When Couples Pray: The Little Known Secret to Lifelong Happiness in Marriageby Cheri Fuller
More than a book about praying together, this collection of dynamic resources motivates and guides couples into meaningful prayer! Statistics show that when couples pray together divorce rates plummet to less than 1 percent. Outspoken "prayer warrior" Cheri Fuller takes aim at interference to couples praying together by providing accessible tools to unite them before God. Each chapter offers a brief vignette about real people, a Scripture verse, a prayer exercise, and a "parting thought" for couples to ignite them in prayer. Fuller promises a "double blessing" to readers who pray this way -- the joy of experiencing answered prayer and the fulfillment of deepening marital intimacy.
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When Couples PrayThe Little-Known Secret to Lifelong Happiness in Marriage
By Cheri Fuller
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2001 Cheri Fuller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the Beginning
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Amos 3:3, NKJV
I paced around our little kitchen, fussed with the fresh flowers in the centerpiece I had placed on the table, and checked the chicken divan-again. Holmes and I had been married on Thanksgiving weekend, and now, a week after our wedding, we were back at home in Waco. Even though I had taught junior high students all day, I was determined that Holmes would come home from his job to a home-cooked meal.
Holmes always gets off at six o'clock, I thought. Surely he'll be here in a few minutes. It's only a five-minute drive from the store. He's gonna love this casserole!
7:00 P.M. Where is he? When I was growing up, being on time for dinner was expected. At our house, not showing up constituted a crime approaching mutiny. Surely he'll be home soon.
8:00 P.M. Still no Holmes. And no phone call. I hope nothing's happened. I'd better call the store. No answer. I'll just rewarm the casserole when he gets here.
9:00 P.M. I sat alone at the dining table, my spirits as limp as the green salad.
Slowly, the hours passed. My first-ever chicken divan, once creamy andhot, was now rubbery and cold. I had already reheated it several times while I waited for Holmes to come home.
At ten o'clock Holmes finally arrived, looking a little sheepish. He explained somewhat glibly that he had stopped off at the Lake Air Grill with the guys from the store. After one look at the food, he announced that he wasn't hungry-he had already had a burger. I had been worried that he had been in a car wreck; now I was hurt, angry, and in tears.
But when I tried to tell Holmes how I felt, he retreated into his shell like a turtle. I couldn't believe it-we had communicated so well before the wedding! Obviously not willing to discuss it, Holmes turned on the TV. When I became even more upset, he walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and went to bed. So much for the honeymoon! My tears turned to sobs.
With minor variations, this scene repeated itself throughout our first years of marriage. Gradually, brick by brick, the walls grew between us. Oh, there were many happy moments too-the births of our two sons, outings to the park, pushing the kids in their strollers around the neighborhood, and an occasional weekend trip to my parents' ranch in east Texas. I remember how thrilled I felt when Holmes returned home after several months of basic training and a two-week summer camp with the Airborne National Guard. But the closeness we had shared as an engaged couple had evaporated, and in times of stress or conflict, the distance between us seemed like a chasm too wide to bridge.
By our eighth anniversary, our marriage was in trouble. How I longed for conversation, intimacy, and a heart-to-heart connection with my husband! We shared the same bed, but I often felt as if we were a million miles apart.
I still remember the night when I realized that our marriage was at a crossroads. The lights were out, and Holmes was breathing softly next to me. I was full to the brim with bottled-up resentment, loneliness, and hurt. As I lay there thinking, I realized that I had a choice to make.
I could continue in the same direction I was going and pursue my own interests-postgraduate work, a women's writers' group, the tennis league. If I did, Holmes and I would probably become like "married singles"-living in the same house and functioning as parents but experiencing little closeness as a couple. Even worse, we might end up separated or divorced. Or, I could turn to God and seek His divine plan for our marriage. I had no idea then what God's divine plan might be, but I did recognize that it was an alternative.
The very next day I wiped the dust off a Phillips version of the New Testament and began to read it every afternoon while the boys took their naps. After I'd worked my way through the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke-I read only a few chapters each day while the house was quiet-I began the book of John.
"At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning," I read silently. "All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out" (John 1:1-5, Phillips).
As I continued reading the words of the first chapter, the eyes of my understanding were opened. In modern terms, the lights went on! (I realize now that this was no accident, because my faithful mom had been interceding for me for years.) The living Word, Jesus Himself, revealed Himself to me with a reality that left me breathless. I saw Him as the true Light who came into the world not only to bring light to mankind's darkness, but to bring it to my darkness.
Although I had been attending church, I had been living in a fog of skepticism and unbelief since my teenage years. Now, I suddenly knew that He was real. He was not a god who kept himself distant from us, nor was He merely a character of "biblical myth," as my religion professor had taught me. He was God's Son, He was with me, and He had a plan for my life. In those moments with my Savior, layers of doubt crumbled in His presence, and I yielded myself to Him anew.
With a hunger to know more of God, I dug into the Bible with more energy than I had ever expended in my favorite graduate courses in Shakespeare or Chaucer. Reading His Word daily renewed my thoughts. My perspective began to change. And apparently my husband must have noticed something was different, because without a word from me, he eagerly picked up the same New Testament and began to read it. A few weeks later, he found life in Jesus Christ.
And that was how the spiritual journey of our marriage started.
We didn't have a blueprint. We had no instruction. But God led us step-by-step. And one of the first places He led us was to our knees in prayer.
Although we had been churchgoers throughout our marriage, Holmes and I didn't know the first thing about praying together. We had uttered our own individual, silent "dart" prayers-as we raced to the emergency room with Justin during an asthma attack, or as we administered syrup of ipecac to our toddler, Chris, after he'd stuffed some dreadful-looking brown mushrooms into his little mouth. But we didn't have much experience talking calmly with God together, placing our needs and decisions before Him, listening for His answers, and gaining refreshment and renewal from unhurried time in His presence.
