By Dr. James Dobson
Dr. Dobson’s Solid Answers
If a commitment to Christ is the foundation for a successful marriage, then daily prayer together is the steady, brick-by-brick construction that provides a safe haven for genuine intimacy.
It was certainly true for my parents. James Dobson Sr. was a pastor and evangelist for most of his life. He often spent hours-long sessions on his knees, talking with God and praying for his ministry and those he loved. He was known in the small Texas town where I spent my preschool years as “the man with no leather on the toes of his shoes.” He spent so much time on his knees that he wore out the toes before he did the soles!
But Dad did not only pray alone. My mother, his beloved wife, whom he called Myrt, regularly joined him to pray in times of crisis, during life’s routine periods, and for occasional help and guidance in dealing with a rambunctious son named Jim. Their prayer times together must have made a deep impression on me from my earliest days, for I was told that at just one year of age I attempted to pray with them. I hadn’t yet learned to talk, so I tried to imitate the sounds they were making as they communicated with God.
I have no doubt that my parents’ unswerving love for Jesus Christ, renewed by daily conversation with Him, in turn, cemented their own deep affection and respect for each other. Their prayer life was the glue that preserved a loving forty-three-year union that lasted until the moment my father left this earth in 1977.
I have tried to follow that example in my own home. The countless times that Shirley and I have bowed before God to offer words of thanks, petitions for assistance, and expressions of love have strengthened our relationship, too, in ways that can never be measured. Prayer has been the stabilizing influence for our life together.
Of course, some people use prayer the way they follow their horoscopes, attempting to manipulate an unidentified “higher power.” One of my friends teasingly admits that he utters a prayer each morning on the way to work when he passes the doughnut shop. He knows it is unhealthy to eat the greasy pastries, but he loves them dearly. Therefore, he asks the Lord for permission to indulge himself each day. He’ll say, “If it is Your will that I have a doughnut this morning, let there be a parking space available as I circle the block.” If no spot can be found for his car, he circles the block and prays again.
Shirley and I have taken our prayer life a bit more seriously. In good times, in hard times, in moments of anxiety, and in periods of praise we have shared this wonderful privilege of talking directly to our heavenly Father. What a concept! No appointment is needed to enter His presence. We don’t have to go through His subordinates or bribe His secretaries. He is simply there, whenever we bow together before Him. Some of the highlights of my life have occurred in these quiet sessions with the Lord.
Do not misunderstand—prayer, when you are alone, with a friend, in a Bible study, or in church, is extremely important and valued just as much by our Father. But there is something special about prayer between husband, wife, and God that can’t be found elsewhere. It creates a spiritual connection, accountability, and a holy bond that brings strength and stability to the relationship. It can even allow you to communicate about sensitive issues that might otherwise never come out—issues that can be discussed and prayed over in a spirit of humility and purity of motive.
There is something special about prayer between husband, wife, and God.
Prayer of this kind can revitalize a marriage. In 1983, after years of discomfort and a vague sense of spiritual unrest, Christian recording artist Steve Green poured out his heart to the Lord in prayer and experienced a spiritual renewal. Just a few weeks later, his wife, Marijean, did the same thing. For the first time in their marriage, the Greens began talking to God, together, on a regular basis.
“I thought we had a good marriage before because we didn’t fight, we were compatible, we enjoyed being together,” Steve says. “But after our renewal, suddenly we were communicating at the deepest level. There was a bond of God’s Spirit holding us and tying us together. Our relationship became a spiritual one, and it just flourished.”
For the Greens, the key to unlocking these blessings was a persistent prayer life.
James Dobson Jr. is an American evangelical Christian author, psychologist, and founder in 1977 of Focus on the Family