In Which We Need Your Help, Because Prayer In Marriage is HARD.

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The hardest thing about marriage, as far as I’m concerned, is praying together. My husband is deeply uncomfortable with extemporaneous vocal prayer, and over time I’ve come, not only to understand, but to agree. Praying aloud, I almost always become too self-aware, drift too close to showing off, as long as there is another person around to hear me. I remember a friend talking about “bouncing prayers off Heaven”–Lord, please help so-and-so do such-and-such, because I know s/he is capable of fill-in-the-blank.

So we’ve really struggled. Formula prayers, for us, run toward distraction, and rattling them off actually accomplishes very little prayer at all. Scripture reading leaves us frustrated because we want to be able to pull apart what it means and we are deeply unsatisfied with every resource we’ve tried so far.

More recently, we’ve read books. And God Said What? was a rare bright spot in our shared spiritual life, but although we understood the Scripture examples she laid out in the book, we don’t know how to go about systematically applying the lessons to other passages. The last couple of weeks we started watching a video series called Symbolon which our parish made available, but as much as I want to like it, mostly our mutual reaction has been to feel underwhelmed.

We are pretty well educated in our faith. But we want to go deeper. We want to know why: the historical context, the reasons behind the traditions and teachings–the rational basis, not the because-I-said-so. But it seems that everything we find is either dry and academic*, devoid of a real-life faith connection, or it’s aimed at people whose faith formation was cut off at the level of multiple choice tests. In other words, it’s basic stuff we already know and/or touchy-feely me-n-Jesus. Both of those are great and necessary things in the world, but it’s not what we need.

This is where you come in, my lovely readers.

Surely, among all my Catholic friends, someone has encountered the very thing we need. How do you pray in your marriages? What books or resources–daily reflections, online resources, Scripture commentaries–actually draw the connection between the historical context, the tradition, and real life? Writings of the saints that you’ve found worthwhile reading?

Please share!

*Dry and academic will work for me, personally, because I’m kind of geeky that way, but not for us communally.

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14 thoughts on “In Which We Need Your Help, Because Prayer In Marriage is HARD.

  1. As for praying together, I agree. I think the best thing I’ve tried is to ask the other “how can I pray for you today/this week.” So sharing that and then knowing the other is praying for you about it I feel is pretty helpful. And it feels spiritually intimate without being overwhelming.

    Books…idk. Scott Hahn is good, but you know that I’m sure.

    We should find a resource and do a couples study together! For serious.

  2. deannagb19

    First, you are not alone. My husband is in formation to become a deacon, it is frequently suggested that we pray together. But no tips or books or anything are given. As far as Symbolon, it is geared more for RCIA and seekers than those who know the faith. There is a marriage retreat now at https://www.facebook.com/foryourmarriage , maybe that might be good. I’ve only looked at it briefly. This may need to be a post instead of a comment… I know some couples pray the Liturgy of the Hours together or a specific novena.

  3. Have you tried taking a holy hour of adoration together? Perhaps you have reached saturation with academic, intellectual formation, and I would dare say that you probably understand better than most the emotional formation. There is something beyond both intellect and emotions, and that is just “The Cloud of Unknowing” (which is a great book by the way). Maybe instead of trying to find the right words or the right feelings, you should just join together in the presence of God. Just be together with God in the blessed sacrament for a while. Don’t say anything to each other. Don’t look for any feeling or uplifting, inspiration moment. Just be with God together.

  4. Praying is a conversation with God, so when you pray with someone, perhaps you could try to think of it as though you are having a three-way chat. It doesn’t have to be formal. Sometimes it will be quiet. Try to think of it as telling the Other about your day. A couple of books that I have found helpful are “Opening to God: A Guide to Prayer” and “Experiencing God: The Three Stages of Prayer” both by Thomas H. Green, S.J.

  5. Hubby is a deacon and I am a Benedictine oblate so we are both supposed to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. We usually do that at different times in the day but we sometimes pray the evening prayer together. We sometimes go to adoration together.
    We pray differently – we are drawn to different ways of praying – so we have not found another way to pray together that we both like. We do go on retreat together once a year – about 4 days. That is an awesome thing and I highly recommend that. Of course, we don’t have children at home. However, even a one day retreat would be nice.

  6. Carrie E.

    We have Diaconate formation tomorrow and I will ask as some of the other couples are good at that. We’re still struggling that way and share that Chris would be thrilled with the dry and academic, but me not so much. I do like the Scott Hahn book Lamb of God, especially at this time of year.

      • Carrie E

        Chris’s suggestion was lectio divina. Charlotte’s were “40 Days” by Greg and Julie Alexander, and “Couples Prayer” or “The Power of a Praying Wife/Husband” by Stormie Omartian. The Power books have a husband’s prayer book and also a wife’s book that has additional readings.

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