Did you know that studies show couples who pray together have stronger marriages than those who simply attend church together? Now, if you are like many engaged or married couples husbands and wives, the thought of praying together, just the two of you, makes you somewhat uncomfortable. Perhaps you have even given it a try and it seemed awkward or strained. But there is no doubt that learning to pray together is one of the most important things that you can do for your relationship, not only with God but with each other.
An analogy from the field of architecture offers a striking visual image of the importance of shared prayer in marriage. An arch is one of the most beautiful and functional architectural features ever invented, once described by Leonardo da Vinci as “two weaknesses, which, when leaning upon each other, become a strength.” But if you think about how an arch is actually constructed, each half leans, not directly upon the other, but upon the capstone, which literally holds the whole structure in place. This is a very good analogy for Christian marriage, in which an individual man and woman, each with their own weaknesses, lean on Christ, and He holds their whole relationship together. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Without His help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives, for which God created them ‘in the beginning.” As a married couple, we can lean on Christ more consciously and consistently by learning to pray together as husband and wife. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a husband and wife who invite Christ to stay and walk with them, day by day, will experience his presence in marvelous ways. We will discover that, as we draw closer to Christ, He will deepen our love for one another.
Suggestions for praying together:
1. Begin with a few moments of silence together to become aware of God’s presence. Simply holding hands and slowly praying aloud the “Our Father” is a good way to get started. Doing this reminds us that besides being spouses, we are, above all, brother and sister in Christ, children of the same Father, in whose house we hope to spend eternity together. Is there any goal more important in our marriage?
2. One wonderful resource that can help couples to pray together on a regular basis is Magnificat, a small monthly magazine. For each day of the month, it contains morning and evening prayer, the readings for Mass, a reflection from a saint or spiritual writer and much more. Try praying morning or evening prayer together as a couple, adding your own intentions at the appropriate spot. You can order a subscription at www.magnificat.com. Cathedral Books and Gifts in Fort Wayne and Divine Mercy Gifts in South Bend sell copies of current issues of Magnificat, and some pastors order bulk subscriptions and make them available to parishioners.
3. A simpler (and cheaper) option is to sign up to get the daily Mass readings in your email inbox every morning. Go to www.usccb.org/bible/index.cfm, click on “Today’s Reading.” At the bottom of the page you can subscribe by entering your email address. You and your spouse can read silently or aloud the Gospel of the day, and spend a few minutes thinking and praying about it, asking God to show you what it means for your life and sharing with each other any insights your receive.
4. Another practice to consider is praying the Divine Mercy chaplet or a decade of the rosary aloud for a particular intention. Don’t feel that you have to confine yourselves to the traditional mysteries, but try picking an event or an encounter in the life of Christ that seems most relevant to what is on your minds and hearts. In sharing aloud intentions with each other, we get a precious glimpse into what is truly on our spouse’s mind and heart and are able to together offer these concerns to God. This can also become a real path to deepening communication and intimacy in a marriage.
5. Make a commitment as a couple that you will only decide serious matters in your marriage and family life after praying together to discern God’s will. One way to do this is to make a simple novena by writing down in your own words a short, sincere prayer asking God to show you what He wants you to do in the situation and then praying it together for nine days. By the end of the novena, be on the lookout for how He has answered your prayer.
6. Never forget that parents are powerful intercessors for their children, and we should confide to Christ all of our dreams and difficulties in trying to raise them as his sons and daughters. The Book of Lamentations contains beautiful advice in this regard: “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your little ones” (2:19).
When we develop the habit of praying together as husband and wife, wonderful things will happen. Sometimes we will hear God speaking in our hearts in a subtle inspiration or sudden insight, and sometimes our spouse will say something that strikes us as a message from above. At other times, we will share with Christ a problem we are having or a decision we need to make and ask him to give us guidance through the Scriptures; when we open the Bible and begin to read, we will be amazed by how much a particular passage speaks to our situation. Whichever form of prayer appeals to you as a couple, give it a go and persevere. You won’t regret this simple investment in your relationship with Christ that will do wonders for your relationship with each other.
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