieve the built-up pressure in their marriage that would hopefully help reset the stage.

As the time of their arrival at our home drew near (I often meet folks at home to provide a different atmosphere for them), a clear thought came into my mind, a question that I should ask them, again and again if necessary, a question that would hopefully cause them to pause and consider their attitudes, decisions, and the dynamics of their marriage.

After they arrived and some brief small talk, I asked a question or two and listened, asking clarifying questions as necessary. As is often the case, the story I heard was one of mutual destruction, of a shared history of poor decisions, of accusation, of retaliation, of keeping score, of unforgiveness, and at times of just plain stupidity. No matter how good things might be going for a week or two, or a month or three, it was only a matter of time before one of the spouses would fail to be perfect and then the other would detonate a hand grenade and then the other would fire a rocket and then other other would drop a sad but so common. The only thing they could agree on was a “scorched earth policy”.

Both of these people were professing Christians, both held leadership positions in their church, both were visible within their broader community.

After a while of listening, asking questions, and praying silently through all of this I looked at them and said, “Wallace, Susan, can you tell me where the lordship of Jesus Christ is in all this?”

I then went back to specific things they had shared and at the mention of each thing I asked, “Where was the lordship of Jesus in this?”

They were stunned. Item by item they were stunned.

“I didn’t think about Jesus being Lord,” Wallace admitted.

“I didn’t think about Him either when I was doing that,” Susan said.

That was the question that came to me as I prayed in anticipation of our meeting. I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Ask them where the lordship of Jesus is in their marriage. In their decisions. In the way they are treating each other.”

I said to them, “During our time together, for however many weeks it will be, we will certainly look at some practical day-to-day things that you might consider doing to build a healthy marriage; we’ll explore some strategies and ways of thinking. But right now, the most practical thing we can think about is this basic question, “Where is the lordship of Jesus Christ in your individual lives and in your marriage? - because we can’t separate you as individuals and your obedience to Christ and you as a husband, and you as a wife, and your obedience to Jesus Christ.”

(The other thing I talked to them about was praying together. Before they left that evening I asked Vickie to join us and Vickie and I prayed together in front of them to give them a model. Once they saw how it could be done they began praying together! In the ensuing months they talked to other couples about praying together. Some things are better caught than taught.)

Since that evening with Wallace and Susan the lordship of Jesus Christ has continued to be a focus when I meet with couples; whether in crisis or in premarital counseling, or in helping husbands and wives strengthen their marriages. Is Jesus Christ the Lord of our marriage? Are we being obedient to Jesus Christ as those who are “heirs together of the grace of life”? Am I, as a spouse, being obedient to Jesus Christ in my marriage?

All too often Christian husbands and wives isolate their marriages from the lordship of Christ; much the same many Christians erect a firewall between Christ and the workplace, or Christ and a civic organization, or Christ and educational institutions. Obedience to Jesus Christ means obedience to Him in all facets of life, in all relationships - it means obedience to Him whether we feel like obeying or not. As I write these words the idea that Christian husbands and wives don’t consider obedience to Christ in their marriages seems absurd; yet many Christian spouses will apologize to others before they will apologize to their spouse, they will seek forgiveness from others before they will seek forgiveness from their spouse, they will be kind and considerate and patient with others before they will do so with their spouse. Many times Christian spouses act as if their spouse should give them a free pass on selfish and petulant behavior, on temper tantrums, and on language that often would never be used with friends, coworkers, or in church.

We may call this whatever we like; compartmentalization, “that’s just the way we are”, it’s part of our history, it all started 20 years ago, he (or she) makes me act like it what we will - when we disobey God in the way we treat our spouse it is sin. Mechanistic language with terms like “dysfunctional” can be used to cloak sin and absolve us of ownership for our actions and be used to cover the need for repentance and seeking forgiveness from both God and our spouse. Sin is sin - call it what it is.

“What does Christ want me to do? How should I respond? How am I to be obedient to Jesus in this? How can I serve Jesus and my spouse?”

