Often, we think of Lent as a period where we practice self-denial for a time and then we resume old habits and delights. We give up chocolate and then gleefully restore it to its rightful place (along with the return of a few pounds)! Another approach is to use this time to build habits of self-denial and self-sacrifice that we maintain for the remainder of our lives; a time where we can restore a small selfish area of our hearts into an area of self-giving and love to our spouses and to God. Have you considered using this powerful season to pursue the habit of praying together with your spouse?
Before we venture deeper into that delicate territory, I have an admission to make; I (Dan) really like to pray alone. Several of you have indicated the same preference. Because of this and other human factors, a few have also decided that this will always be the case in your marriage. However, if you have followed this series, you know that, in and through our call to be married, we are also responsible for, and should be compelled to, help our spouses to heaven. Of course, there are many ways to do this; we contend that one of the best and most rewarding ways is to build a habit of prayer together.
As couples lift their voices to heaven as one, they are growing in holiness and their willingness to bear one another’s burdens. As their intimacy grows, so does their ability to forgive each other’s faults, all the while supporting each other every step of the way. Sometimes one will fall back, but the other is there to encourage, forgive, pray, guide, drawing them back to their side along the straight and narrow path. It is often through the beautiful instrument of our spouse that God gives us the healing, support, and strength we need the most. And through it all, love deepens and grows from the original singular love of eros towards a more complete love…a love that increasingly becomes more Christ-like in depth, intensity, and commitment.
Fear: Regardless of the reason (pride, insecurity, past hurts, etc.), fear is usually the main barrier to spiritual intimacy. To mitigate this, your prayer time together must remain 100% safe 100% of the time. You would never argue or criticize your spouse in adoration; don't do it during your prayer time together. In the same vain, this is not a time of preaching, teaching, or correcting (i.e. “Dear Lord, please help my husband see how selfish he is…”). This is a time to share hopes, desires, struggles, joys, failings, and forgiveness with God. Be very careful to protect each other in this sacred space – especially when you are tired and struggling with life or each other. If you struggle too frequently and find the forgiveness topic too difficult to deal with, use a different venue (outside of prayer time) for these discussions. Assuming that the brave among you are still reading this, we understand that most couples, don't know how or where to begin this great adventure. As well, there are a few pitfalls that are easily avoided as you enter this realm of vulnerability. Human nature and spiritual forces will conspire against your noble commitment to serve your spouse in this way, but thankfully, there are simple ways you can overcome these challenges.
Assuming that the brave among you are still reading this, we understand that most couples, don't know how or where to begin this great adventure. As well, there are a few pitfalls that are easily avoided as you enter this realm of vulnerability. Human nature and spiritual forces will conspire against your noble commitment to serve your spouse in this way, but thankfully, there are simple ways you can overcome these challenges.
- Decide who is going to lead. Community prayer, whether with two or fifty, always requires one person to lead and others to follow. Without this designation, you will find small matters of timing and synchronization to be odd and distracting. From here it is simple, if you are the leader, you always start and your spouse follows at the pace you set (don't ever rush each another or run ahead because of time - this is also an area that can cause frustration and unnecessary distractions).
- Use a simple approach. We have included a simple prayer guide below that you can work your way into. Just start with either morning or evening prayer, and take it from there. If you don't like the wording, or if another sequence works better for you, change it, make it yours. Even better, decide together which prayers work for you and design your own guide. If you read through the prayers here, you will find that they take less than five minutes to say together. If you double that time to add the few minutes it takes to get together and quiet down, you are looking at ten minutes at the most. This should be a very easy start given a reset of the alarm clock and a tiny bit of self-discipline.
Merciful Father, out of love and commitment to you and each other, we desire to pray together and to help each other to you. Please fill us with your Holy Spirit, and help us to pray, love, serve, and live as you desire. Help us to learn to pray and submit ourselves to you and to never waiver in our commitment to help each another to heaven. When we fall, please remind us to return back to you and to remember that you will, as you did the prodigal son, always receive us back with joy.
Spouses' Morning Prayer
Spouses' Morning Prayer
Father all-powerful and ever-living God, we thank you and bless your holy Name, for you created man and woman to be a help and support for each other. Remember us today. Protect us, and enable our love to be the mutual gift of self in the image of Christ and the Church. Enable us to grow old together in joy and peace so we can always praise and thank you in our hearts through your Son, in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Father - Hail Mary - Glory Be
Spouses’ Evening Prayer
Prepare for a moment by thinking back on your day (examination of conscience). What were the best moments? What were the worst moments?
In simple conversational prayer, talk with God as you would a good and holy father. With your spouse and God, thank Him for the highlights of your day and ask forgiveness for areas where you have fallen short of God’s best for you.
Our Father - Hail Mary - Glory Be
Visit this house, we beg you Lord, and banish from it the deadly power of the evil one. May your holy angels dwell here to keep us in peace, and may your blessing be always upon us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
As you make this level of commitment, you will deepen your relationship with each other and with God fulfilling the ultimate purpose of your calling to marriage, to become ONE in Christ. May your journey be one of many returns to God, many discoveries of His grace, and a deeper relationship with your spouse than you could ever have imagined.
In Christ, Dan and Stephanie