As a pastor and pastoral counselor I have used this marriage re-dedication prayer form in both pre- marriage counseling and in marriage counseling. Sometimes couples who have no “problems’ have come to me requesting a way to regain the “ spiritual spark” of their marriage. Other times, marriage partners have experienced times of deep hurt, especially after infidelity and need a way of praying together that rebuilds trust.
In this method, husband and wife make a special time to privately pray together in healing ways about their marriage. Just as we renew our relationship with God through confession, prayer, worship and rededication, this prayer method helps husband and wives renew their covenant to God and each other.
How to do this prayer practice:
1. Go back to God’s role in marriage.
The relationship between husbands and wives is a sacred convent between the individual man and woman and God. God himself created the marriage relationship in Genesis 2: 18-24.
Marriage is a special relationship unlike any other humans’ experience. Marriage is different from living together to create an identified family unit. Marriage is sanctified by God and therefore conforms to the boundaries God set out for it. A civil union differs from a marriage in that a civil union does not rest in the covenant relationship set up by God, it rests in a relationship set up by civil law, which creates a convent relationship between the two persons, but not between the two persons and God.
Marriage is a spiritual as well as physical relationship. Sometimes husbands and wives desire a spiritual prayer service through which they can remember and/or rededicate their vows of marriage. Sometimes couples need a “new beginning” or a “do over.” Perhaps the couple has been through a marriage encounter class, had a family crisis, or wants to celebrate a new beginning in their marriage. This prayer idea is one way for married couples to experience the depth of the spiritual relationship
2. Identify your needs.
This prayer idea can be used as a means of healing after infidelity, renewal of marriage vows, building trust or recommitting ourselves to God and each other.
If the couple seeks to use this prayer idea in reconciliation or healing after a family crisis, sessions with their pastor or therapist prior to this event is recommended.
3. Locate a quiet, private place in a natural setting.
The couple should choose a unique place where only this event will take place. Make sure it is a place where you will not later return.
The idea is to create a safe place where both husband and wife can be open before each other and God.
You will need to bring a blanket large enough for both of you to sit facing each other. In planning this place, consider the time of day. Some couples prefer to go at dusk and will need a flashlight to find the car afterwards. Others prefer to go to the beach during the day and will need suntan lotion. Others may prefer a back yard bon fire; they will need a bucket of water. Where ever the couple plans this event, be sure to bring along items that will assist you and keep you safe.
The couple will also need a small mirror, like a compact or purse size make up mirror to use during this prayer idea.
4. Kneel together.
Set out the blanket. The husband should help his wife kneel. Kneel facing each other, join hands and continue holding hands while you kneel.
5. Husband begins confessing.
As the spiritual head of the house, the husband goes first. Holding the wife’s hands, the husband asks for his beloved’s forgiveness for the ways he has not kept his promise to Love, Honor, Cherish his wife. This act is much like the confession we make before God at church prior to taking communion. The wife looking at her husband verbally states her forgiveness to her husband.
The husband (looking up into the heavens) asks God to forgive him for the ways he has not kept his promise to love the Lord God with all his heart soul mind and strength, and ways he has not loved his neighbor as himself. (Dut.11:1 and Matt. 22:37-40) With head bent the husband receives God’s merciful forgiveness.
Lastly, looking into the mirror, the husband asks himself for forgiveness for not living in love with himself, not being merciful with the person God created, called and forgave. Looking into the mirror, the husband says: “Yes, (his own name) I forgive you.”
If the couple is using this as a reconciliation from crisis or infidelity after counseling, with coaching of counselor, then the one who has erred goes first. He/she looks the spouse in the eyes, confesses his/her sexual sins and broken marriage vows and asks the spouse for forgiveness. He/she then looks up and asks for God’s forgiveness following the same steps as listed above.
6. Wife confesses.
The wife or second spouse then does the steps listed above as the first spouse has done.
7. Say a prayer of re-commitment.
While still kneeling and holding hands, recommit yourselves to each other and to God. Some couples like to repeat their wedding vows to each other. Others like to thank God for the blessings of their lives together. Some bring pre-written prayers with them to read. One husband rewrote parts of The Song of Solomon. As the couple plans this prayer idea, they may also chose for this prayer be spontaneous.
8. Sample Prayers
Lord, we thank you for the gift of each other, our marriage, and this first year anniversary. We thank you for our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. We thank you for giving us your Word of truth, and each other for this journey as we seek to follow you in the life/ministry you have called us to. Thank you for this time of remembrance of your grace, mercy and love. Thank you for the gift of our marriage, our lives in Christ Jesus. Keep us always grounded in your redeeming love, that we may be witnesses to your great mercy as husband and wife. In Jesus’ name we pray amen.
Lord Jesus we recommit our lives to you as husband and wife. We thank you for our salvation, our marriage, the life you have blessed us with. Show us your will, guide and direct our path. We come before you seeking your guidance as we discern your call to ministry upon our lives…
Father God, we come to you, thankful for the marriage you have blessed us with. We thank you for the children, for your hand upon their lives. We ask Lord, as we begin this new stage in our lives, that you would show us where you want us to minister to your people….
My personal experiences and tips:
My own husband and I have used this powerful prayer tool in the renewal of our marriage vows on our 10th wedding anniversary. We have also used it as a form of “seeking God’s wisdom and direction.” The idea behind it is that as we recommit ourselves and our lives to each other we are then on the same page with each other to approach God in seeking direction in our lives, work and ministry. The spiritual experience of this prayer tool is a sanctifying experience of God’s real presence in our marriages.
Of special note, for engaged couples: After this service, remaining sexually pure until after the wedding service keeps the wedding bed holy, creating a powerful “becoming one “ experience during the honeymoon which lays a spiritual foundation for the rest of your marriage.
How to fit this prayer idea into your schedule:
Although this prayer idea will take some preplanning on both husband and wife’s part, it can easily fit into an weekend afternoon or evening.
Biblical origins and traditional roots of this method of prayer:
The tradition of treating the marriage relationship as something sacred dates back to the first century Church. Even today at the end of the service the minister says, “What God has joined together let no man (or woman) put asunder.” Indeed, in the traditional wedding vows, we pledge to God and our beloved: “ I take thee, to be my lawfully wedded ( husband /wife) to have and to hold from this day, for better, for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, forsaking all others, till death do us part. This is my solemn vow.” In some Christian traditions marriage is a sacrament. The spiritual meaning is deepened by the fact that marriage mirrors the spiritual convent God has with us, his beloved bride, The Church.
Genesis further deepens the mystery of marriage by saying, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 NIV
Strong, sacred family bonds are further elevated in the Ten Commandments, with three of the ten directly addressing families: “Honor your father and mother”, “You shall not commit adultery”, “Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.” (Deuteronomy 5:16, 18a, 21)
Copyright Barbara Ingram 2011