Where is the lordship of Jesus Christ? No matter what the marital situation may be, whether good and healthy and growing, or stagnant, or facing the danger of dissolution - we must always be looking to Jesus; as husbands, as wives, as those joined as one in the mystery of marriage, as two who have become one as heirs together of the grace of life in Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Marketplace Reflections (10)

Subject to Authority

In Matthew 8:5 - 13 we read:

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you may have seen this passage before, either in illustrating Bible reading or in pondering the topic of “authority”. For years I’ve used this passage to ask the question, “What did the centurion recognize about Jesus?” And for years the consistent answer people give me is, “That Jesus was in authority.”

What is your answer?

The Bible has a lot to say about authority, about how it should be exercised, about how it should be obeyed, and about how, when necessary, it should be disobeyed. While I will explore how authority should be exercised in future posts, for now I will say that authority should be subject to authority, that it should be accountable, sacrificial, and that it should be used to serve others - whenever we are given authority we should be stewards of the authority and not owners, we should be servant-leaders. Of course there are different kinds of authority; for example there is positional authority and there is moral authority. Ideally those in positional authority will also have moral authority, but we know such people are rare.

Paul writes (Romans 13:1b) that “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Sadly, as with many other things that God has given us for our good, humanity has twisted and distorted authority, so that what is meant for our good is often used for evil - therefore there are times when we must disobey authority, but when we do so we must be as certain as possible that we are obeying God and not giving vent to our own self-interests. It is too easy to lie to ourselves by rationalizing away our disobedience in the guise of “righteousness” when we are really attempting to replace one person’s agenda with our own in order to seize power and dictate events.

In his letter to the Colossians Paul writes (Colossians 4:22 - 5:1) that slaves are to obey their masters, not just in terms of external actions but more importantly in terms of heart attitude...for “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” He also points out to masters that they “have a Master in heaven”. Surely we can extend this principle to all who are employed by others and to all who employ or supervise others. For the Christ-follower this means that our work ought to be in accordance with Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”

None of this is to suggest that workplaces tend to be places without stress or conflict or without poor leadership or insensitive leadership, or even at times evil leadership. Workplaces are imperfect because people are imperfect, our goal ought not to be the absence of disagreement or conflict, but rather how we live and work with others interdependently; learning to work through disagreements and conflicts and turning them into growth opportunities - both individually and collectively.

For the Christian, respect and submission to authority entails an acknowledgement that “there is no authority except from God”. While the context of these words in Romans Chapter 13 is governmental authority, the principle dovetails with Colossians 3:22 - 4:1. When we honor authority we trust God to care for us, we commit ourselves to Him - whether others realize this or not.

This does not mean that things always go well for us in the short-term, and I think that this is a particular problem in the West with our individualistic outlook, and I think it is a problem in the Western church with its meshing of cultural narcissism and Christianity. Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23) but we would rather use Jesus to make our lives better and softer and more comfortable and help us avoid hard choices.

Even though Saul sought to kill David, David was careful to honor Saul’s position as King of Israel; and the one time that David showed disrespect to Saul (1 Samuel 24:1 - 5) David was remorseful. Better to be the object of hatred than to retaliate. When the apostles told the Sanhedrin that they ought to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) we see no evidence of disrespect in either their words or attitudes, they were simply stating a fact, communicating their decision. When Daniel disobeyed the king’s edict, and when his friends also had occasion to disobey a royal decree (Daniel chapters 3 & 6) we detect no trace of rebellious attitudes, no vitriol, no disrespect  - and no complaining about what the possible consequences might be. Whether David, or the apostles, or Daniel and his friends - they were willing to suffer the consequences of obeying God and they were not willing to attack the earthly authority that poised immediate danger.

In his letter to Titus Paul writes, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men,” (Titus 3:1-2). As with Romans Chapter 13, while the context of this passage is government, the principles extend to all of life.

How many times do Christians destroy their witness by maligning those in authority in the workplace?

