A burden weighed on us. Although invisible to the eye, it was very real and very heavy. While we may have had a “good marriage”—some people would have even said a great marriage—this burden created seasons of tension, confusion, and heaviness. Much of the time, we didn’t particularly notice it. Then at other times, we knew something was pressing on us, but we could never say quite what it was.
Eventually, we became convinced that it does, in fact, weigh upon many—dare we say most—marriages in the body of Christ. It is even heavy upon Christian husbands and wives who help others find and pursue God—yes, even on people in ministry!
Sure, husbands and wives share “spiritual life” from time to time. We go to church, pray with our kids, and perhaps even manage occasional family devotions. We may teach Sunday School, lead a youth group, head up a Bible study, or even preach on Sunday mornings. We, the Ingrassias, were right there. However, at our home address something was missing, and we now know it’s missing from many homes.
For many couples, the spiritual connection as husbands and wives is haphazard, intermittent, bumping along, and barely staying on the road. These days, husbands and wives often run fast on separate paths. We have differing, legitimate responsibilities to fulfill, depending on how they are arranged in any particular marriage, but the issue—the burden—is not caused by the different paths. The problem is the distance between our paths and the resulting spiritual disconnectedness. Different directions mean that our spiritual intersections are most likely infrequent. Distance creates the opportunity for nontogether things to muscle their way in. Yet Jesus warns that a “house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25, NKJV), and the world, spiritual forces, and even our own flesh, are more than happy to see our houses divided unto destruction and demise.
Demanding schedules, multiple jobs, a robust agenda of weekly activities, lessons of all sorts for our kids, carpools scurrying back and forth across town, and running to the airport for business trips all equal damaged connectedness. Life deals so many cards, we don’t know how to fit them into our hands!
Jesus knew all about this and had a solution:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matt 7:24–27).
The rain, rising streams, and blowing winds beat upon our marriages and families, but notice that Jesus does not offer any way to stop the storms from coming at us. No, he talks about how to build lives that will remain intact despite the onslaught. Stability is the reward for any house built upon a rock foundation, and it’s up to us to make sure we build on rock, not sand.
Unloading the Burden
God pointed out the invisible but very real burden we carried in our own marriage and showed us that we felt it because we were building on sand. But God also graciously revealed to us an answer. He showed how to unload the weight, experience new freedom, and gain fresh hope in our marriage and family.
What was the burden of ours, and why do we think you might be carrying it, too? It is the lack of intentional and regular spiritual connection as a married couple. There are multiple ways to foster spiritual health in our marriages. We specifically realized we were missing a fundamental ingredient of a spiritually sound marriage: praying together as husband and wife.
The key to unloading the burden is to ask an essential question. So, be honest when you answer. Besides praying over meals, when you put your children or grandchildren to bed, or praying at a church-related gathering, how often do you pray together as husband and wife—just the two of you?
Your answer is likely not a comfortable one. Never. Rarely. Occasionally. Hardly ever. Not Enough. When needed. Clearly, there is a stark gap within marriages, even the ones we call “Christian.”
The Opportunity to Pray
Although prayer is ultimately a great mystery, there are many things we do know about it. Prayer is communication with the living God. And, prayer makes a difference. How can we bring prayer more vitally into our marriages? As husbands and wives, how can we cover our children with effective prayers? We know we need to be more intentional and more regular in spiritual connection in our marriages. Yet, sometimes we feel mysteriously blocked from the very thing we need. The rains, rising streams, and blowing winds are relentless. We need a solid rock foundation.
This assertion is not meant to make you feel guilty in any way. We know you don’t need more guilt. No, we intend for this book to give you hope! It is important to recognize how we have stumbled, to give way to repentance of mind and heart. But, mourning the past (or even the present) will not provide long-lasting motivation and transformation.
We need to see something ahead: a vision for what could be. The opportunity is ripe for God-fearing husbands and wives to see the Lord show up in very real ways. Through what we’ve witnessed during the past few years, we believe God is surfacing this burden that troubles most Christian marriages—not so he can make us feel bad about ourselves but so he may have the opportunity to bring renewal to our lives and marriages.
Excerpt from Praying Together: A Simple Path to Spiritual Intimacy for Couples (New Hope Publishers, 2016) by Sam (MABS, 1984) and Vicki Ingrassia. Used with permission.