Michael & Melissa Kruger: 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse
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Melissa KrugerMelissa B. Kruger (BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) serves as director of women's initiatives for the Gospel Coalition. She is the author of multiple books, including The Envy of Eve and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood. Her husband, Michael, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, and they have three children.
Michael KrugerMichael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a leading scholar on the origins and development of the New Testament canon. He blogs regularly at michaeljkruger.com.
Could prayer change more than you think? Authors Michael & Melissa Kruger get practical about the how, why, and what of praying for your spouse.
Michael & Melissa Kruger: 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse
Dave: Some listener wrote into FamilyLife Today—
Dave: —to share their thoughts on our broadcast. He had a question because you and I, Ann, we were talking about praying together as a married couple and how important it is. He said, “Where in the Bible does it say that a husband and wife should pray together?”
Ann: And what did you say?
Dave: I said, “My wife will tell you”; so I'm throwing it to you.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
My thought was: “Well, Paul says to pray without ceasing.” There's a lot about prayer, but does it say anywhere that a husband and wife should pray together?
Dave: You know, I don't know. I just know we've got two really smart people in the studio today, who I think can answer this question better than we can. [Laughter] They're laughing right now, but Michael and Melissa Kruger are in the studio from North Carolina. So welcome to Orlando, and welcome to Family Life Today.
Michael: Thanks so much. We’re glad to be here.
Dave: You two have written a book together about prayer; so I figured: “If anybody can answer this question, ‘Does the Bible actually say it?’” The name of the book is 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse: Prayers That Change and Strengthen Your Marriage.
In some sense, you look at your bio: and you're the president of Reformed Theological Seminary; you're an author—both of you are authors; you've written books—you’re leaders in the Christian community. You're, you know, the leader of one of the best seminaries in the world; did I say that right? [Laughter]
Michael: Yes, sure; absolutely—“Number one in the world,”—that’s what we always say; yes, exactly. [Laughter]
Dave: I was going to say: “…in Carolina or Florida.”
In some ways, people would think: “Pastors or leaders/they don't struggle to pray, especially in their marriage, like everybody else.” Has this been something easy for you or something you struggled with?
Melissa: I think we're human, just like everyone else—and so taking the time to be still, and just go before the Lord, and ask the Lord to do what we cannot—that is such a discipline for everyone. I think sometimes, when you are used to getting things done yourself, you think you can even get things done in your marriage, like, “Oh, I don't need to pray about that. I just need to fix him,”—or him fix me—or “We just need to have maybe a date night to talk about this,” or “We just need to have a family summit to talk about this,” or whatever it might be. Sometimes, we forget the most basic thing—to pray for one another, faithfully, over the long course of life—and it's just a hard discipline.
What I love to do is help make hard things a little bit easier; this, for me, is really helpful. It's already been really providential; because to be honest, this has been kind of a hard week for us. All the prayers that I was on for him this week were from Psalm 121 on how the Lord is watching over him and that He will not let his foot stumble. I was praying those prayers that we had written months ago.
Ann: So you took a Psalm—but you wrote a prayer out of it—
Ann: —for your spouse.
Ann: And it's/you write it, word for word, in the book.
Melissa: Yes; that's right. Every prayer in this book is a springboard from some Scripture passage. It's helping us combine Scripture—which we know: “Okay, these are good things to pray for our spouse,”—and then it gives us some words to make it, you know, applicable to our situation. And just this week, they were the perfect words I needed to pray.
Dave: Oh, I want to hear about this week. You said it was a hard week.
Michael: It was—a long story—yes.
Dave: Do you want to tell us why?
Michael: Yes; I mean, our lives are just so busy and complicated; and there's a variety of things that anybody in leadership struggles with. But you know, we just love having that prayer tool this week, and really any week, just to turn to when we need it. We love the scriptural focus of it. As Melissa was saying, this is sort of expositional prayers.
It's one thing to just write out your prayers; we're trying to use Scripture as the guide. Each time you pray in our book, we give you a passage of Scripture; and then we break it into five things about your spouse you can pray for, based on that passage of Scripture—and that's the title of the book—5 Things to Pray… They're all scriptural-based prayers, and that's/we love that. It keeps people in the Word, as much as it keeps them in prayer, sort of combined.