Peter writes (1 Peter 2:13 - 20:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

In Peter’s words we see the linkage between our attitude to the authority of government and our attitude to authority in the workplace; and we see that Peter does not give us a pass if the employer is “unreasonable” - it is not for us to pick and choose who we will respect, not if we are to follow Christ. However, let us also be clear that when obedience to God conflicts with obedience to man that we have no choice, we must respectfully disobey man and obey God. This is an opportunity to witness, to share our faith, our reasons for disobedience - we can have respectful and submissive and caring attitudes toward those in earthly authority while still not doing what we have been asked or ordered to do when to comply would disobey God.

When I wrote my recent thoughts on “telling the truth” I pointed out that Jesus says that the devil is the father of lies; I wrote that we ought to keep in mind that if we lie we are drinking of the cup of the enemy. In the same manner we ought to keep in mind who is the author of rebellion - it is Satan. When we disrespect authority we drink from the devil’s cup of rebellion. Peter and Jude point out that a mark of the enemy and his false teachers is disrespect for authority (see 2 Peter Chapter Two and Jude).

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reflections on Galatians 2:20 (4)

“I I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and give Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

“For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might to God. I have been crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:19 - 20a).

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:6.

Most professing Christians know only one-half of the most…; just as an automobile stuck in mud and spinning its tires digs itself into deeper and deeper holes, so much of the professing church repetitiously spins its preaching and understanding into the mud of half a Gospel and never moves on to the fulness of the Cross of Christ and the Christ of the Cross.

Ask the typical professing Christian about the Cross and he will say, “Christ died for my sins, so they can be forgiven.” Then ask, “Are there other dimensions to the Cross alongside the forgiveness of sins?” Instead of an answer there may just be a blank look.

It is as if the professing church, much of which professes a high regard for Scripture, has excised Romans 5:12 - 8:39 from the Bible. (Yes, we will quote Romans 8:28 and 8:37 - 39 but we will do it without regard to their context). For in Romans 5:12 - 8:39 we see that Christ on the Cross not only cleanses us of our sins and forgives them, but that He has taken us into Himself in His death and resurrection so that we are:

  1. Having died and risen with Christ we are transferred out of Adam and into Christ - a change of identity.
  2. Having died and risen with Christ we are dead to sin and alive to God.
  3. Having died and risen with Christ our relationship with the Law is severed.
  4. Having died and risen with Christ we no longer owe the flesh anything - we have no obligation to satisfy its desires.
  5. Having died and risen with Christ we are no longer slaves living in fear but sons and daughters of the living God and heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.

One of Paul’s points to Peter in Galatians Chapter Two (see also previous post on Galatians 2:20) is, “Look Peter, we have died to the Law, why are you trying to reestablish a relationship with something we have died to? Why are you seeking to leave our husband Jesus Christ and return to a husband who can only bring heartache (Romans 7:1-6)? Peter, if we do this we will be found sinners (Galatians 2:17 - 18).”

The Law makes us sinners, the Gospel makes us saints.

The follower of Jesus Christ is called to live in the knowledge that he has died with Christ to the Law, to sin, to the world; and having died he now lives to God and belongs to God.

Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world have been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

In Colossians 3:1 - 3 Paul writes, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

There are many mysteries associated with the Cross and the Atonement, many dimensions. One of the foundational elements is that we are crucified with Christ, that we participate with Christ in His death and resurrection. In the letter to the Romans Paul does not stop writing about the Atonement at 5:11, but rather having unfolded the glory of justification by faith through grace he continues into our life in Christ and in His Kingdom - for Christ does not forgive our sins and leave us in our old condition, rather He takes us within Himself on the Cross into death and resurrection - a resurrection that is ever unfolding.

If we would grapple with the reality in Christ presented in Romans 5:12 - 8:39, and elsewhere in the Bible, we would see far fewer “Christian” self-help books, far fewer 12-step programs, far fewer “how to” messages - for we would be a people rooted and grounded in the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ, we would be a people who know who Christ is and who we are in Jesus Christ. One half a Gospel leaves the church without an identity in Christ, it leaves the church anemic at best, and Galatian at worst (fallen from grace). Without knowing the fullness of the Atonement, by relegating the Gospel to one-half a Gospel, a message of forgiveness of sins, we force ourselves to seek growth through the flesh and the Law or its equivalent (Galatians 3:1 - 3) - for where else can we turn?

