As Christians, we know the value of daily devotions. We see great men and women of God who set aside time every morning to meditate on God's Word, spend time in His presence and commune with Him through prayer. We admire their discipline and their enjoyment of what we know we need more of, and yet so many of us struggle to do devotions ourselves.

When asked if she and her husband do devotions together, Heather* said no, but quickly followed it with the two words we all say: “We should.”

“My parents do,” she added. “They read a devotional in the morning before my dad leaves for work. Every day.”

While we admire these spiritual giants in our lives, we also have to remember that they've worked on that discipline like all of us – by starting small. Heather and her husband may not be able to keep up the momentum of a daily devotion, but they could begin by doing one weekly – or even monthly.

Any good habit – whether it's running, eating well or feeding your soul through devotions – needs to start somewhere.

Why it's important

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, creators of the Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts program, wanted to take a close look at the spiritual aspect of marriage. “We wanted to learn how successful couples tend the soul of their marriage,” they write in the introduction of their book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts Devotional.

“When researchers examined the characteristics of fulfilled couples who had been married for more than two decades, one of the most important qualities they found was 'faith in God and spiritual commitment,' ” the Parrotts write. “We never needed scientists to tell us that spiritual meaning was important to our marriage. We knew it from the start. Marriage is not a superficial bonding, a mere machine that needs routine maintenance to keep it functioning. Marriage for us is founded upon a mutual exchange of holy pledges. It is ultimately a deep, mysterious, and unfathomable spiritual endeavour.”

Jim and Jean Daly, in their book Best Year of Your Marriage Devotional, add to this by explaining that marriage was created by God and therefore we need Him to be in the centre of it:

“We're called not only to preserve the God-ordained institution of marriage and highlight its benefits and His reasons for it; we're to model it well, too."

And doing devotions as a couple is a key way to nourish your marriage.

Why it's difficult

Marriage is a beautiful, God-designed relationship that is used to reflect God's glory to the world, which is why it's so often under attack. Whether plagued by busyness or conflict, marriage can often be rife with difficulty – and the spiritual dimension of this relationship is just as vulnerable.

Philip J. Swihart and Wilford Wooten are Focus on the Family counsellors who contributed to the Dalys' Best Year of Your Marriage Devotional. In the introduction they explain, “The spiritual dimension of your relationship can be a point of contention, too. This often forms fertile ground for spiritual attack by an enemy who would love to destroy a relationship that God has blessed as holy.”

The value of doing devotions as a couple is to keep you united against these spiritual attacks.

“It gives you and your spouse a way to spend special time together, talking about things that matter, considering God's Word, praying, and taking action to strengthen and recharge your relationship,” they go on to add.

5 tips to help you stick to couple devotions

  1. Keep it simple

    There are lots of great devotionals out there and many can be found in our bookstore. The Parrotts' Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts Devotional and the Dalys' Best Year of Your Marriage Devotional have already been mentioned, but you can also check out these recommended titles:

    Kingdom Marriage Devotional by Tony Evans
    Devotions for a Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
    Night Light: A Devotional for Couples by Dr. James and Shirley Dobson 

    You can also find free couple devotional articles on our website. The simplest format is to include prayer, reading of Scripture, reflection on those verses and then end with another prayer. You don't have to feel pressured to dive into commentaries or get into deep theological discussions. The purpose of this discipline is to set aside time to commune with God as a couple and strengthen your spiritual relationship with God and with one another. It doesn't have to be complicated to be valuable.

  2. Make it work for you

    Despite being marriage experts and writers of a couple devotional themselves, Les and Leslie Parrott talk candidly in their book about how difficult it was to find a devotional that worked for them:

    “We know and admire couples who open their Bibles together after breakfast, read a passage, share their secrets and kneel to pray. But that never seemed to be our style. We wake up at different times on different days. We don't have the same routine every day. And, to be honest, we need an activity that doesn't seem like a duty that hangs over our heads.”

    So feel free to go through some trial and error to find what works for you. It may be in the morning or it may be at night. It may be right after work and before dinner, or just on Sunday evenings. There is no one right way, so feel free to get creative and try something different from those around you.

  3. Set realistic goals

    The reality is many of us will struggle to do devotions every day. This discipline can be difficult as a single person, never mind trying to work with you and your spouse's different habits and routines. As a result, setting the goal of once a day may be too much to keep. Perhaps you'd do better to set a goal of once a week. Or maybe you both do individual devotions and get together once a month. The more unrealistic your goals, the less chance you'll have of achieving them.

  4. Give yourself grace

    If you miss a week, don't beat yourself up over it and don't give up! Doing something is always better than doing nothing – even if it's infrequent at the beginning. If you trip and fall, don't stay down; pick yourself back up and keep going.

    This may be especially important if you're going through the trial-and-error process of finding what works for you. There will be times when schedules conflict and busyness gets in the way, but you can always pick up where you left off. The discipline of doing devotions is always going to be a tough one, but the beauty of doing it as a couple is you have built-in accountability to keep going – even after you've taken a break.

  5. Remember the ultimate goal

    Finally, it's important to remember why you're doing this. It may even be valuable for you to write it down on a note in your devotional or put it up on your fridge. This isn't another New Year's resolution that will get pushed to the side come February, nor is it another item on your to-do list to check off and forget about. The purpose of this discipline is to draw you and your spouse closer together and closer to God, ultimately bringing Him glory through your relationship. Don't minimize this to yet another thing on your schedule. Take the time to enjoy these moments together as you grow spiritually and strengthen the relationship God designed.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Amy Van Veen is editorial manager at Focus on the Family Canada.

© 2018 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.    

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