Ann: Melissa, have you ever gotten to this point?—because this happened to us. I think—
Dave: Oh, boy; I don't like where this is going already. [Laughter]
Ann: —but we try to pray before we go to sleep at night, and I love that; we started our marriage doing that. But then we got in this pattern, because we're so busy—we're exhausted with kids; our lives are stressful—Dave tends to fall asleep before I do. He'd fall asleep; and then I'd be mad, because we didn't pray.
Then I/my ang—
Dave: I feel these eyeballs looking at me. [Laughter]
Ann: Then my anger would turn to resentment. My next thought was: “I see how important prayer is,”—you know?—"He's supposed to lead spiritually: ‘Come on, dude.’”
And so I wouldn't even pray because I thought, “That's his job.” Then I was so convicted; I thought, “Who wins in that situation?—nobody.” Satan won, because he's the one that would love us to not pray for our spouse. So I remember—I just started—if Dave fell asleep, I would just put my hand on his shoulder; and I would just pray for him, thanking God for him, out loud.
Have you ever done that or talked to women that get resentful if their husbands aren't leading in that way?
Melissa: Absolutely; I mean, I resonated with everything you said. I think we sometimes wrongly think of our husband—that he's supposed to lead in every way, spiritually—rather than viewing our marriage as a really blessed union of two people, bringing their gifts to the table. And so I sometimes/I think wrongly. Early in our marriage, I would put all of the spiritual lump on him, forgetting that God has created His body: He's given me spiritual gifts; He's given him spiritual gifts.
I like to do some things that are very daily, organizationally; so like I have actually written the prayer cards for our family for how we pray each morning, together, as a family.
Ann: What?! What is that?
Melissa: But for years, I would have just been sitting around mad he wasn't doing it.
Dave: And you do it because that's your gift.
Melissa: That's right. It's not me taking charge; it's me helping our family and serving in the ways God has gifted me. I think if you're a woman, who's kind of feeling that, maybe just saying, “Maybe this is what God’s gifted me to do,” versus always expecting them to do every part of the spiritual leadership.
Ann: Exactly. What I came to realize: “If God put it on my heart, then do it,” and “Don't be resentful.”
Dave: Yes; Michael, is that a good thing for your marriage? I mean, did you like that Melissa is doing that? Or was it like, “Oh.”
Michael: No, it's wonderful. I mean—and she's right—in our earlier years, I think we had this sort of overly-rigid view of roles in such a way that we—we knew the husband should be the leader and head of the home; and that was fine and true; and of course, we still believe that—but I think we had a very simplistic version of what that meant. That meant that every spiritual activity I had to initiate/start, finish, and sort of run.
She just sort of patiently sat, waiting for me to do it all; and then, when it didn't happen, obviously, she would say, “Well, you're just/you're dropping the ball here.” I think—
Ann: Sounds like our marriage.
Michael: Yes, exactly. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I think we just began to sort of realize that: “Wait a second—marriage is more/more dynamic than that—it's not so simplistic as that.”
She was right about what she just said. Sometimes, it's fine just to pray for your spouse; sometimes, it's fine to initiate by putting prayer cards together, say: “Hey, let's do this every morning.” I think that also just releases the pressure valve a little bit, so you don't feel like it's all on one person.
I’ve been so blessed to be married to her, because she's just gracious and aware of these things. Good for her, not waiting on me, because we'd probably still be waiting after all these years.
Melissa: One thing I've learned, being married to someone actually in the ministry: they bear that pressure, every room they walk into,—
Ann: —all the time.
Melissa: —so everywhere—you go to the family Thanksgiving dinner; guess who prays? Every single room they walk in, they have expectations [placed upon them].
If, in the home, I can help in any way, why wouldn’t I want to help? Because I do really feel for men in ministry, because they're leading everywhere. It's nice for home to be a place where we can come together, and just try to serve one another in love, versus me having all these unrealistic expectations for him.
Ann: Go back to the prayer cards. Talk about those: what are those?
Melissa: Yes; I actually love these. We/it's been the way to help our family pray together. We meet every morning at the kitchen table; sometimes, barely.
Dave: This is every morning.
Dave: You've got teenagers.
Melissa: We do.
Michael: —right before school.
Melissa: We do. What we realized, early on with parenting, was kids do not know what's happening in any other home than yours. [Laughter] We’re like, “They don't know that other families don't do this.” [Laughter]
Ann: “So let's do it; they’ll think it’s normal.”
