Which of the following simple, free, daily activities will: 1) make God smile on you and send you powerful help, 2) connect you even more deeply and build spiritual intimacy with your spouse, and 3) dramatically reduce your odds of divorce?
A) Sit in the same room while you each interact with your respective smartphones.
B) Text each other sweet notes throughout the day.
C) Pick up the towels off the floor.
D) Pray together as a couple.
What did you pick? Let’s look at each possibility:
A) No. It can appear as if we are together while we “parallel play” on our devices in the same physical space, but this does not actually build intimacy. In fact, it’s a growing problem. See the March 23, 2013, New York Times article “Your Phone vs. Your Heart”or “How Cell Phones Can Hurt Your Relationship” on the U.S. bishops’ ForYourMarriage.org
website. Smartphones and mobile devices can be the “thief in the night” that breaks into the house of marriage and steals away precious treasures of time and connection.
B) No, but great idea! Here’s a good way to use those phones to stay connected with each other when you are physically apart.
C) No, shockingly. I’m all in favor of towels off the floor — and tidiness in general (which does not mean that I actually achieve tidiness on any given day!), but the correct answer is…
D) Couple prayer! The couple that prays together stays together. The couple that asks for God’s grace receives it abundantly, packed down and running over. Prayer is the ultimate instant messaging. And the couple that bares their souls to each other by sharing prayer can bond on a whole new level, uniting through an incredibly deep spiritual intimacy.
Couple prayer is different from grace before meals as a family, or even night prayers with the kids, wonderful and important as those are. I’m talking about just you two, sitting, standing, lying or kneeling near each other, either praying silently at the same time or speaking your prayer aloud, as I wrote in the September edition of Northwest Catholic.
Because prayer between husband and wife is such a powerful and underutilized tool in Christian marriage, I’ll be returning to this topic from time to time in the future in hopes of encouraging more couples to take up the practice.
There are many different methods of prayer that spouses can try together. Hopefully, learning about various styles of prayer and hearing the experiences of other real-life praying couples will spark ideas and inspiration. Even if you’ve already been comfortably praying together for a while, you may wish to try out a new method.
This month, I challenge couples to make daily prayers of thanksgiving part of their marriage. When you come together to pray, see if you can each name five things you are thankful for that day. You earn bonus points for offering thanks to God for your spouse’s good qualities or actions. You will find that the more you look for things to be thankful for, the more you will find.
This daily practice is excellent preparation for celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. You can carry these thanks in your heart with you to Mass each Sunday (Eucharist, after all, means thanksgiving in Greek). Jesus gathers up all the prayers and thanks we bring to the Mass and offers them up, along with his gift of himself, to the Father. The Mass, in turn, can empower us to have more thankful, eucharistic marriages.
Your better half won’t pray with you? No worries! You can still make a daily practice of thanking God for five things about him or her this month in your private prayer.
Hey, as far as November challenges go, this one’s pretty easy, right? It’s not like you’re being asked to grow a mustache or write a novel! Let me know how your daily gratitude prayers affect you after 30 days. Share your stories or send me your idea for a snappy name for this challenge at drsarahbartel.com.
Northwest Catholic – November 2016