My friend Jennifer was an experienced pray-er when she got married, so she figured she and her new husband, Wayne, would have wonderful prayer times together. But to Jennifer's surprise, praying with Wayne felt forced and stilted. While Jennifer poured out her heart to God in private, when she prayed with Wayne, she edited her thoughts and feelings. Wayne, on the other hand, had only said a few prayers aloud in a formal church setting before attempting to pray with his wife. Knowing her skill in prayer, Wayne felt he couldn't measure up to Jennifer's expectations. Soon they prayed together less and less.
Their small-group Bible study proved to be the turning point in their disintegrating prayer life. There, an older couple, John and Margaret, became unintentional prayer mentors to Jennifer and Wayne. John and Margaret prayed aloud conversationally, with hearts wide open to God. Over the weeks, as group members prayed for each other, Jennifer and Wayne gradually felt more comfortable praying aloud as a couple.
My husband, Holmes, and I had our share of frustrations in our early attempts to pray together, too. I was a spontaneous pray-er, wanting to lift a problem to God on the spot. But Holmes liked to mull over the situation, praying later when there were no distractions. He tended to "think" his prayers, while I tended to be long-winded.
Like many men, Holmes had a private prayer life, so being willing to talk out loud to God with me felt risky at first. But as I limited my words, pausing between prayer sentences to make room for silence or for his prayers, Holmes opened up more. And my willingness to wait to pray about something (like after the kids were in bed) instead of demanding instant prayer time took more pressure off Holmes.1