Most Christian husbands I speak to like the idea of reading the Bible with their wife but feel guilty because it hasn’t happened much (or at all) in their marriage. I totally get it. For many years I failed completely in this area. Reading the Bible with my wife was like one of the jobs on my domestic job list that seemed completely beyond me (rehang a cupboard door, put up shelves, replace a tap etc). This wasn’t anything to do with her mind you – I just couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about it.
Eventually, thanks to some prompting from a friend, we managed to work out how to make it happen. And it’s been a really positive thing. Here’s some ideas that might help you get started.
Before getting to practical tips though, why should we read the Bible with our wives? (Forgive me ladies, I’ll be addressing husbands throughout this post). Is it worth the time and effort? Well, there’s many reasons. Firstly, the Bible itself points out the goodness of word ministry in our marriage. Ephesians 5 says:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 5:25-28)
Christ loved the church sacrificially and gave himself up (i.e. died) for her. This is a great and wonderful love. But he also loved her by bringing the word of God to her. Somehow this “washing of water with the word” is connected to her splendour and holiness. For us, as husbands, the command is clear: love our wives in a similar sacrificial way. This means firstly that we should be willing to give up our lives (and comforts etc) for our wives, but also, I think, that we should bring the word of God into our marriage. Not necessarily in the same way as Christ – who is the Word of God himself, but still in a way that benefits and grows our wives during the time of our marriage on earth. Reading the Bible with our wives fits with the picture of marriage in Ephesians 5.
Other reasons for reading the Bible together are a bit more practical: it’s just good to read the Bible anytime (see Psalm 119); it sets the agenda for our marriage; it leads well into prayer; it brings a beautiful closeness into marriage; and it models a good habit to our kids (if you have them). Don’t think of it as a “duty”, “rule” or “law” – it’s just worth it – a response to God’s grace and a better use of your time and energy than anything else on your “to do list”.
So how do you go about it? How can you get the ball rolling?
First of all, make sure you’re praying regularly for your wife. Pray for her spiritual growth, her godliness and her particular stresses and issues. Add to your prayers the request that you might be able to read the Bible together.
Secondly, talk to your wife about making this happen. Here’s some questions you could discreetly write on your palm: “Hey honey/sweetie/wifey etc, I was thinking it might be good if we read the Bible together. What do you think?” and, “How do you think we could make it work?” Hopefully, she’ll respond with enthusiasm and share good ideas (wives, if you’re reading, this is where you need to appreciate that your man has gone out on a limb and you should be right on board, no matter what your doubts are!).
That should get things started. You might find it hard, but that’s not because it’s a bad idea, it’s just that doing good things sometimes takes effort (and courage).
So what are some practical tips on making it happen? Here’s a few:
- Find a time that works for her. You want to be reading the Bible at a time when she has a reasonable amount of energy and head space. If you’re an evening person but she’s a morning person then read the Bible in the morning. That’s sacrificial loving leadership. If you’ve got kids, you’ll need to figure out (somehow) a time when distractions are manageable. Some couples read once a week (that’s us), others seem to manage more (at least during some periods in their marriage).
- Make that time a bit special. You want your wife to be in a good frame of mind for Bible reading. Try doing a bit more of the housework and family stuff around that time. Make the space you’ll use a bit more tidy or pleasant to be in. Include a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a pastry as part of your routine.
- Commit to inviting her to read the Bible with you at that time. It might be that on some weeks she is (or you are) genuinely too tired to manage anything. That’s ok and normal, but you should at least communicate about how you’re feeling. Some weeks you’ll just sit together, debrief a little, and pray.
- Use a Bible reading guide. It can be hard to read the Bible with your wife without a guide (mind you, if you can do this, that’s great). It feels condescending and patronising to ask questions like “What does Paul pray for in verse 3?” On the other hand, just asking, “so what do you think?” runs the risk of going nowhere. A Bible reading guide is like a third person asking good questions and making good points. You can answer the question, ignore the question or even criticize the question and no one’s feelings will get hurt. I’d recommend the HBC Time with God material, Matthias Media’s Daily Bible Reading Guides, The Good Book Company’s “Explore” books or app, or “90 days in” series.
- Pray. Pray for each other, or if your wife is too tired you can do the praying for her. That’s an expression of loving servant leadership on your part. Pray also for the kids, church, friends etc (without necessarily starting a prayer marathon).
- Keep it short. You want to start a good sustainable habit. That means you keep it short and finish strong. You’ll want to come back with enthusiasm next week. 10-15 minutes is reasonable I think. If everything’s going great you can go longer in the future.
- Get some encouragement. Share with some of the guys in your growth group about this being a goal for you. Get their encouragement, prayers, advice and accountability.
So that’s about it. Keep in mind you might need to try and fail a few times before you find what works for you. But once you get things going you’ll be so thankful you made the effort! Be aware that your habits will also have to change when babies arrive or family, work and ministry routines change. When this happens keep communicating with your wife about how to make it work rather than just dropping the ball for 3 months.
Reading the Bible with your wife is a great thing for your marriage but more importantly it’s a great thing for her godliness, maturity and perseverance. Now, fellas, go make a plan.