Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Devotions in Marriage

In the last two articles, we have considered individual or private devotions. Now we turn to marriage devotions, or worship in marriage: the spiritual discipline of the husband and wife reading the scriptures together and praying together.

A suffering marriage can be explained by many issues: lack of communication, squabbling over finances, a severe trial that has driven a wedge between the spouses, sharp personality differences, disagreement over childrearing, etc. But I wonder if most marriage problems, if not all, grow from one basic root: prayerlessness. Satan is working feverishly hard to break up marriages—is that not evident today? The devil knows well how quickly a marriage without prayer and scripture spirals downward.

Do you value your marriage? Search the scriptures with your spouse. Do you desire a strong relationship? Pray with your spouse. This is one of the disciplines of the Christian life.

The biblical principles for marriage worship are plain. The husband is the head of his wife (Eph. 5:23). As such, the husband must love his wife, and give himself for her (Eph. 5:25). Headship in the marriage surely includes leading one’s wife in worship—not just family worship, but marriage worship. This is how the husband shows the love of Christ to his wife. In addition, the wife is to be in subjection to her husband (Eph. 5:22). Submission, among other things, means that the wife cheerfully puts herself under her husband’s spiritual guidance, and contributes willingly in worship—not just in family worship, but in marriage worship. Furthermore, there is God’s command that believers marry only in the Lord (I Cor. 7:39). Marrying in the Lord is so important, because only those who are spiritually one can worship together.

Then, there is the explicit teaching on worship within marriage in a passage like I Peter 3:7: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” The husband and wife are heirs: they have been adopted by God for Christ’s sake, and are granted the rights and privileges of the children of God. The husband and wife are heirs together of the grace of life: they stand together as heirs of God’s grace, the grace which is the source of true life (the life of Christ) in the marriage. Marriage partners who are co-heirs of the grace of life pray together, and see to it that these prayers are not hindered.

Below are some practical guidelines for approaching this worship within marriage.

First: marriage devotions include study of the Bible and prayer. Pick a book of the Bible to study in a systematic way. Each day, read a passage together, meditate on it, and discuss it. Then, filled with the Word of God, pray aloud.

Second: marriage devotions may borrow from personal devotions. In previous articles, we treated the topic of personal or individual devotions. Assuming both husband and wife have their own devotions, it is certainly legitimate for them to discuss these personal devotions. Husband: “Today, I read this passage, and I was thinking about….” Wife: “Those are lovely thoughts. Let me talk to you about the verses I read this morning….”

Third: marriage devotions are focused on...marriage. Discussion of the scripture passage, and especially prayer, ought to be specific to the marriage; this is what makes the worship of husband and wife different from both personal and family worship. What should we pray about? Pray that there might be a seeking of Christ in the marriage. Pray that the scriptures might be the foundation of the relationship. Pray about communication, intimacy, and a deepening love for one another. Pray for faithfulness in a world that abounds with temptations. Pray for the grace to reconcile after a fight. Pray for the children—for their needs, and for wisdom to raise them, teach them, and discipline them. Let the wife hear that her husband prays for her—as a wife and mother. Let the husband hear that his wife prays for him—as a husband and father.

Fourth: marriage devotions are not the same as family devotions. This follows from the point above. Worship between husband and wife is exactly as it sounds—worship between husband and wife. There are matters that spouses discuss and pray about, that are unique to the marriage. For this reason, children should not be a part of these devotions. Understanding that the health and maintenance of the marriage comes first, the husband and wife will find a quiet time each day to grow together, encourage each other, and pray for each other.

Fifth: marriage devotions require the participation of husband and wife. Although the husband leads in these devotions, he ought to encourage the participation of his wife. The husband, but also the wife, should discuss the scripture passage. The husband, but also the wife, should pray. Headship does not preclude the participation of the wife!

Sixth: marriage devotions must begin early. Make these devotions a practice early in the relationship. It is generally true that the longer a couple (dating or married) waits to worship together, the harder it will become to start. Begin this life in the Word and in prayer early—during dating, or, at the latest, on the first day of marriage. By God’s grace, this devotional life will become a daily and expected highlight of the marriage.

Press on, husband! Persevere, wife! Be diligent, by the mighty grace of God in Christ Jesus, in this calling to worship one with another. This is God’s will for Christian marriage.


This post was written by Rev. Ryan Barnhill, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. If you have a question or a comment for Rev. Barnhill, please do so in the comment section on the RFPA blog.


Hitting Close to Home


Many readers of the RFPA blog live in West Michigan. What follows is a news item from the Grand Rapids area that illustrates the growing anti-Christian spirit of the world in which we live and how believing a basic biblical truth can quickly get one in trouble with the federal government of the United States. 









Donald and Ellen Vander Boon own West Michigan Beef Company Co., LLC , a meatpacking plant in Hudsonville, Michigan. They employ forty-five people. As their website states, "West Michigan Beef seeks to glorify and honor God in all that we do." It is the religious convictions of the Vander Boons that has them in trouble with the United States Department of Agriculture. Yes, you read it right, the USDA.

The story begins in 2015 when Don placed an article defending marriage as between one man and one woman on the break room table of his facility. The article was set on a table that was already cluttered with mainstream media news stories reporting on the recent Supreme Court decision allowing "gay marriage." A USDA public health veterinarian and inspector in charge on-site at the facility noticed the article, read it, and had it removed. Further, he reported the incident to a USDA Frontline Supervisor. This resulted in a meeting with Mr. Vander Boon, the supervisor and the on-site inspector. Mr. Vander Boon was threatened that unless he refrained from putting literature on the break room table supporting marriage between one man and one woman, USDA inspectors would be removed from his plant, effectively putting him out of business and leaving his forty-five employees without work.

