Whether you’re dating or newly married, pursuing God together is the surest way to build a strong relationship foundation. If you’re dating, spending time in God’s Word as a couple can strengthen your walk, encourage healthy conversations, and open doors to discuss differences of theology. If you’re married, regular devotional times will transform your attitudes toward one another. It’s no wonder the Enemy targets couples with distraction and busyness every time they sit down to pray!
Josh and I haven’t “arrived” in this area, and to be honest, we very rarely do devotional time together anymore. It looks different now than it did the first two years of our marriage; we’ve found that separate devotional times doing our own study works better than joint study now that we’re almost seven years in. But in the early years, inconsistent work schedules, moving three times, and balancing work, home, and a baby, taught us that quiet time is possible if you’re intentional about it. The following four principles are very simple, but it’s the simplicity that makes them work.
Designate a Time
When we were dating, our “quiet time” was usually before each date. We found that reading and praying together strengthened the Spirit’s voice in our hearts when we were tempted to compromise. Every time we struggled with purity, we hadn’t spent time seeking God together. We hadn’t sought His protection over our hearts and minds. Even if we were getting together to watch a movie or eat out, we tried to make the first thing on our agenda a prayer time.
Once married, quiet times actually became harder. We worked two different shifts, we both traveled on business, and there were many weeks where the only time we saw each other was at bedtime. We realized it was more important to have the devotional time than to have it at the same time each day. Rather than saying, “We’ll pray together at 6 AM each morning,” we decided day-to-day what time worked best.
In some seasons, we read and prayed at night, when we were for sure together. In others we’d get up together and read over breakfast. Find a time that works for you both.
It’s worthy to note that it is not “usurping leadership” to remind your boyfriend/husband of your commitment to meet God. That accountability will be very necessary. If he continues to be negligent about pursuing the Lord, 1) if you’re dating – ask yourself if you are actually equally yoked; 2) if you’re married (though this applies to dating too), pray that God would transform his heart, set an example, and be a leader in your own right. I have seen prayer answered many times over when Josh was not leading as much as I’d wish. Rather than nagging, ask God to motivate him to step up and live as an example.
Pick a Passage
Josh and I have used a few books and devotionals to guide our quiet times, but we prefer to use the Bible itself. While devotionals provide some structure, some don’t get you in the Word of God as much.
One thing we did early on: a New Testament reading plan each morning. We took turns reading a passage using different versions of the Bible. This gives us a different perspective and promotes conversation.
If you’re just starting out, pick a small book (like one of the NT epistles) and read it in chunks. Don’t rush; you don’t need an end date. If you want to discuss verse by verse, do so! What matters is that you are in the Word together.
My favorite Bible study method is SOAP: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. If you’re a couple who needs structure, this can be applied to any passage you read. It can also give you a groundwork for questions.
There is no such thing as a dumb question about the Bible. As you discuss the passage, any questions you can’t answer should be written down for future research (or better yet, research them together during your quiet time!). This doesn’t have to take long. Two or three questions will get you thinking deeper about the passage.
It’s important to engage with the text and with each other. Our temptation is to simply read the words and check “quiet time” off the list, but that’s not the purpose of it. For God to change us through His word, we need to “camp out” in it. This doesn’t mean you’re having an hour devotional time. Just make sure the time you have is completely focused on what you’re reading.
Engage Your Children
Even if you don’t have kids yet, consider this habit of a couple’s quiet time as an investment in your future family. If you’re unable to make it a habit as a couple, it will be ten times harder with kids!
Now that Josh and I are parents, devotions take more effort. But we try to model this practice in the kid’s view, and even include them in our study. Involving them creates an environment of discipleship!
One of my favorite resources for beginning discipleship with babies is Say and Pray Devotions by Diane Stortz. This book provides structure to a family “quiet time” while being age appropriate for babies. Each page contains a one sentence “devotion” and a short Bible verse. The illustration is pertinent to the devotional subject, and each object on the page is labeled so the child can learn new words. Adeline loved this book and I love reading it to her. It is a creative way to get her accustomed to God’s Word without going too far above her head.
Always Conclude with Prayer
Finally, always conclude your quiet time with prayer. Josh and I actually break this up; we read in the morning and pray together at night. Since Josh leaves for work right after we read together, we found it was better to pray before going to sleep. We’re guaranteed to be in the same place, and we can reflect on the passage we read throughout the day. This is one thing that has worked consistently across all the seasons of our marriage!
I know praying together sounds trite. Of course you should pray together – you’re a Christian couple! But honestly, how many of us truly make time to do this? Prayer is not so much about us as it is about God: Exposing our hearts to His transforming power. You cannot speak to God and remain unchanged. That’s why every Christian relationship needs prayer.
Don’t be ashamed of small beginnings in this area. Like I said: Josh and I are works in progress in this area! You will never get to a devotional plateau, with no more to learn about God or the Bible. And it changes with your season! It looks different for us now than it did in those early years – now we focus on discussion of our individual devotions instead of doing a specific plan together. There is no shame in this structure either.
I hope this inspires you in your own growth as a couple!