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Catholic Prayer for Marriage: Couples That Pray Together Stay Together

Oct 24, 2019, 8:13:59 AM / by Fr. Michael Denk

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Introduction

Consider reading this article together with your partner.  It may become one of the best things that you ever do with each other. 

My spiritual director in the seminary, Fr. John Loya used to say that prayer is the most intimate encounter we can have.  He would sound out “Intimacy” (In-to-me-see). When we pray we are sharing the deepest part of ourselves with God.  When a couple prays together they share the deepest part of themselves with each other and God. 

As couples get to know each other, they start off by sharing surface things about themselves.  Where they live, what they do for work, what school went to, what their favorite food is, what their favorite hobbies and activities are. 

They may start doing things together like bike-riding, or dinner and a movie.  Then there is the stage of “meet the parents” where they get to know where they come from and the families of their partner.

As couples grow closer together, they begin to share more intimate details what their relationship like their family is like, who their other friends are, events from the past, struggles they have endured.

Soon they begin to share their hearts.  What they love about the other person and what makes them vulnerable.  “What breaks their heart and what amazes them with joy and gratitude.”  

A couple will learn to grow together physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

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Well, wait a minute, spiritually.  Isn’t that just a ‘me and God’ thing? 

In some ways, yes, spirituality and prayer are very much an individual and personal, but if a couple can learn to share even this, they will experience intimacy like nothing else can provide.  

We all know that emotional intimacy is just as important as physical.  The same is true for spiritual intimacy. 

However, many couples never get to this level, either because they themselves haven’t learned how to pray or because they are afraid their partner may not understand or feel awkward themselves. 

While it may be awkward in the beginning, everything else is awkward in the beginning too.  It’s all about taking a risk to be vulnerable and then discover love and acceptance by your partner.  If you can do this emotionally, and physically, imagine the intimacy and love that you can experience when you share the experience of God, who is LOVE! 

Three to Get Married is a wonderful book by the Venerable Fulton Sheen.  It was one of his famous quotes illustrating the Sacrament of Marriage between a couple and God. 

 

How does a couple learn to pray together? 

Like anything else, it’s a little bit of trial and error.  Just like trying hobbies together, take running, for example.  You may try to go for a jog together and realize that one of you loses your breath easier, one may have all of the running gear, and the other may have an old pair of tennis shoes.  You discover after a while that running may be something you love doing together, or you may discover that it is a type of exercise you like doing better on your own.  There are thousands of different ways you can exercise together if that doesn’t seem to work. 

The same is true with prayer.  The catechism says: “There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters.” (CCC 2707)

In this blog post, we will introduce you to several different ways and encourage you to develop ways of your own.  You can become a spiritual master that will inspire other couples to pray together. 

Why couples should pray together? 

The catechism goes on to say that Christians owe it to themselves to pray regularly, and I would say that a couple owes it to each other to pray together. 

Chances are, just like any other activity, one of you may have a more “advanced” prayer life.  But it is also important that a couple grows TOGETHER in prayer.  Because prayer is such a deep and intimate experience it is also a potentially painful experience for one of the couple if the other is not willing to enter into it or grow deeper.  One of the most painful experiences is to have a deep spiritual life and not be able to share it with your partner. 

Be patient and gentle with each other.  Don’t judge the other person's prayer or make fun of it.  Don’t act like you know it all.  We are all beginners in prayer.  Reverence each other.  Affirm each other.  Accept each other.  Learn from each other. 

Talk to your partner share stories from your memory on how you learned to pray.  Maybe it was a teacher at school or your mom or dad praying with you before you went to sleep.  It could be a devotional like the rosary or devotion that you have to a saint.  

In the Christian tradition, there are three levels of prayer: vocal prayer, meditative prayer, and contemplative prayer. 

It is good for a couple to experience each of these prayers together. 

Vocal prayer is prayers said with our voices.  These prayers could be spontaneous prayer.  Again, this if very often delicate and awkward at first because you are taking a big risk.  You are doing with another person what you have probably only done with yourself and God until this point in your life.  But give it a try. 

Remember that prayer is all about a personal relationship with God.  God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  So try talking to your Father and maybe just begin by thanking God for bringing this person into your life.  Ask Jesus to be with you and to walk with you as the Good Shepherd.  Invite the Holy Spirit to come upon you and help you to love each other as God intends. 

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You may also want to pray for each other.  Maybe one is struggling with a worry or fear about something like a new job or taking a promotion.  There may be some struggle that one of you is going through like a physical, emotional, or spiritual illness.  You may say something like “Father please be with (Say their Name) and give him strength.” 

Here are some more vocal prayers for you to try.  Together, read through the following list of prayers.  Or try a different one each day.  You’ll discover a rhythm of prayer that you will love sharing with each other.   

If you don’t have a crucifix in your bedroom, get one!  

Your marriage is a sacrament of Jesus’ love.  He shows the greatest love by giving his life on the cross. 

...here are some vocal prayers you can try! 

Vocal Prayer tips you can try as a couple

1. Try starting your day with a Morning offering

Kneel next to your bed or prostrate before the crucifix in your bedroom and try this prayer:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
Amen.

