My husband, Nathan, and I are fundamentally different people. Like in every way. We agree on the big things: Jesus, how to parent, and… well actually that might be all. And the rest/ 99.9% of our decisions? Polar opposites. I’m told by so many people that this is the case for their marriage as well, which helps me to feel better when we just can’t come to an agreement. Over the past five months, we’ve recognized some rough spots in our marriage and really started to work on those together. It’s a humbling conversation to have- looking your failures and shortcomings straight in the face- but we did it and I’m so thankful we did. It’s changed everything.
One of the biggest aches in my heart was that my husband and I rarely prayed together. That wasn’t always the case for us- when we first got married we prayed together all the time. But then life happened, babies happened, and no sleep ever happened so we just fell off the bandwagon. I had this romantic idea in my mind- that all good married couples prayed together before bed. Every night. Because “couples who pray together stay together”. And without realizing it I put us into this box of prayer parameters that, unbeknownst to me, was Nathan’s nightmare. Remember how we’re different in every way? Yeah. It was the worst.
So instead of coming to a healthy conclusion about this years ago, we just avoided it. #superhealthycouple #nodysfunctionhere #goals
My mind had decided tons of untrue, messy thoughts about Nathan’s spiritual life. And I’m sure that jerk Satan had us just where he wanted us- apart. So when all this came up a few months ago, I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. It was actually Nathan who brought up this change and issues to work on, Nathan who kept his cool as I lost mine, and Nathan who could calmly formulate a plan. I’m a mess and I don’t pretend otherwise.
For me, prayer is whatever: whatever I’m feeling, whatever I’m thinking about, whatever pops into my head as I’m talking to Jesus. I view it as a conversation that ebbs and flows. And usually I end up in a totally different place than I started and I think that’s awesome. I’m all smiles and rainbows after it.
For Nathan, prayer is intentional, driven and pointed. His brain works in lists and columns and charts. He feels best when he has a plan and can really press into the Lord without getting distracted. So imagine us praying together, me skipping here and there while he’s like “Wait! No! Come back! We forgot to finish what we started!” Meanwhile I’ve danced off so far I can’t even hear him and leave him behind. Both of us frustrated, and both feeling guilty for not wanting to pray with our spouse.
So Nathan, realizing these differences, came up with a plan. We discussed it, I threw a minimal amount of fits, and then we decided to put it into action. And it has changed our life. I wanted to share it with you today because after sharing this with our life group, we realized that we weren’t the only ones who struggled in this way. What a freaking relief.
Since we’ve begun this prayer list/schedule/whatever we have seen huge things happen. The biggest thing, by far, is that we have had so much more unity in our marriage. Like whoa. The health of our marriage is night and day from five months ago. Hallefreakinglujah. We have seen huge things happen for Nathan at work, huge things happen for our girls and huge things happen in the lives of the people we’ve been praying for. All I can keep thinking is “Why the heck didn’t we start this years ago!!!”
I also want to say that this is just what WE do. Yes, I made you a printable and yes I’m giving you ours just in case it resonates with you. But we have found that it works for us because it works for US. And if you’ve been in the same boat we’ve been in, I want you to find something that works for YOU. Sometimes we just need a little inspirational story to get us going. So here is our plan, how we go about it, and why.
1. We pray early in the mornings.
And if you know me at all you know that THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE. I am not a morning person. I do not love anyONE or anyTHING in the mornings. Nathan, on the other hand, is happiest in the mornings. Figures. So when he suggested praying in the mornings I was like YOU SELFISH JERK I HATE YOU NO. Then I realized how ugly it was that I just said that. And then I realized that my husband was making steps towards praying together (addressing one of my biggest hurts) and trying to voice his needs in a kind manner. So after I calmed down I realized that while it would be a sacrifice for me to do anything extra in the morning, our marriage was worth it. We aim to wake up before the girls to get a few quiet moments in to sip our coffee and pray together. It doesn’t always go as planned and today we prayed while eating breakfast with the girls… but this is just our season. We’ve also decided that on the Hot Mess Express mornings we will pray about the same things on our morning drives. It’s not our plan A, but it helps us to keep the unity going and adds some grace to the equation.
