Your Family Matters: Pray together to stay together: Myth or Fact?

Strengthen your marriage and share in the sweetness of Christ’s love

By Sarah Bartel

I remember it felt a little awkward the first few times Nathan and I prayed at home as husband and wife when we were first married. It felt so intimate to speak our deepest prayers out loud. Just before falling asleep, we faced the ceiling together — toward heaven! — thanked God for our marriage, and prayed for our family, relatives, friends, the church and the world.

Thirteen years after our wedding, through many major life changes — including children (four), job changes (seven for him, four for me), school degrees (four in all) and household moves (also four) — our nighttime prayer routine has become a familiar habit that strengthens our marriage and draws us closer to each other and to God, the source of all love. Even if I’ve stayed up after Nathan falls asleep, I’ll still snuggle up and pray aloud next to him. I’m often surprised to hear him join in at the end with a groggy “amen.”

A greatly underutilized resource
Some couples, like Robin and David Betz, have a prayer routine that unites them throughout the day. Parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah, they developed a short prayer of their own. “We pray this, always, before separating for the day, before shutting our eyes, before driving, and often at the end of grace before eating,” Robin said, adding that they pray the same prayer for each other when they are apart.

Eric and Eileen Savoy of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett find strength praying together during those “occasional” hectic moments in family life. When their three young boys are on the maniacal side of hyper and the kitchen is in chaos, they will stop everything and pray a rosary. Afterwards, they calmly set about cleaning, reining in the rowdiness and restoring order together. (Full disclosure: Eileen is a good friend of mine. The normal levels of chaos in our respective households are fairly comparable, and she handles hers with a finesse I find inspirational.)

Eileen and Eric, Robin and David, and Nathan and I are among the 8-percent minority of Christian couples who pray together one-on-one. I see this kind of prayer as a greatly underutilized resource — especially for us Catholics. We believe that marriage between two baptized Christians is a sacrament. This means that the loving union of husband and wife serves as a visible image of the intimate, exclusive, permanent and life-giving nuptial covenant between Christ and his bride, the church. A husband and wife’s relationship also participates in that love. The sacrament is a means of grace for the spouses and their family.

Stir up your marriage
“By virtue of this sacrament,” the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes proclaims, spouses “are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope, and charity.” This grace is always present and available, but it often lies untapped — like the chocolate syrup sitting at the bottom of a glass of milk. Praying is like taking a spoon and stirring it
up, making your marriage … chocolaty — imbued with the sweetness of Christ’s own love.

Praying together strengthens marriages. One recent study found that, while couples who shared the same faith and regularly attended church together reported a higher level of marital satisfaction, the group that reported the highest levels of satisfaction were those couples who shared religious practices at home as well, such as reading the Bible and praying together.

Whether you choose to pray aloud together at the beginning or end of the day, or reflect on the daily Mass readings together, or join for a rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet, starting a habit of praying with your spouse is sure to bring abundant blessings to your marriage. You can even sneak in prayer time with a reluctant spouse by following the advice of blogger Simcha Fisher: “If your husband doesn’t want to pray, then snuggle up to him in bed and pray silently. The Holy Spirit sometimes appears unable to distinguish between two married people, and may react as if you’re praying together.” 

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

NORTHWEST CATHOLIC - April 2014

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

Website: www.drsarahbartel.com