The natural question is: "What do USDA inspectors inspect?" Reading material on the break room table would not be the first thing that comes to my mind. I would hope that a USDA inspector would be concerned with the health and safety of the meat the facility is processing. But in the world in which we now live, this is no longer the case. Notice, Mr. Vander Boon did not distribute the article to all or some of his employees. He did not ask them to read it, much less ask if they agreed with it. He merely added it to the stack of reading material already on the table.

USDA managers and supervisors have, per a recent "Anti-Harassment Policy Statement", been instructed to monitor for "intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment[s]". "Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, bullying, slurs, negative stereotyping, threats, intimidation, written or verbal disrespectful comments, and graphic material that insults an individual or protected group." Yes, USDA inspectors now have the authority to inspect far more than meat. They are on the lookout for "hostile work environments", likely those of the Christian variety. The full policy statement can be read here.

Mr. Vander Boon has acquiesced to the request of the USDA to remove the "offensive" article from the break room table. Refusal could result in the closing down of his business and the loss of jobs for his forty-five employees. He has, however, filed a complaint with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Since filing his complaint he has heard nothing from the USDA other than that his complaint has been received and forwarded to the USDA Civil Rights Division. Lawyers for Mr. Vander Boon have written a letter to newly elected President Trump asking the he "direct the Department of Agriculture to rescind its unlawful harassment policy and lift the restriction on Don's speech."

While the Trump administration may rescind some Obama era anti-harassment policies, we know very well that the days are increasingly evil and the place of the Christian becomes smaller and smaller in this world. What about the Protestant Reformed professional or business owner who has copies of the Standard Bearer lying on the table in his waiting room or lobby? Or what if a RFPA book makes its way on to the break room table of a Protestant Reformed shop owner? Can a government inspector responsible for the oversight of his business demand the removal of that "offensive" religious literature, or risk being shut down, because its presence creates a "hostile environment" for employees and customers? The possibility is not far-fetched.

That events like this are taking place should not surprise us. Our Lord, in his Word, tells us that we should expect these things. "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13). "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12).

Knowing that the world will hate us and that our place in this world becomes smaller, we more eagerly look for the return of Christ our King, who will say to us at his return, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34).


This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.


The Standard Bearer: Special Issue on Reformed Marriage

The April 15, 2016 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the topic of Reformed Marriage.

Some of the articles you will read in this issue are:

  • Marriage for Life: A Blessing
  • The Reformed Wedding Ceremony
  • Still Using the Reformed Marriage Form?
  • Wedding Receptions: Sanctified Celebrations
  • Children: Calling and Blessing

....and much more!

Subscribe to The Standard Bearer magazine mailing list today! 



Male and Female: What’s the Difference?

On June 26 the US Supreme Court (SC) effectively legalized homosexual marriage for the entire nation.  But this was not the first time that the SC redefined marriage (as far as US law is concerned).  In this article in the Wall Street Journal James Taranto explains that in 1981 the SC decided that male headship in marriage is a form of sexual discrimination that is unconstitutional.  Thus, in 1981 the SC did away with the traditional (and biblical) view of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in which the husband is the head of his wife. 

In place of the traditional view of marriage the SC adopted the view that in marriage the man and his wife are equal.  This view is commonly referred to as the egalitarian view of marriage.  Taranto’s argument is that having adopted the egalitarian view of marriage the SC, following the rules of good logic, must approve of homosexual marriage.  He explains that when marriage is redefined in such a way to view the sexes as equal then in marriage “husbands and wives are . . . already interchangeable.”  The logic is sound.  If a man = a woman, then it stands to reason that a man could just as well marry another man instead of a woman.  

It has become increasingly clear that homosexuality is not merely an attack on what the Bible teaches about marriage.  The homosexual movement is part of society’s full frontal assault on everything that the Bible teaches about sex and gender.  This has become increasingly clear with transgenderism (and essential part of the LGBT movement) coming to the foreground because of Bruce Jenner.  The homosexual movement denies God’s creation of the sexes and their differences.  The movement denies the need for people to identify themselves or behave according to the gender God gave them at birth.  Gender identity and behavior is a matter of an individual’s preference to be male and/or female.  For the LGBT movement there is no real difference between the sexes. 

All of this is to say that it won’t do simply for the church today to affirm what God’s word teaches about the sin of homosexuality.  But the church must also affirm what God’s word says about what it means to be male and female.  The church must know, confess, and put into practice what the Bible teaches about the roles of husbands and wives in marriage and in the family.  While we are testifying that it is wrong for men to marry men or women to marry women, are we ready also to testify that it is sinful for a man to refuse to rule over his wife?  Are we ready to testify that it is sinful for a woman to rule her husband?  Are we ready to say something about the place of mothers in the home?   

We condemn homosexuality.  But do we really know the difference between men and women? 


New edition of Better to Marry

Better to Marry, 2nd edition is now available for purchase!

Order your copy today!

$12.95 Retail

$8.42 Book Club

This small paperback book provides straightforward, practical instruction for     single and married believers alike, taken directly from the classic Bible passages on sex and marriage. Two appendices treat the remarriage and prohibition of the remarriage of the "innocent party".


 * The 2nd edition ebook version will be available soon in .mobi format (for   Kindle users) and .epub (all other devices).



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