Michael: “I think everybody does this. It’s just what you do: you’ve got to get up and pray before school.”
Melissa: To be honest: we've been doing it for so long, they really never complained about it. They just sit down at the table:
- And each day, we pray for a different member of the family. It's so nice, just to say, “Hey, John, how can we pray for you today?” And sometimes, you get to hear things that you didn't know were going on. [Laughter] So you get to hear that.
- Then we pray for a leader in our life: it could be our pastors at church; it could be the school principals; it could be our bosses; it could be the government or things that the Bible tells us to pray for.
- We pray for a missionary family that we support every morning.
So those are just ways to even teach them about prayer through doing. It's just a simple way that we can check off all the people we've been wanting to pray for—but that you sometimes get overwhelmed—it's just a little bit each day. And so we pray for these things.
Ann: When did you start that? How old were your kids?
Michael: Well, it went in different phases. The morning prayer time started when the kids got a little older, before they went to school. But when they were younger, we did it at night.
Michael: I used to do sort of devotionals with the kids every night before bed, because they all went about the same time; right? So at 8:00 pm—or whatever it would be—we’d gather them together, right before bed, do devotionals.
Melissa: And I was actually not involved. That's when I got to go sit and have some peace and quiet.
Michael: Yes; she got to have a break; and I did that with the kids every night. But then, of course, as they aged—and had activities and different things—the night thing wasn't working, so we shifted it to morning. That's worked fairly well—they're there every morning; we know that—where they're not there every night. Even though they're sleepy-eyed; it's a good time to sit down.
Here's the other thing we learned is that, sometimes, parents get excited about how we're going to implement these prayer times and devotional times in our family life, and they get a little overly ambitious. They think, “Well, I'm going to have a 45-minute Bible study with my teenagers every morning,”—and work through some systematic theology—"They're all going to leave home with some seminary-level education.”
I'm like, “Well, I appreciate shooting high for your goals; but there's also unrealistic goals, that you realize you can't meet; and then you just stop doing it entirely. So our morning prayer time is not ambitious: you're talking about ten minutes of face-to-face prayer time for somebody before you get out the door. It doesn't seem like much, but it does make a big difference.
Dave: I'm guessing you did it when they're really little too. So they're probably crawling around; it's messy.
Dave: A lot of parents give up in that moment; it’s like: “This is too hard to do”; but you just plunged through and—am I right?
Dave: It just looks different, but it's still worth doing.
Michael: And it's the memory that it creates with the kids, even though any individual prayer moment may not be smooth and all that you wished it would be. [Laughter] When they leave home, they still get this impression that: “My family prayed together, and it mattered to them”; and they're going to take that value.
Ann: It's interesting—when our/one of our sons went on a mission trip in college—they just happened to be on the road and an ambulance went by. One of the students in the van said, “Hey, we should pray for that, whoever that ambulance is going to go work on.” They prayed; and somebody in the van said, “Wow! That was amazing that we just did that.” Our son came home, and said, “What I realized was: ‘Oh, that's not normal?—that we just pray all the time for anybody.’”
It's kind of what you were saying, Melissa, is that just was so normal; they didn't know that people didn't do that. I like that—it just becomes a rhythm in your life—and “This is what we do.” Those are/that's really good strategy.
Dave: And yet, one of the things I've—you know, we've been in marriage ministry for almost four decades now—a lot of couples, when you talk about: “You know, something that would really help your marriage is to pray together,”—whether it be daily/we encourage daily—they look at you like they've never done it. They don't understand why that would be beneficial.
What do you think?—why does it help a marriage?—or how does it help a marriage?
Michael: Wow, I mean prayer is/prayer is one of those very intimate things; isn't it? I mean, it doesn't mean you can't pray with your neighbor, or pray with a stranger, or pray with a friend at church; but there is something intimate about it that makes you vulnerable—and makes you, hopefully—open and real about what's going on in your life.
And then busy marriages: you know, couples need time, where they hear from each other and share what's on their heart in times of intimacy. It needs to be—intimacy is not just romantic intimacy—intimacy is also just life intimacy. In a busy life, you just don't have that—it's not the same as sitting down over a dinner, and having a date night; although that's important, too; you can talk about lots of things—but prayer/you just go—it zips right down on the heart. You have to immediately say: “Well, what can I pray for you about?” or “What are you struggling with?”; and it opens up important doors in marriage. I think that's just one of the things that makes prayer so important for marriages; it joins the two people together.
