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Praying for your partner

I facilitate a small group on marriage and couples' relationships and it is something I like doing because one is immediately in the presence of the dynamic that goes on between the two people in question.

You don't have to imagine what it (their life) is like because they do what they do in your presence. I like working with that, and so there is a fair amount of observing how the couple communicates, how they handle difference and conflict, to what extent they manifest warmth and affection, and how they deal with challenges of various kinds.

There is also a typical pace to the work in which people are at first concerned about the viability of their relationship and various thorny issues like too little or too much libido, unfaithfulness in all its forms, or addictive/self-medicating behaviour of one variety or another.

As the work unfolds the couple either recommits to one another, or they decide to break up, and in either case the decision is usually considered a move towards a healthier life. If they decide to be together they begin in earnest working on communication and the way they interpret and respond to one another. That is where the work can really take off and the where the relationship usually improves.

The group, though, is not the same as meeting with just one couple at a time. This is a group that has a particular method to it one that includes psychology and what I know about the way people can connect with one another meaningfully, and on that includes spirituality. We are using the book of Ephesians in the New Testament, and we have been asking the Holy Spirit to guide the process as it unfolds week to week.

It is not the usual “Bible study” approach either in that I am not teaching by lecturing and giving interpretations and applications of Biblical texts for participants to learn. We are all more or less on equal terms with one another, and I am simply using my skills of group facilitation to keep everyone involved.

The book of Ephesians breaks into two parts, with the first part heavy in teaching about the believers' position in Christ and the second part of the book applying those statements to various relationships to show how one might live, given the veracity of the assertions made in the first part. My question to the group, as we have been going through the first chapter, was this: “If that is true, does it make any difference to the way you relate to your spouse? If that is true, how does that work itself out in your relationship?”

As we were meeting and talking about these things, and I do not remember exactly how this came about, my wife began to read part of the chapter, but where the scripture had Paul addressing the Ephesian believers (as “you”), she inserted my name, and it became a prayer for me from my wife. Hearing that had an amazing effect on me, and I suggested to the group that we take turns reading that part of the scripture, each one to his or her spouse, inserting our spouses' names as my wife had done for me. In each case the effect was, as one of our members described it, “empowering”.

Now, perhaps this is old hat to many people, and they have been praying for their partners like this all along. Whatever. I want to advocate that people do this. If there is a stirring anywhere inside about God, or if you have ever wanted to know God more deeply, or if you are concerned about the quality and warmth of your relationship with your partner, then give this a try. Call it an experiment.

In an experiment there is no success or failure; there is only experience upon which to reflect and from which to learn.

Here are some sections of the New Testament you can try this with - 2nd Peter 1:2-4; Ephesians 1: 5-9; 1: 15-18 and Philippians 1: 3-11 - and the effect on a spouse of doing this, of hearing one's partner in life speak such wonderful wishes/pronouncements/prayers using one's own name, can be powerful.

* Other books that I would recommend on marriage include: Dan Wile's 'After the Honeymoon' and David Schnarch's books 'Passionate Marriage' and 'Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship'.

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Published March 27, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 27, 2012 at 9:50 am)

Praying for your partner

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