(Written in 1844 by Fr. François-Xavier Gautrelet; found in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, pg. 48)

You may also want to use your own words and say something simple like:

“Jesus we kneel/lay down before you and offer our lives to you both individually and as a couple.  Help us to be a visible sacrament of marriage so that through us, others may see that you love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, all the days of your life, your love will never fail.”

2. Think about blessing each other

You can do this by making the sign of the cross with your thumb on your spouse's forehead and then sign yourself with the sign of the cross saying out loud “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

3. Consider going to Sunday or daily mass together (daily if possible) or on special occasions or Pray with the Daily Scripture Readings

If you’d like to learn how to get more out of the mass and help it be a more prayerful and meaningful experience for you, check out my free video series PrayingWithMass.

Read the readings to each other and talk about a word or phrase that speaks to you.  Using the daily readings would be great for Lectio Divina as well. 

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4. Pick a novena to pray together

“A Novena is an ancient devotion that consists of 9 days of prayer. Novenas are often prayed in preparation for a feast day or for a specific intention.”


5. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together

When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, He promised her that he would grant everything souls ask of him by saying the chaplet.  (Diary, 1541) Read the rest of the promises here!  

 

6. Pray the Examen Prayer!

St. Ignatius said that the most important prayer that we could say every day is the Examen Prayer.  He said this because it helps us connect with God.  Once we are connected with God it will help us experience Him even more in work or in prayer. 

The Examen Prayer can be a great thing to do with couples because it will help you share some of the greatest blessings and challenges of your day.  

It is a simple five-step prayer: Gratitude, Petition, Discern, Forgiveness, and Resolution. 

  1. If you pray it together as a couple you will get to share the moments you are grateful together. 

  2. Jesus promised that he is present when two or more are gathered together in His name.  As you make your petition together Jesus is with you. 

  3. When you discern you review your day and notice times where you felt close to God or distant from God and how this impacted the two of you as well. 

  4. Forgiveness: we read in scripture “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” (James 5:16).

  5. And finally, when you make a resolution and share it with another person you are much more likely to keep it.

I created the Examen Prayer program to help people learn how to pray it.  Check it out here!


7. Create a Prayer board

You can add to it with your own personal intentions and it can serve as a great reminder in a special place within your home.

 

8. Pray before and after meals together

Before:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

After:

We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all thy benefits,
Who livest and reignest, world without end.
Amen.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, to reward with eternal life,
all those who do us good for Thy name's sake.
Amen.

V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

9. Pray before you go to bed

Consider kneeling down together next to your bed. You can even try praying the Examen Prayer together.

10. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours together as a couple

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or Breviary, is the universal prayer of the Church said throughout the day around the world! 

"The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour (with the subsequent responses or troparia) and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the psalms, and prepare for silent prayer." (CCC 1177)

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This one is more challenging if you use the books.  There is a lot of ribbon flipping, and you have to know what you are doing.  There are a few online resources that put it all together for you and make it much easier, to begin with, and follow. 

11. For vocal prayer, the Laudate app has a ton of different prayers for you to choose from the app

Any of them can be prayed together as a couple.  Try picking one each of your favorite. 

Vocal Prayer is a great way to start, but it is just the beginning. You can grow in even greater intimacy as a couple if you try meditative and contemplative prayer together. 

Meditative and Contemplative Prayer tips for couples 

1. Make a Holy Hour together each week.

“We should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives.”- St. John Vianney

“As a groom staring at his bride walking up the aisle, as a mother gazing at her newborn, as a son or daughter returning home after a long journey, these are the ways we should approach our Lord. Anyone who ever fell in love knows the feeling of staring into the eyes of the other, and wanting to just drink them up. So also, we should seek that level of intimacy, silence of the self, and joy when we come to adoration. If we don’t feel it, know that the Lord does. He is far more delighted to be in our presence than we could ever be at being in His.”

To find perpetual adoration near you, check out this awesome resource for mass times and click on “Adoration.”

You can also call your local parish, and they should be able to tell you who has adoration, how to access it and how to sign up for it. 

2. Try Spiritual Reading together

Read a few pages each day to each other and then spend time reflecting on it.  I wrote a wonderful blog post with some of my favorite books here!

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3. Pray the Rosary together

You can do this over the phone, Skype, sitting together, walking, or even in bed before you go to sleep. Meditate on the mysteries of the rosary: Glorias, Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful.  Learn more here.    

4. Pray Lectio Divina as a couple

If you haven't seen my blog post on Lectio Divina, it is one of the earliest forms of prayer.  It was practiced by the monks as they prepared for Liturgy and as an extension of the Eucharist in The Liturgy of the Hours.

It gives you a good experience of all three levels of prayer: Vocal, Meditative, and Contemplative. 

It is also encouraged by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a way to meditate!  (CCC 2708). Lectio Divina is also a wonderful type of prayer for laypeople to experience. 

It consists of four steps: Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditating), Oratio (Praying), and Contemplatio (Contemplation).