In the Gospels Jesus invites us into intimacy with the Trinity (see John chapters 13 - 17); in the epistles the apostles unfold the Way and the Reality...and yet we repeat step one again and again and again and again - the treadmill of one-half of the Gospel, for all it can ever be is a treadmill if we don’t burst beyond Romans 5:11 - we have rebuilt the vary barriers God has destroyed...this was Paul’s argument when he engaged Peter in Galatians Chapter Two.

“I am crucified with Christ.”

“Who am I?” I am dead, and yet in Christ I am alive.

Christ has brought a new humanity into existence, a Second Man (1 Corinthians 15:47). Which humanity shall we live in? What will be our biosphere? Our source of life (see John 15)?

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ do you know, do you confess, that “I am crucified with Christ”?

We need not feel compelled to think as the current age, to adopt its values, to derive our self-worth from things or positions or popularity, to measure up to the Law, to strive to be better than others, to take counsel of ungodly thoughts, to engage in ungodly actions. Why? Because we are crucified with Christ and are dead to these things and elements - we learn to reckon ourselves dead to these things but alive unto God (Romans 6:1-11).

Jesus Christ has not only paid a debt that we could not pay, He has given us the riches of Himself, of the Trinity...He has enfolded us into the Incarnation - the grain of wheat has fallen into the ground and died and has burst forth from the earth bearing much fruit (John 12:20 - 26).

What a tragedy for people to have their sins forgiven and never know the other half of the Gospel. Yes, a tragedy for the people of God to live as if they were not the people of God but still slaves to self, to sin, to the Law, to the world. Oh how we could touch others if we knew the fulness of the Gospel, if we were free from self-preoccupation and enthralled with Jesus Christ and His incredible work on the Cross.

Perhaps we would have fewer instances of ugliness within congregations if we confessed that we are crucified with Christ, for how can a dead person take offense? And how can a man or woman who is a slave to God seek to hurt his or her sibling in Christ?

When we look at the Cross let us see Jesus, and let us see ourselves in Jesus, and let us see our brothers and sisters in Jesus…

“I am crucified with Christ.”

And so are you.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Letter to a Brother - Marriage (Page 2)

Praying Together

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives…as heirs together of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7b

It was early in the morning when I arrived at the pastor’s apartment in New York City, I wanted to stop by and catch up with the pastor and his wife; they were not expecting me. After their greetings and providing me with a cup of coffee Pastor Alvarez said, “Brother Bob, please excuse us for a while, my wife and I haven’t prayed together yet, so we are going back into our bedroom to pray and we’ll be back when we’re finished.”

The above happened almost fifty years ago, but I still remember it. Ralph and Carmen Alvarez were putting first things first in their marriage; after making their guest comfortable they were going to do what they did every day – they were going to pray together as husband and wife.   

One of the questions I often ask married Christians is “Do you pray with your spouse?” Less than one out of ten say “Yes.” People might respond, “We say ‘grace’ before meals,” but they know that’s not what I’m asking, they know I’m asking if they pray together regularly about their marriage, about their lives, and for the needs of others. Are they giving thanks to God for His blessings? Are they praying for the salvation of others? Are they praying together for those who need healing? Are they praying for God’s direction in their lives?

There are two areas that Christians tend to get irritated about when I explore them in a conversation, two areas that Christians often get plan angry about – one is sharing the Good News of Jesus with others and the other is praying with a spouse. Christians have excuse after excuse about why they don’t share Jesus with others, and they have excuse after excuse about why they cannot pray with their Christian wife or Christian husband. I have had discussions with husbands who will get angry with me for not accepting their excuses – some will go away angry and come back days later to say that they’ve tried it and it’s working, others will avoid the subject in the future and hope that I don’t bring it up again.

