Two Hearts, One Voice
Do you have any tips for couples trying to start a prayer life together? My husband and I strive to be good Catholics, but we aren't connecting on a spiritual level.
You aren't alone. Oddly enough, a part of the problem can be embarrassment. As strange as it may seem, a couple that shares a bed and is intimately acquainted with each other's personal hygiene habits (both the good and the bad ones), may have trouble expressing their deepest concerns to each other in a spiritual setting. They may even be quite skillful at communicating, yet prayer is a stumbling block.
Since prayer so often involves pleas to God for an increase in our virtue, it may be that couples view prayer together as an exposure of their weaker areas. Especially for men, prayers of petition (and even thanksgiving) can be ego-bruising; after all, it involves an admission that circumstances are beyond our control. Then, when things go well, we must give the credit to God.
To vocalize this in front of one's wife requires a great degree of humility on the part of a husband. This explains why it is often husbands who are guilty of foot-dragging when it comes to prayer. But men, we must do it for the good of our family.
Don't expect to achieve spiritual unity in one fell swoop. Like any worthwhile part of your relationship, this one must be cultivated over time. Forms of vocal prayer are a good place to begin. The rosary and the Divine Office are easy, non-threatening ways to get used to praying together. Tom and I especially like using Magnificat, the monthly prayer journal. For Lent we've been meeting for weekday noon Mass, which is deeply unifying.
Next, try to combine your daily “wind-down” conversation with prayer. You know, that time in the evening after the kids go to bed when just the two of you share your thoughts and concerns of the day. (Warning: if this concept is a new one, start here!)
After expressing what's on your mind to each other, spend a few minutes dedicating these concerns to the Lord. This can be done as simple spontaneous prayer (“Lord, please help us do your will as we decide where to send Christopher to school”) or in the form of intentions before the rosary.
Finally, deepen your faith life by choosing some kind of spiritual reading to do together. We've recently completed the excellent book Life-Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn. Then make reflections on what you've read a part of your conversation — talk about how you can apply it in your home, for instance, and pray for the grace to do so.
To help you begin or to help you delve deeper, look for an opportunity to go on a retreat for married couples in your area.
Persevere in your efforts. The Lord will surely bless you for it, and your whole family will grow in holiness.
Tom and Caroline McDonald are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.