People often say that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This may sometimes be the case, but perhaps even more frequently familiarity gives birth to complacency. We may not have disdain for those things or people that we are most familiar with, but we do tend to get accustomed to them. As we acclimate to their presence, our care of them tends to wane.
This is often seen in marriages. The formalities and niceties that permeated the dating relationships can disappear as couples live their lives day-in and day-out. We make assumptions about what our husband or wife thinks because we believe we know them so well. Hurt feelings are disregarded and compliments end because we’ve simply grown used to having them around. Our attention to details tends to fade.
Because of this proclivity, we sometimes forget to ask the same questions of our spouse that we would a close friend. These like “how are you doing?” become perfunctory rather than an ardent inquiry into their well-being. For the Christian, an even better question that is often neglected is “how can I be praying for you?” Because we assume we know what is going on in our spouse’s life, we may not think to ask.
However, regularly and intentionally asking our spouse for their prayer requests has several benefits. Namely:
You better understand their challenges and struggles. When you catch up with each other and the end of the day there is often a list of discussion points that must be covered. You need to compare calendars, make plans, and ensure you are on the same page with one another in regards to the kids. While doing this you may think that you have a good understanding of your loved one’s day, but likely you have only a cursory overview. Asking for specific prayer requests helps reveals what issues are most pressing on your spouse’s heart. It reveals what areas or issues are causing them concern, and allows you to partner together in facing them.
You are better prepared to help them. Building off the previous point, when you are aware of the issues that your spouse must contend with during a day, you know better how you may bless them. You may think that your are helping your spouse because you are preparing dinner and getting the laundry done, but perhaps what they really need in that season is someone to take the car in for an oil change which they have intended to do for the last several weeks but it just never got done. This is a simplistic example, but it illustrates the point. We tend to do the same thing that we’ve always done assuming that what has been beneficial in the past carries the same benefit into the future. People and marriages go through seasons and different needs arise. Asking your spouse for their prayer requests not only allows you to petition God for help on their behalf, it may be an opportunity that God uses to speak into your heart on how you may bless the one you love.
You can follow up and keep track. When you say a general prayer for your spouse, God is faithful to respond. The challenge is that you don’t have any idea what the response was. Because you were not specific, it is difficult to demonstrate a specific answer. This means that you can’t follow-up with your spouse to see whether their needs were met, nor can you know whether continued petitioning is needed. Additionally, you have no record of God’s faithful and generous response to your requests, because all your requests were abstract. Throughout Scripture God calls His people to remember what He has done in their lives. Knowing how He has responded to your prayers is one aspect of this. If you have only made general requests on behalf of your spouse, all of your recollections will be general too. While this may provide some comfort the next time you face an uncertain or scary future, specificity would probably provide even greater assurance as you recall the things God has done.
You show your spouse love. One of the marvelous things about prayer is that even nonbelievers tend to appreciate it when you pray for them. Lifting your loved one up to the One who loves them even more than you do and Whose purposes can not be thwarted (Job 42:2) demonstrates your affection and concern. Your spouse will likely face many situations where you can not tangibly provide them what they need. However, you can always pray. As you do so, you are asking the One who controls all to intervene on their behalf. What is a better indication of love than that?
In the busyness of the days it is easy to assume that you know how you should pray for your spouse. However, purposefully asking them for their requests has numerous benefits. As we do so we reveal that our familiarity has not caused us to grow passive. Instead, the more we are aware of their concerns, the more likely we are to bear their burden as our own (see Gal. 6:2). The more we know how we should petition, the more we see the response and the effects of those prayers. And the more purposefully we pray, the more demonstratively we show our love.