Ann: Oh, and I'm sitting there, thinking, “This is why I love it so much,”—because you're right; I get to know Dave/I hear his heart. I feel closer to him/intimate. Does that stop men?—because of that fear? Not that women are praying more than men, but—
Michael: Oh, they might be. I mean, I don't think/I think it's, you know, a general rule to say men maybe, generally, struggle with intimacy more than women. I don't think that's a surprise for anyone to hear. And maybe men, you could argue, are less apt to open up and be more real; whereas, women may be more apt to do that. Those are, of course, generalizations; but regardless of any particular person’s personality, a couple needs to be able to join together in that way for sure. Prayer is just a way to do it.
You think about: “What makes my marriage strong?” Well, you could say: “I’ve got to romance my wife,” “…date my wife,” “…do things for my wife,” “…give my wife gifts.” Okay, those are all important categories; but prayer/people forget that that can actually really enhance a relationship.
Dave: I think there is somewhat of a fear. I know our listeners have heard us say this—I won't go into the details—but there was a moment in our marriage, where Ann said to me, as a pastor and as her husband, “I wish the man who led our church lived here.” [Laughter] That was a Sunday night, an 11:00 pm comment; and when I/and I got really mad.
Ann: Michael, aren't you glad that you didn't hear that one? [Laughter]
Michael: Yes; yes.
Melissa: He’s heard plenty. [Laughter]
Dave: We were lying in bed. I'm exhausted—I just preached all morning—and I sort of looked at her, like, “What does that mean?”
Ann: It was poor timing on my part; you had just done so much.
Dave: But here's what I remember—that's why I brought it up—I remember one of the things you said. There were many; one of them was: “The way you pray and cast vision on the stage at church, with passion and inspiration,—
Ann: —it's inspiring.
Dave: —"it feels like you don’t”—I think she said “ever”; but she probably said—“you rarely bring that kind of prayer and vision into our home.”
Honestly, she was saying, “Man, that guy/it's like you're two different guys.” And in some ways—it's what you said earlier, Melissa, it's like, in ministry: yes, that's what I do in every meeting/every room I walk in. It's sort of part of my role—I wanted a place to go: “Can I just let it down?” But at the same time, when she said that, I thought, “She deserves the best. Why wouldn't I bring that kind of energy?”
But part of me is like: “It's easier for me to stand on stage and pray publicly. When I'm in a bedroom or a kitchen—and it's just us or, maybe, even our family—it shouldn't be any harder; but sometimes, it's like, ‘This is more intimate,’”—you know, what you were saying. Sometimes—I don't know if it's just a man thing—but I think men and women, but definitely for me, it was like, “I'm not going to be that. It takes more courage to be that intimate; because prayer is an intimate thing to do, just quietly in my home.”
Ann: I wonder if wives should ask their husbands that.
Melissa: Yes; and even just ask them to pray, because I think sometimes—I hope I'm not speaking for you in this instance—sometimes, I think, “Well, you know, prayer is effective,”—you live, like: “Oh, I should actually do something to help her.” Yes, I mean, it's actually—
Michael: —as if prayer is not the thing.
Melissa: Yes; but you feel responsible that, maybe, prayer isn't good enough. We'll be discussing a problem—I can tell—you want to fix it.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Melissa: You want to make it better for me.
One thing I would just encourage any men, with [a wife], it really does help if you just say, “Can we pray about this?” That may make you feel like you're not doing enough; but I think, to women, that just makes us feel loved. But I think sometimes it's just a/it doesn't feel like enough; and yet, it really is amazing what just sitting together and praying can do.
Dave: How does that make a woman feel loved? I mean, I hear you—my wife said the same thing—I want to understand: “How does that compute?”
Melissa: I think it's just this unselfish: “I love you, and I'm going to go before the Lord of all the heavens and earth, who can do something about this.” It's actually acknowledging: “Maybe, I can't; but God can. And so I'm going to, with you, hand in hand, seek Him together; and just pray that He would work this situation out.” I think even just the acknowledgement that we don't have the answers; in some ways, prayer does that. It says: “Yes,”—I think of the king—it's/I can't remember which book of the Bible it’s in.
