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Necessary Communion: Cultivating Prayer as Newlyweds

Prayer is necessary for Christians. Our Heidelberg Catechism teaches this and explains why in Q&A 116: “Because it [prayer] is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us, and also because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desires continually ask them of him and are thankful for them.”
For young married Christians, prayer is especially necessary. Before we get further into prayer’s necessity, we should remind ourselves what prayer is.
Communion with God
Prayer is the action of communing with our covenant God. Prayer is activity. This is clear from Q&A 116. This Q&A speaks of thanking God, desiring his grace, and asking him for that grace. This is an activity of your heart, soul, and mind. The Catechism draws its teaching from scripture. In Psalm 50:14–15, God says, “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” Offering, paying vows, calling on God, and glorifying him—all are activities.
Prayer is the activity of communion with God. Communion is covenantal fellowship, the fellowship of intimate friendship. Communion is fellowship through speaking; in prayer, we talk to God. Q&A 116 says we “ask” God. Communion is also knowledgeable fellowship. Intimate communion with God requires knowledge of him as our friend. God shows us who he is, as our friend in the Bible.
Adam’s sin destroyed communion with God. He did this both for himself and us. God renewed communion with his elect people through Christ. We see this promise already in Genesis 3:15. In Christ, he gave you and me the gift of communion with him again, through prayer. On the cross, Jesus was forsaken of God, that we might never be forsaken of him. Instead of being forsaken you and I have the right of access to God through Jesus’ blood. That gift of prayer Christians, and especially newlywed Christians need today.
Giving Thanks and Asking for Grace
Prayer is necessary for young married Christians. We refer again to Q&A 116, and the two reasons that prayer is necessary for Christians, “because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us” and because “God will give his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who continually ask them of him.”
Newlywed Christians, you must pray because it is the chief part of thankfulness. Married Christians, are you thankful to God? First of all, are you thankful for your covenantal friendship with God? Are you thankful for his love? Are you thankful that he chose you from before time? Do you give daily thanks for the blood of Jesus Christ? The blood that cleanses you from all sin and removes your guilt. The blood that made you and me children of God through adoption. Are you thankful for the Holy Spirit? The Spirit, sent by Jesus, dwelling in your heart to renew you and assure you that you are an adopted child of God.
Newlywed Christians, you must give God thanks for the wonderful, amazing, delightful gift of marriage. In this most intimate human relationship, God calls you to reflect his intimate spiritual relationship with the church. Give thanks for the gift of your marriage in particular; for his sovereignty in preparing you for each other from before time and for bringing you together in his perfect timing. Thank him each morning that you wake up with your beloved, each night that you go to bed together, and the companionship you now enjoy throughout each day.
The second reason that prayer is necessary is that Jehovah God is pleased to give his grace and Holy Spirit to you and me through the gift of prayer. You depend entirely upon the grace and Holy Spirit of our God. Our Reformed form for marriage begins with these appropriate words: “Whereas married persons are generally, by reason of sin, subject to many troubles and afflictions.” The honeymoon will end, and trouble will come. We will hurt and sin against each other. In these moments, we will need God’s grace to repent, confess, forgive, and reconcile with each other. Marriage is an adjustment. It brings a new set of changes and challenges for each couple. When we face challenges, we need grace. The grace to grow together in these challenges and not become bitter towards each other. We need grace to keep God as the central focus of our marriage.
God’s grace is given through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, whom Jesus Christ now gives to us. Jesus sends the Spirit into our hearts and minds to sanctify us. We need the Holy Spirit to give the grace of God to us, daily. Thus, we need the communion of prayer, daily.
Building a Prayer Life as Newlyweds
Your prayer life together begins before you tie the knot. It begins even before you are dating. It begins while you are single. Prayer needs to be the center of your life. Pray for contentment in your singleness. Cultivate a vibrant life of communion with God; your private prayer will strengthen your spiritual life in marriage. Take the time to invest spiritually in the relationships God has providentially placed in your life already. Your relationships with your parents, your siblings, and your friends. These spiritual relationships you build before marriage will not cease when you get married. God will use these same people to strengthen and encourage you spiritually in marriage.
I encourage you in four things that should belong to your prayer life as a newly married couple.
First, pray constantly, “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Q&A 116 says that God gives his grace and Holy Spirit to those who “continually ask them of him” (emphasis added). Set aside specific, regular times of prayer and devotions.
Second, pray together. Together, thank God for your marriage. Together, beseech God for his grace and Holy Spirit to live together holily in marriage. Come to the throne of grace as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Third, include more than prayer in your devotional times together. 1 Timothy 4:13 says, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Paul’s personal admonition to Timothy may be understood as the Father’s admonition to all of us, including newlywed Christians. Give attendance to reading! Read and discuss Scripture regularly and with intention. Choose portions that are easier to understand or more practical. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start. You may also find it helpful to use a devotional. My wife and I regularly read, and recommend, Charles Spurgeon’s classic “Morning and Evening.”
Fourth, work to cultivate spiritual conversations in your marriage. Don’t forget that prayer is communion with God. This is a deliberately broad definition to encourage us to think of prayer as more than the “formal” activity of bowing our heads and closing our eyes at a specific time. Rather, we should think of prayer as a continual conversation with God. We can encourage each other to have this continual conversation with God when we are continually conversing about the things of God. Here are a few effective ways we have cultivated spiritual conversations. Listen to and discuss sermons or podcasts when you are in the car together. Read edifying books together. The RFPA has a “Reformed Spirituality” series that you may find encouraging. Two books that my wife and I read recently which have inspired conversation are “Made for Friendship” by Drew Hunter, and a commentary on the Song of Solomon by Douglas Sean O’Donnell.
My wife and I pray together that this article may benefit you in reading it; it benefitted us to talk about this subject together. We wish you the blessing of our covenant God as you cultivate prayerful marriages that reflect truly (if imperfectly) his covenant friendship with us.