You never know when a tentative new habit of couple prayer will turn out to be a lifeline. A reader recently sent me the following:
“About a year ago, shortly after our 49th wedding anniversary, my husband and I began somewhat hesitantly to pray a kind of evening prayer together right after dinner, right at the dinner table and before cleaning up the kitchen. It proceeded in fits and starts until we found a way of making it feel right for us.
“In our case, that meant he would bring out his Bible and devotional book, an ecumenical one particularly good for a ‘mixed’ couple (he is Lutheran and I am Catholic). He would lead us in two or three brief readings of Scripture and meditations, which had impressed him in his own morning devotional time.
“We now make a few comments concerning how these readings speak to us or to our loved ones’ lives. And then, after the Our Father, prayed aloud together while he holds my hand, we pray spontaneously about what is most on our hearts. We end with the prayer, ‘… for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.’
“About nine months after beginning this evening prayer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One day as we were beginning to cope with this storm, my husband turned to me and said, ‘How could we have gotten through this without our evening prayers, preparing us?’
“It is not too late, ever, for any couple to begin praying together, whether for the first time, or after many years of letting such a practice fall by the wayside. As an old saying goes, ‘Blessings abound’ when we take the time and make the effort.”
I am grateful to Joyce Crain for sharing her story. Joyce attends St. Francis Parish in Friday Harbor, and was featured in the very first issue of Northwest Catholic (“Faith on the Ferry,” September 2013). Joyce, our prayers are with you as you journey through chemo! How wonderful that this journey is now accompanied and supported through the daily practice of prayer with your husband.
Another couple from differing faith backgrounds also recently shared their story of Scripture-based couple prayer with me. Ray and Jackie Marsh have been married 33 years. Ray is Catholic and attends St. Monica Parish on Mercer Island. “Somewhere along the way,” he wrote, he and Jackie, who is Mormon, began reading Scripture every night and praying together after reading. “I believe that God has blessed our marriage because of our love for him and his holy word,” he affirmed. “We just needed to come together, pray and understand what God wants for our life.”
This prayer together has actually helped them find a place of unity in their spiritual life. Ray reflected, “We understand that our beliefs are different so we pray and read the Scriptures so we can at least be together in this.” Research seems to validate his experience; sociologists find that couples who pray or share devotions together experience greater happiness and satisfaction in their marriage, and this is especially a benefit when differences in faith could cause tension.
Praying with Scripture is a powerful way that married couples can pray together. A devotional aid can help, something like the Magnificat magazine or Together in Christ, which contains the daily readings from Mass. The beautiful lectio divinamethod can be adapted for couples (see “Lectio for Lovers” by Shawn Rain Chapman at atxcatholic.com), or you and your beloved can simply read a passage and share impromptu reflections and prayers from the heart, like Joyce and Brian or Jackie and Ray. Whichever way you do it, praying with the word of God will bring light to your mind, grace to your soul and strength to your marriage.