The great thing about Lectio Divina is that can do it with any scripture verses. Pick your favorite passage, use the daily readings, or the upcoming Sunday readings. 

Other things to consider...

Our Pray40Days Program

It's a program that I created for people to experience Meditative and Contemplative Prayer. If you are up for a challenge, you will love experiencing this together as a couple, and you will learn how to meditate and contemplate together!   

Also, a review of the 5 P’s of Prayer may be helpful... you can read my blog post in its entirety here!

The 5 P’s of Prayer for a couple 

  • Prepare: Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on the best way to enter prayer together. It may help to talk it over beforehand or it might be something spontaneous.  Consider how you will pray and ask for guidance on leading your partner into prayer.
  • Place: Trysting Place. I’ve been introduced to a new word: Trysting: An agreement as between lovers, to meet at a certain time and a certain place.

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Remember the movie, Forrest Gump. There is this tree that Jenny and Forrest get together at the end of every summer year after year from the time that they were children. At the end of the movie, when Jenny dies that is where he buries her body. The beautiful tree by the water has been their trysting place. It was often unspoken, but they knew if they ever wanted to find each other, that is where they would.

The word trysting can also describe reunions or get-togethers between people that want to keep a bond.  Find or create a place where you can come together as a couple to pray to God. 

Posture: We pray with our bodies, and what we do with our bodies helps us enter into prayer. The four traditional postures are standing, sitting, kneeling, and prostrating (laying our bodies face down on the ground). Try all four of these postures at different times and see which most helps you to pray together as a couple.  You may want to try sitting or kneeling together and holding hands. 

Passage: Focus on God by using Word, Icon, or nature. Pick a passage from the bible or your favorite scripture verse, gaze upon an icon, or look out at the beauty of nature together.  Or if you are comfortable, gaze into each other’s eyes. 

Presence: Take a moment to realize that you are in the presence of God. Make the sign of the cross.  Jesus promised: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

...now enter into prayer together!

Try praying together, contemplatively with nature!

 

Praying Contemplative Prayer together

Preparation

  1. Think of your favorite place to go in nature where you feel God's presence.
  2. Go there! On the way there, determine how long you feel called to pray (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour is suggested).
  3. Put your phone on Silence, Airplane Mode, or Do Not Disturb.
  4. Set your timer and ENJOY your time with God in nature.

Pray Now

For this prayer experience, we are going to use contemplative prayer with nature. As with contemplating the Word or icons, nature will be the focal point. God has created the wonder of nature, which is like an icon itself.

It is not God, but it certainly is a window into the Creator. He has left His thumbprint all over the world. In contemplating nature, I recommend that you focus on something alive. If you are in your house, you can look out the window.

Maybe you have a bird feeder and can watch the birds. Also, if you are inside, you may have a plant, or fish, or a pet (though sometimes they can be a bit feisty) that you can hold or gaze upon and rest. If you want to go outside, that is wonderful too. Go out and explore nature. Make a pilgrimage of it. Once you have found your place, make sure that you can be comfortable in one of the prayer postures (sitting, standing, kneeling or prostrating) where you won't have to move.

Take some time to do this so that you can be sure that you are comfortable and can remain that way for the entire period of time. So if it is cold or if it is hot, you want to make sure that you dress appropriately. You can even stay in your car. The idea is not to be walking around.

Although a good walk through an area can be a very good way to prepare and a good walk afterward can be a wonderful way to reflect and meditate, I would suggest that during the time of contemplation (as with the other times), you try to pick one of the four postures and allow your body to be totally still. With contemplative prayer, we remain still with our bodies.

Then, our mind begins to become still and, then, our soul begins to become still. So it helps to stay still physically. During the time of prayer, try not to move a muscle. You are just taking in the experience. As you enter into just pay attention to what you sense: See, hear, taste, touch, and feel.

After a few moments, hopefully, you can just enjoy the experience of being with God in Nature and contemplative prayer.

Here are some ideas for outside. You could watch the sunrise or set. Go near a body of water like a lake, river, pond, or a waterfall. You could take a drive or even a day trip to a place where you can be still. Go out and find an open field, farm, forest, beach, desert, top of a mountain or a hill. Go to a place where you have a sense of wonder and awe.

If you can't get outdoors, look out your back window. If you have a view of nature from your window, gaze at the beauty of God's creation right in your own backyard. Enjoy your time now, resting with God, while contemplating nature. When He created it, He found it good.

When He created us, He found us very good. Remain in complete silence and stillness. Take in nature with all your senses as you gaze, dwell, and delight in God's created beauty.

Spend your time in silent wonder and awe, and when you are finished journal your experience.

Let us know where you went to pray and what it was like!

Need more ideas? Listen to these priests' advice on how to pray

Topics: Prayer Life, Marriage

Fr. Michael Denk

Written by Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael Denk is the Founder of The Prodigal Father. He is the author of “Pray40Days: The Personal Relationship With God You Have Always Wanted”, and the creator of the “Examen Prayer App.” Fr. Michael is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland and an Aspirant of the Institute of Voluntas Dei.