A fresh perspective…
Tobi Layton, married 8 years
We have a "praying chair" at our dining room table. I’m not sure when or how it came to be or what made that particular chair deserving of the honor, but whoever ends up sitting there at any given meal will be the official grace spokesman. Sometimes that person lands there by random chance. Unlike each of our childhood dining rooms, Ryan and I have no unspoken seating arrangement.
Sometimes, one of our plates is placed at the revered spot on purpose. I’m ashamed to admit that a few times I’ve purposely placed Ryan’s plate in the praying spot because I didn’t feel like talking to God. But just tonight, I deliberately set my own salad in front of the chair because I knew Ryan needed a little strengthening.
This game of musical chairs has been a blessing to the spiritual aspect of our marriage. You see, like any followers of Christ, Ryan and I have our ups and downs. We both agree that I was a more mature Christian as we entered marriage. Though Ryan was definitely the "man of the house" in most areas, I often wore the spiritual pants in our family. He was not comfortable praying aloud, so wherever I sat, I was usually in the "praying chair" (though the idea had not yet been conceived).
More often than not, I was the one trying to find ways to serve God with our life together. In fact, when our church youth pastor left an out-of-the-blue invitation to youth ministry on our answering machine, I was excited about the possibility, but felt the need to prepare a "pitch" for my hesitant husband. I was surprised that Ryan was interested, despite the significant time commitment.
Somewhere during the next year, I witnessed a spiritual growth spurt in my husband. He had already begun to feel comfortable praying at our private dinner table, but now his prayers blew me away. He was demonstrating a real strength that can only come from the Lord. And somehow that scared me. I felt like I was being left behind spiritually.
Instead of turning to God for help, I avoided the topic of spirituality or tried to sort through my feelings on my own. Ryan became a frequent inhabitant of the praying chair. But, in a way I think God designs in marriages, Ryan’s strength in Christ eventually "rubbed off" on me as he helped me seek to be closer to God. The praying chair currently receives almost equal visits from each of us.
I’ve come to look at the praying chair as a symbol of our marriage. We each have our peaks and valleys, but God has blessed us with this partnership to help us keep our eyes on the One who is always with us. Sometimes I play the role of the strong one, firmly planted in the praying chair. And sometimes I simply hold my husband’s hand as he speaks to our Savior on my behalf.
A seasoned perspective…
Deborah Raney, married 35 years
At the time we first met, my husband and I had each recently made a new commitment to follow Christ. We believed then, and are more convinced each year we’re married, that God brought us together and intended us for each other all along. Early on, we wanted to honor him and thank him for bringing us together by having a time of prayer and Bible study together each day.
Our intentions were pure. Our hearts were in the right place. But it took us almost twenty years of trial and error to finally settle into a pattern of shared "quiet time." But oh, how sweet the rewards of that time together have been.
In the early years of marriage, our efforts to spend time together in prayer and worship were thwarted by work and activity schedules that left little free time. And probably by spiritual immaturity, too. Sometimes, we were doing well just to have our individual private devotions each day.
As our four children came along, exhaustion was often our excuse for not making time to pray together. At various times, we were successful at having a time of family devotions at the kids’ bedtime, but couple time with the Lord continued to elude us.
Then my husband invited me to accompany him on a business trip to San Francisco. He’d packed his Bible for his morning devotions, but the hotel room offered little privacy, so that first morning before he headed out for his business meetings, he invited me to join him in reading a chapter of God’s Word. We read aloud, taking turns with the verses. Then we spent a short time in prayer for Ken’s appointments scheduled that day, for loved ones who were going through struggles, for our kids (who were having their own adventure at Grammy and Gramps’ farm), and for our marriage.
We both were so blessed by those morning meetings—just the Lord and this still-in-love couple God had brought together—that we determined to continue the practice once we arrived back home.
That was twelve years ago. We’ve rarely missed more than a morning or two in a row since. Even when one of us travels, we choose a book of the Bible to read "together" while we’re apart.
Our appointment on the loveseat in the living room each weekday morning is a highlight of my day. We’ve grown together spiritually through those meetings. We’ve learned to spend some time just praising the Lord for the amazing blessings He’s heaped on us. We’ve learned to bring our problems to Him and leave them at His feet. We’ve grown to love and respect each other more than ever.
Our times communing together with God have been the solid foundation for a marriage that, like most, has had its share of ups and downs. But we’ve discovered that it’s not easy to stay angry with someone you know you’ll meet with in prayer tomorrow morning.
Our children were all still living at home when we began our morning meetings with God, and though we always began our devotions before the kids were awake in the morning, occasionally they’ve been witness to our prayers. They’ve told us how much it means to know we are praying for them every day.
Schedules change and life happens, and God may someday "rearrange" our devotion time in a new way, but Ken and I have said often that we hope these morning prayer meetings will be a part of our marriage "till death do us part."
Read Ephesians 5:19-33
1. Who would you say is currently the spiritual head of your marriage? Does that sometimes shift?
2. What are some ways your can strengthen your spouse in his/her walk with the Lord? How can your spouse help strengthen you?
3. If you’re not setting aside a regular time for prayer and Bible reading as a couple, what are some practical ways you could make that a priority in your marriage?
4. If you have children, how can you and your spouse demonstrate "encouraging one another" to them? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
5. If your spouse is not a Christian, read 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 and 1 Peter 3:1-3. According to these verses, what should your attitude be concerning your spouse’s lack of faith?
Deborah Raney is at work on her nineteenth novel. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel for Excellence in Media, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her newest series, the Hanover Falls Novels, will release from Howard/Simon & Schuster. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have been married for 35 years. They have four children, two little grandsons, and enjoy small- town life in Kansas. Visit Deborah's website at http://www.deborahraney.com.
Tobi Layton is a fifth grade teacher and freelance writer in southeast Missouri. Tobi has been married for eight years to Ryan Layton, a high school biology teacher. Tobi and Ryan are involved with the high school and junior high youth groups at their church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The Laytons have two sons.
Tobi Layton is the daughter of Ken and Deborah Raney. The Raneys and the Laytons share an August 11 wedding anniversary.
Read more articles by Deborah Raney and Tobi Layton:
God's Plan for Romance Looks Different from the Movies
Submitting Your Married Life to the Lord's Timetable
Compromise, Humor are Vital Ingredients for Loving Marriages
Opposites Attract - and Drive Each Other Nuts!
"I Can Do it Better": When Competition Creeps into Marriage
Children Change Everything - Especially Your Marriage
Originally published Wednesday, 21 November 2012.