If there’s one thing I’ve realized over the last ten years of my life, it is how often people have a hard time saying how they feel, verbalizing their needs, their feelings, their desires, their hurts, pains, and disappointments. This lack of ability to communicate is a hindrance in every relationship that we experience.
Communication controls relationships. We withhold communication in order to control a relationship—to prevent others from seeing us in an unpleasant light—and we choose to share information about ourselves with others as a way of bonding with them. This exchange of information is a means of letting them see us—of opening ourselves up to them. And this makes us vulnerable to them.
These are the same reasons why prayer and the reading of God’s Word directly correspond to the level of intimacy we experience with our Father. This is no new revelation. Reading God’s Word is us allowing God to speak to us. Conversely, prayer is us speaking to and opening ourselves up to God. It matters not that God already knows our hearts, except for the intercession of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27) and the mediation of our Elder Brother (1 Timothy 2:5) on our behalf. We may know of a secret someone else is trying to keep from us. It’s not specifically the knowledge that changes the relationship, though it can and does, but rather the relationship grows from that person opening up and revealing the secret themselves, or the relationship withers because of the lack of honesty. The revelation is what draws you closer and the lack thereof can subsequently only serve to hinder the same relationship.
Just because knowledge is not shared does not change the truth that it exists. You may, in fact, temporarily be able to control one’s perspective or their view of you. But that view is not who you truly are. It’s a perception. And most often it’s a half truth, if not an outright lie.
Let’s look at some reasons we don’t share our thoughts, feelings, and needs with others. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a fantasitic book called Boundaries. In this book, they address several reason why people fail to set boundaries, and these reasons are often the same reasons why we don't open up with honesty to those around us. These reasons include: fear of loss of love, or abandonment; fear of others' anger, fear of loneliness, guilt, approval, overidentification with others' loss (pg 93-94).
My husband and I went through a period where quite frankly prayer was the only thing that got us through. We love each other, but unfortunately, love doesn’t always prevent us from hurting each other. To be honest, I didn’t feel at the time like I was able to talk to my husband as I normally would about how I was feeling. I could, however, very openly talk to my Abba Father. I decided to take an extra step and share those prayers with my spouse.
I was ultimately able to take my thoughts, feelings, desires, and hurts to God in full sincerity of heart and by sharing that openness with my husband, he also was able to see to the depths of my soul. And God in the process healed the wounds that were created. Fitting for the One that is the Healer. I didn’t pray with my husband in the way that one typically thinks of prayer. I wrote them down—or rather, typed them up and emailed them to him. He was able to see exactly what I was feeling and struggling with at nearly the exact moment I was feeling it. And as a result, he was able to turn around and pray for me knowing exactly what I needed to be taken to our Father. Ecclesiastes says "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?" (4:9-11)
As happens frequently with prayer, God was changing me and my heart with each word I put to paper. And I believe he was opening my husband’s heart to receive my words and feelings and in the process drawing us both closer to Him.
While praying together in any form is definitely going to increase your faith, and grow and cultivate your marriage, drawing you both closer to each other and closer to God, I have found for myself that something special happens when I write my prayers down and specifically for the prayers I intend to share with someone else. First of all, one of the most obvious things is that when writing my prayers down, I’m forced to actually do it—to take the time, think about what I’m saying, and then put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Because I’m not on the spot and saying everything out loud, I’m less nervous and I can take more time to think through my thoughts and correctly word my prayer the way I intend. We all know how often words we don’t mean slip out of our mouths. I find remembering what I’ve prayed for easier when I write them down.
Also, another thing that is extremely significant is the ability to go back and reread the prayers later. Whether you are the author or the recipient this can be hugely beneficial. And depending upon the topic of the particular prayer, they can read like love letters. What’s more romantic and inspiring than a love letter? I’ll tell you. A love letter that’s directed to our heavenly Father, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, about someone He’s blessed us with.
Additionally, while this is something perhaps we all need to strive to move past, I’ve felt that sometimes hard things are easier said and discussed through paper or when the words don’t have to be said aloud. This is doubly true when you add the fact that this is a prayer. And while we don't need to remain in this inability to speak face to face with the ones we love, learning to address our feelings and pains in a safe environment (and what's more safe than taking them to our Father) can help us move toward being able to address our feelings and pains in all environments.
Above all what needs to be remembered and focused on is that this is truly a conversation between one’s self and God. And it needs to be treated with the respect and reference of any other interaction with our Creator. You’ll find that it’s not so easy to lie to your spouse or whomever you might be sharing the prayer with because you know that the prayer is to God and as God, He knows the truth of every word you are lifting up to Him. You’ll find that your heart is softened in this process. You’ll find yourself “being the bigger person.” You’ll find that things you could never have imagined saying to someone’s face, even out of love, are easier to address because you are in fact taking those things to God. You’re not using this opportunity to yell or scream, argue or be defensive. You’re not even using this as an opportunity to preach to someone. You let your guard down. You let God in. You let Him see you. You tell Him what’s weighing heavy on your heart (or sometimes less often but no less important you’re praising Him). And then you ask for the courage to share that prayer with whomever you need to share it with.
There’s nothing that says you can only do this exercise with your spouse. I’ve personally taken on this type of praying and tried to apply it to any situation that I feel led to or any situation where someone has asked me to be praying about something specific. When a friend of mine tells me that her husband has been presented with two different job offers and they're not sure which direction to take, when a loved one of someone I know has passed away, when a friend is headed down a path that takes extreme courage to turn around and head back to the place where they took the wrong fork in the road, when a convicted criminal moves into a neighborhood where there are children and fear runs rampant in our hearts, when a family member is struggling with a temptation and Satan is knocking at his or her door, when you're terrified of getting hurt by someone who's hurt you or your relationship in the past.
There’s no more of the generic “Sure, I’ll pray about that,” response and then off I go and never think of it again. I take the time in whatever moment I have to sit down, type up a prayer to my God, and share that prayer with whomever needs it or whomever has requested it of me. There’s no better way to show someone that you truly are praying for them or that you truly care. They can see the exact words you use to lift them or their situation up to our God. And as a result, the both of you draw closer to each other, and God truly becomes to glue that binds you together.
Hebrews 10:24 - Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works...
I challenge you that the next time someone comes to you and requests prayers to give this a try. Open up an email and pour your heart out to God over this situation. Or the next time you know in your heart of hearts that a topic needs to be addressed with one you love, take it to God in written form, and have the courage to share that with your loved one. Have faith that God will work through your prayer to accomplish His will in your lives.