“Some say they have been married for 20 years, but truthfully they have been married twenty times the same year.” This statement by pastoral psychologist Jannie Botha has been ringing in my head ever since I have heard him say it few years ago. It’s true: just because we have been together for long does not mean we have grown together strong. Growth requires deliberate discipline (1 Timothy 4:7).
From the offset of our relationship my wife and I had a good spiritual partnership. We went to church together, did Bible School together, served in a student ministry together and even planted a church together before we got married. But although we shared some amazing times of worship together over the years, and although we pray together daily, we have not found a model for frequent devotional time together that worked well for the two of us. She has her way of spending time with God and I have mine.
Yes, we occasionally share what we read in the Bible and what God says to us, but we have always desired to grow spiritually together through a structured couples devotional time. Especially now that we have kids we longed some format of a family devotional time that they may grow into more and more as they grow older. And after more than a decade’s marriage I think we found something which works for us!
A Devotional Model for Couples
In his series Creating and Intimate Marriage Jim Burns shares that he and his wife Cathy also have their own devotional time, but that once a week they would come together and have a devotional time where share on spiritually with each other and spend time in prayer together, especially regarding their marriage and family.
They would begin their devotional time together by sharing from their Bibles and journals the most significant thing(s) that that God revealed to them personally, and discuss this with each other. They would share what they have read, why it touched them and what it made them think and feel, and possibly how it would impact their current or future attitudes and actions. This is a time of spiritual discussion and reflection.
Thereafter they share their greatest joy, greatest struggle, and greatest desire of the past week. This can be a simple as “my greatest desire of the week is a weekend away from everything” or as deep and honest as “my greatest struggle of this week was you, Jim!”
This is followed by a time of affirmation – where they would encourage one another by stating how they positively perceived one another during the week. Because they are committed to create an atmosphere of A.W.E. (affection, warmth and encouragement) in their home, they schedule these times of affirmation. This would lead to a time of accountability for physical goals they set for one another, and I think any form of accountability is healthy in such a session. And eventually these sharing with one another would lead to a time of prayer for one another, their relationship and their family.
Overcoming spiritual barriers to intimacy
It is important to note that the biggest barriers to intimacy include a lack of priority to meet together in such deliberate and disciplined ways – which these devotional times in themselves will overcome. But furthermore relational issues such as unforgiveness, anger, and guilt, are all spiritual conditions which these times of sharing and praying should address. These are the things that couples need to pray about together, asking God for love and grace to grow beyond.
The aim of this devotional time is to deliberately and systematically grow together spiritually as “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8) and so doing to grow in deeper intimacy.
This couples devotional method works for me – perhaps you and your spouse can try this and see if it works for you?