2. We made a weekly list.
Like I said earlier, Nathan is a list guy. And while I was hesitant to embrace the list at first I’ve since realized that it has been such an empowering tool for my prayer life. I often struggle to remember what to pray for and The List has changed that for me because every week we have allotted days to pray for certain things. Our prayer list is 5 days long (weekdays) and on the weekends we pray when we can. That sounds maybe a little lazy but compared to never praying together before we figured it was a good place to start. If grace and flexibility aren’t a part of our equation then our intentions just never happen. So any plan we make has to be balanced with grace so that we actually complete it. We assigned a topic to each day and just focus on leaning in to those prayers that day. When there is a really big thing we’re leaning into the Lord about, we tag it onto every day. And I am allowed to pray about whatever I want after we’ve hit our bullet points because DON’T YOU JUDGE MY WANDERING HEART, husband. And he doesn’t. I love him.
Mondays we pray for work.
Since it’s the beginning of the work week, we start there to get our heads in the zone. We pray that Nathan’s boss would be so incredibly blessed in his personal and business life and that those blessings would overflow onto every employee. We pray for the company to have favor and of course we pray for raises, promotions and every other work thing we can think of. Then we pray for me to not hate writing so much, to actually get time to write, and to write instead of taking naps. I don’t hate writing. Except for when I hate writing, which is most of the time.
Tuesdays we pray for #teampelzel.
We pray for our marriage, for continued unity between us. We pray for our girls and the specific things they need. We speak life and destiny into their days. We also pray for our finances on this day- that God would teach us to be good stewards with the little we have so that we can be faithful with much in the future.
Wednesdays we pray for friends.
This is one of my favorites because it makes me tune into the needs of my tribe. And I have way fewer cases of times I say I’ll pray for someone and never do. So that’s a win. We put friend day on Wednesday because that’s when our life group meets so it just felt natural. Thinking on it now, I almost wish we assigned it to Thursdays because our friends’ needs are freshly on our minds from the night before. But whatever.
Thursdays we pray for extended family.
Nathan usually prays for his side of the family and I usually pray for mine.
Fridays we pray for our big thing.
Yeah this probably needs it’s own explanation:
3. Our “Big Thing“
Every month we decide on one specific thing we’re praying for. The first month our big thing was praying about what we should pray about, so don’t go thinking that we have it all together here. We’ve also decided to do a three day fast at the beginning of each month where we specifically lean in to God for that big thing. Fasting…. is tricky. And I don’t love it, if I’m being honest. But we watched this awesome documentary called The Science of Fasting that helped us see all the health benefits of fasting. And since the Bible talks about fasting a lot, I figure that of course God would use it as a tool for physical health along with spiritual health. I make real bone broth to heal our guts that we sip on for lunch and dinner. And we drink coffee in the mornings. The first month we did this, I don’t think I prayed once because I was so tired and grumpy. But we see it more as a marathon than a sprint and we know that God gives us grace while we figure things out.
The second month we noticed that Ella was really struggling with anxiety. Like this big, dark cloud would just come settle over her and she couldn’t keep herself together. So that was our big thing. We prayed for her and with her. And the three of us took time to ask God to show her how He saw her. It was such an incredible time. She had some big victories and I am confident that it’s because we tackled it head on with prayer.
(Download Prayer List)
I hope that this plan of ours has left you feeling inspired and not judged. Because friend, guilt is not welcome here. Even with this plan in place, I’m tempted to feel like we’re not doing enough since we have two grace days a week. So instead of feeling guilty, I let that thought propel me to talk to Jesus. I ask Him to show me what He thinks about me and I ask Him to help me realize just how kind He is. When it comes to prayer, I think one of Satan’s biggest tools against it is guilt. So we just say no to that.
And friend, if you and your spouse have been struggling to pray together I am with you. You are not alone and you are not the only ones. You can start anywhere, with anything, at any time. And what better time than now?
My prayer for you in this season is this: that you would fall in love with conversing with Jesus. And that that love would ooze into every corner of your heart and overflow onto everyone around you. I am praying for you, dear one, and I would so love to hear your uses of The List!!
P.S. If you’re an ink conservationist like myself, print out one copy of the printable and slide it into page protector. You can write on it with a wet erase marker and badabing- you won’t have to print a million more if you need to edit it. You’re welcome, America.