If, as Peter writes, husbands and wives are heirs together of the grace of life, doesn’t it make sense that husbands and wives ought to pray together? After all, isn’t prayer one of our most intimate connections with God? And if husbands and wives are one flesh, one person, then shouldn’t that one person be praying and experiencing intimacy with God – not just as individuals but as husband and wife?

There is a vulnerability in prayer in that when we pray with our spouses there is no room for façade, no room for posturing or religious pretending, no place for denial of sin if the spouses have mistreated each other. Confession of sin is necessary when a husband has wronged his wife or a wife has wronged her husband. Confession of sin is also necessary when the husband and wife have wronged others. A husband and wife in prayer can also be a place of tenderness as they give thanks to God for His love and mercy in their lives and as they thank Him for each other and their marriage. Praying for children and grandchildren, friends and neighbors and coworkers, others in need, missions, community…the list goes on in terms of what a husband and wife can pray for.

Praying together is an act of worship, it is a marriage of a man and woman joined as one in Jesus Christ, communing with the God who created them – their two hearts becoming one altar on which they offer up love for God, receiving together the grace of life.

Why is it so difficult for husbands and wives to pray together? Two reasons often are “expectations” and “forgiveness and acceptance”. Many people are uncomfortable praying aloud in church or in small groups because they think that verbal prayer has to be a certain way, sound a certain way, and use certain words in a certain order – how often do people who pray around others change their tone of voice and type of language when they pray! It’s as if one moment they are speaking American English and the next they are speaking British English – what happened? It’s as if we change from everyday language to holy language – we go from being ourselves to being someone else. I think our kind heavenly Father would rather us be ourselves when we commune with Him than try to be someone or something else. A prayer façade might work in church or a small group, but hopefully it won’t work with a spouse – after all, the spouse knows who we are, the spouse knows how we typically talk…as does our heavenly Father.

But I think the issue of forgiveness, coupled with acceptance, is often the biggest issue in a husband and wife praying together – because we’ve all hurt our spouse at one time or another, and we’re never quite so vulnerable as when we pray. Also, spouses see imperfection and sin in one another, after all, we’ve all come short of the glory of God, there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:23). A fear is that one spouse will think his or her spouse a hypocrite, or that one spouse has not really forgiven the other, or that even if one has forgiven the other that acceptance and love is being withheld – because while one spouse may forgive the other can he or she really forget the harsh word, the unkind action, the sin introduced into the marriage, the repeated destructive behavior?

No one said that praying together is easy, any more than individual prayer is always easy – asking forgiveness is not easy, repentance is not easy, submitting to God and to one another is not easy. Yet, healing and forgiveness and changes in attitudes and behavior can be experienced when husbands and wives weave prayer into the fabric of their marriage. When a husband and wife pray together it is not only the husband’s heart that is exposed to God, nor only the wife’s heart that is exposed, but it is particularly the heart of the marriage, of the husband and wife, that is exposed to our Lord Jesus and it is that heart, found in the unity of person, that Jesus can speak to and mold and draw to Himself.

Questions to Ponder:
If you and your spouse do not pray together, please take the opportunity to do so now. Simply join hands and begin praying. Here are some things that can be part of your prayer:
Thank God for each other and thank Him for your marriage. Pray for needs within your marriage, pray for guidance, pray that God will use your marriage as a blessing to others and to draw others to Jesus Christ. Pray for needs within your family, your circle of friends, your coworkers. Pray for the salvation of others by name. Pray that God will teach you as husband and wife to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourselves. Commit all that you have and all that you are to Him. Pray for those in distress across the world as a result of natural disasters, war, and famine. Pray for national, state, and local leaders. Don’t be afraid to have moments of silence in your prayer as your hearts listen to the Holy Spirit.

If you and your spouse do pray together, and you do not do so daily, please make a commitment to begin daily prayer together right now – right now in prayer ask God to help you make time for daily prayer.