Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Devotional Time


We have tried and tried to have a devotional time as a couple and with our children. Nothing seems to work. What can we do to make this work? Are there any creative and practical ways to foster spiritual intimacy with my spouse?


We’re all familiar with Moses and what he wrote more than 4,000 years ago in the book of Deuteronomy: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:5-9; NIV).

First, we can't foster spiritual convictions in our children if it’s only during Sunday school, bedtime prayer, after dinner devotionals, or while driving to school. We must live them all day long. Our spiritual teaching should permeate throughout everything we do. It should not only be a thing we formally do, it should be informal, as well. In other words, it should be in everything we do, not just during a pre-planned activity. We love the verse: “pray continually” (1Thes 5:17; NIV). Like prayer, passing on spiritual convictions is something that should be a part of all that we do—it should never end. We need to reinforce spiritual teaching throughout the day. This teaching task is the most important assignment God has given to us as parents.

How we have meaningful devotions as a family, while keeping our children from being bored or uninvolved is the real question. And for this we have one word: Short! Or, one phrase: Keep it short silly (KISS). Children won’t understand or sit through lengthy adult devotions. The rule of thumb is around five minutes—which usually represents the attention span of a young child. So, focus on one or two Bible verses and a quick prayer.

“And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:8-9; NIV). This is one of the more challenging aspects in marriage: when a husband and wife begin to grow together spiritually. For many, spiritual growth can be difficult; growing spiritually as a couple presents even more challenges. What can we do?

In 1999, researcher George Barna came out with a study that showed born again Christians are more likely than others to experience divorce. This shocked many Christians and made us wonder what is going on in the church. As Erin and I pondered that question, we found a Gallup Poll that was done in 1997 by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement in Phoenix Arizona that showed the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. That’s a divorce rate of less than one percent. Could it be that prayer is the missing link in keeping couples together? It’s prayer that makes two people one and binds two hearts together with the heart of God.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We believe that prayer, like no other resource in the universe, not only keeps couples together, but draws them into a deep, spiritual intimacy together.

Although we routinely encourage couples to pray together regularly, some couples do not feel comfortable praying together. Prayer is not the only way to foster spiritual intimacy together. Sadly, some couples get caught in the myth that we “have to” be praying together or reading the Bible together in order to grow spiritually. Don’t fall into that trap. Some couples have found that listening to worship music together does the trick. Others have found participating in a small group with other couples deepens their spiritual intimacy. Make a list of all the different ways you could experience a spiritual relationship together. The longer the list the better. And then pick several. Rotate different activities. Don’t think that prayer and Bible study are the only ways. The point is to do “something” together spiritually. Erin and I love listening to praise and worship music together. When we do that, we feel very connected spiritually.

Greg Smalley, PsyD
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Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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