Dave: I love: the president of a seminary's wife doesn't remember what book; that’s perfect! [Laughter]
Michael: You’d be surprised how much we don't remember. [Laughter] My kids regularly make fun of me, when asking me a question I don't know the answer to; and they’re like, “Dad, you’re a professor; don't you know? Aren't you omniscient?” I'm like, “Actually—
Dave: That's great; you're human, just like us.
Melissa: But he [king] says he looks at this horde coming to fight against them; and he says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” I think all of us, sometimes, feel like we're facing circumstances that we really don't know how to deal with. But to take your wife by the hand and say, “Hey, I don't know what to do; but let's put her eyes on God.” I mean, that that's—
Ann: There's a strength in that and a vulnerability that is so admirable. It makes me respect Dave all the more; because I think, “Oh, he believes this prayer is working. He believes God hears. He believes God is going to move, and that makes me want to just be right there with him.” If Dave has ever said “Let's pray,” I'm there, like, “Yes!” I'm there.
Dave: She has never said, “No.”
Michael: I think that highlights the difference between public prayer and private prayer—both have their place, and both matter—but private prayer is much harder to fake. I mean, private prayer requires genuineness/intimacy in a way. You can sort of pull off a public prayer, and no one really knows whether you mean it or not. But look, when you pray with your kids, they can spot a fake a mile away. [Laughter] They're like/they got—isn't it true?—like teenagers, particularly, have like a sixth-sense radar to pick up hypocrisy from like 100 miles. If you're not in it, they know; your spouse knows. Praying together kind of breaks you out of that world a little bit, where you can't get away with the upfront-ness of it; you have to be real. I think that's what brings the intimacy.
Ann: Well, I'm wondering what it would look like, for our country, if we, as spouses, were praying for each other. You know, I think that would switch and change; because the culture is having such an impact, and fear is just bombarding us. And anxiety—there's a lot of scary things going on in the world right now—and so to pray for our spouse, I feel like that could change us as, not only a family in a household, but a whole generation.
Michael: Yes; I mean, one of the strategies we have with the book is: prayer is worth doing in its own right, but praying with your spouse is a way to strengthen marriages. I think we could all agree that the strengthening of a marriage is going to be a great way to bless the church. How do we make the church strong?—well, lots of ways—but one of the ways is make marriages in the church strong.
One of the ways of making marriages strong is to help people pray for their spouse. It’s this one little step that could have a ripple effect in the church in such a way that, if you could strengthen these marriages across the board, you may have a healthier church in America, and in the world, in a way they really can make a difference. I think that’s the strategy here/is: “Praying as couples because it really does change the marriage.”
Ann: So I’m wondering, Melissa,—
Michael: Here it comes!
Ann: —will you model this for us? Will you pray for Michael? It’ll give us an example; because some people are like: “I’ve never even seen this,” “I didn’t grow up with this,” “What’s this look like?”
Melissa: Yes; I would love to.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Michael and Melissa Kruger on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Melissa's prayer in just a minute.
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Alright; now, here's Melissa Kruger, modeling how to pray for your spouse.
Melissa: Let's pray.
Father, I thank You that I can come before You. I thank You that You welcome us to Your throne room of grace, and that You say we can come boldly because You are merciful. I thank You that I can come and pray for Mike.
And Lord, I do pray—I pray the words of Psalm 121—that he would know that You are a God, who does not sleep—that you neither slumber nor sleep—and that You are watching over him, in love, each day.
And Lord, I pray that You would keep his feet from falling, that You would keep him from stumbling, that You would allow him to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Lord, I pray that You would do that for him.
And Lord, I just also pray that You would protect him and keep him safe from troubles and from hardships—that when they come—he would lean more into You and trust You in all things.
Lord, I thank You that we can bring all of our requests before You. Lord, I pray for him today; and I just pray for all of us—as we are wives and husbands, and we seek to love our spouses—make us prayerful people.
It's in Your name we pray. Amen.
Dave and Ann: Amen.
Shelby: You've been listening to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Michael and Melissa Kruger on FamilyLife Today. Their book is called 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse. We’ll send you a copy when you give any amount today at FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you know anyone who needs to hear conversations just like this, tell them about this station.
Dave and Ann are joined tomorrow with Larry Fowler and Tim Kimmel about raising kids with a faith that lasts; join us then.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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