Holmes comes from a long line of people who were very private about their faith. By nature he was quiet; in a crisis or conflict, he said even less. As I discovered the night of the cold chicken divan, Holmes was a "move away" kind of person, while I was a "move toward" kind of person. I confronted; he retreated. When he moved away from me emotionally in stressful situations, I would feel scared and lonely. Then my emotions would run amok in verbal expression or in a torrent of worried thoughts that played over and over in my mind like a broken record.
We also had very different prayer styles. Holmes was more likely to "think" his prayers and be concise about it, whereas I could easily verbalize my petitions and be long-winded.
What a challenge it was for us to come together in prayer! Fortunately, what is impossible with man (and his wife) is possible with God!
Soon after our spiritual renewal began, Holmes received three job offers. One of them would mean another move. Even when I'm at my best, I hate moving; but at that particular time, I was nine months pregnant and carrying twenty-five extra pounds! At the end of a day corralling two preschool boys, I couldn't even think about packing boxes. And my nesting instincts were off the chart.
Move? No way! That was my position. A few months earlier we had moved to the house of my dreams, and all I wanted was to rock our soon-to-be-born baby on the porch of our red brick home with the white picket fence and watch the boys play in the bright autumn sunshine.
Holmes, however, knew that he was being squeezed out of his current job situation-the manager position that he had been promised wasn't materializing. With a growing family to support, he thought that we had to at least consider all of the new job offers. Besides that, he loved change-and enjoyed moving!
His usual method of decision making was to analyze everything internally, then announce what he'd figured out. I liked to hash everything out from all sides verbally and write lists of the pros and cons. Thankfully, our reconnection with God changed our way of dealing with these differences.
Perhaps for the first time in our marriage, Holmes came out on the porch, took my hand, and said, "Honey, let's pray together about these job offers. We need God's guidance. I just read today in James that if we need wisdom, we can ask God for it."
As we bowed our heads, a feeling of relief swept over me. We didn't have to make this decision on our own. We didn't have to be in conflict or watch helplessly as stress pushed us farther apart. There was someone who cared, someone who was bigger than us both, and I sensed that He was listening as we bowed our heads.
Holmes and I were just babies in prayer at that point. We were not experienced at talking to God and certainly not eloquent. But as we prayed our simple prayers, asking God to guide us, He not only was faithful to help us agree on which job Holmes should take, but He also did even more than we had asked.
The job Holmes accepted did mean that we would have to move. So we did-when baby Alison was only three weeks old. But grace smoothed the way. In fact, Holmes's new employer offered to help us find a house, and he personally arranged for a loan. Before the move we had been renting, with little hope of accumulating a large enough down payment to purchase our own home. With the new employer's help, we were able to buy the new house. We landed in a friendly neighborhood with other young families, not far from a church where our newfound faith could grow.
But God's direct answer to our prayer, wonderful as it was, was not the most important result of our praying together. Even more precious to us was that our hearts began to be knit together through the incredible closeness we felt as we prayed to our Father.
Without a counselor to tell us what was wrong, God Himself began to heal our marriage. And with every prayer we prayed together, Jesus became that third strand of a braided cord, binding us tightly together and giving us strength. With this increased spiritual bonding came emotional intimacy. The heart-to-heart connection with my husband that I had desired for so long slowly began to become a reality.
We've traveled down the road a ways (and made a number of other moves) since we prayed those first halting prayers together on the porch. In the intervening twenty-four years, we've talked to the Lord together about a myriad of concerns. We've prayed our kids through chicken pox, asthma, broken bones, stitches, and painful ear infections. We've asked God such questions as "Where should we send our children to school?" and "Should we sell the house?" We've prayed through business storms, school problems, driver's ed, and prom nights. We've also prayed certain girlfriends and boyfriends out the door-and others in!
We have asked for wisdom when we were fresh out of it, especially when navigating our kids through the rough waters of adolescence. As the years passed, our sphere broadened as we prayed for extended family, friends, missionaries, and others. We've prayed for people who needed God's love, help, and healing at church and on mission trips. And countless times we've thanked God for another day of life and for the bounty and blessing of sharing an evening meal or a picnic in the park together as a family.
Sometimes we've talked to the Lord aloud as we drove across the country. Other times we've held hands and prayed silently when there were no words-when both of us lost our parents within a two-year span and as our first grandbaby lay in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit. We've knelt to utter innumerable prayers of I'm sorry, God; I've blown it again. And more than once we've prayed the "Jehoshaphat" prayer: Lord, we don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.
We've seen firsthand that praying as a couple works! There is a special effectiveness and power released when ordinary husbands and wives like us agree in prayer. Maybe that's why Satan likes to keep us all so busy that we often have to expend some extra effort to make it happen.
My husband and I have discovered a special, heart-to-heart connection that is only available through prayer and spiritual interaction. When we're fresh out of love and patience with each other, God has an inexhaustible supply of each, ready and waiting for us to ask.
God has taught us a lot through simple prayers uttered over coffee or at our kids' bedsides. And although we've seen Him work in our lives and our children's lives over and over as we've prayed, we still have not arrived. We are still whispering, Lord, teach us to pray. And we're still finding that He loves to show us more!
Excerpted from When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller Copyright © 2001 by Cheri Fuller
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Cheri Fuller is an inspirational speaker and the award-winning author of twenty-eight books. She is also a contributing editor for Today's Christian Woman and founder of Families Pray USA. Her Web sites, syndicated Internet columns, magazine articles, and books provide encouragement and hope to women and families worldwide. Parents of three children, Cheri and her husband, Holmes, live in Oklahoma City.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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