This is a reminder – you and your spouse are supposed to pray together. Why is it a reminder, instead of news? Because you already know it. Let’s spend a few moments thinking about the difference between praying together as a married couple and praying individually.
Praying alone: You offer your own desires, gratitude, needs, and praise to God.
Praying with your spouse: You unite your own desires, gratitude, needs, and praise with that of your spouse. The two of you in “one flesh” (Matt. 19:4-6) offer your prayers as a sacramental couple.
This united couple-prayer is more effective in Heaven than if both marriage partners offered their prayers separately. Why? For one thing, because the couple must unite their wills when they pray together. They show God by their couple prayer that they are living His words in the Gospel of Matthew about “cleaving” to the wife and being “one flesh.” God wants the hearts of both you and your spouse. You think differently; you are both motivated differently. God wants both pieces of that puzzle. When you pray together, you fulfill the original plan of our Creator God in the first chapter of Genesis (verse 27) by reflecting the image of God.
And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)
If you are not used to praying together, it will be awkward at first. But only at first. You’ll get used to it. Also remember this couple prayer is in addition to your individual prayers, not a replacement for them. Here are some tips to get started:
Keep it short, especially at first. Your spouse may not have the endurance or the temperament to stay in prayer as long as you. Gradually add more formal prayers as the weeks go by.
Pray alone with your spouse. This couple prayer time is in addition to family prayers, such as the rosary. A good time to pray together is at night, after the kids have gone to bed. Close your bedroom door so the kids don’t hear your petitions. Spend a few minutes in prayer together before you go to bed or do any other last-minute activities.
Pray on your knees. Don’t pray sitting down or lying in bed. For one thing, you might fall asleep. Besides, posture really does matter. It shows God you are really serious about humbling yourselves before Him and asking His help for your marriage and family life.
The husband should always lead the prayers. The man should begin the prayers with the Sign of the Cross and should say the first parts of whatever formal prayers you choose, such as the Our Father and Hail Mary. The couple together then says the rest of the prayer.
Pray both formal and informal prayers. Formal prayers are written down and memorized, such as the Our Father, the Hail Holy Queen, the Glory Be, etc. Informal prayers should come after the formal prayers, and consist of talking with God, Blessed Mother Mary, and the other saints and angels in your own words. Ask them for what you need and be sure to thank them for blessings and graces you’ve already received throughout your marriage.
Strive for the same time and place. Be consistent and actually set aside a time and place every day for your couple prayers. This doesn’t mean you can’t pray together at other times of the day; it is rather a method for developing a habit. Consistent behavior performed for several days in a row will begin to form new habits.
This summer marks the 100-year anniversary of the civilian casualties in “Greater Syria,” which included my Maronite Catholic great-grandmother, Mariam Rayes, and my great-uncle Jacob Rayes. They were killed during a revolt against the Ottoman Empire in May and June 1916. I do not have an exact date, but British forces worked their way north from Egypt, through Mount Lebanon (which includes my family’s home village a few miles northeast of Beirut), and into Turkey. Simultaneously there was an “Arab Revolt” which worked its way from what was then Arabia, into Syria, and finally into Turkey.
Sometime in the summer of 1916, imperial forces from Turkey fought either the British or the Arab rebels In the Mount Lebanon region and my family was killed. I don’t know how they died but World War I was the first modern war, with long-range shells, air combat, and full automatic rifles.
The Lebanese people and my family suffered greatly. There was widespread famine and of course, civilian casualties as European and Middle Eastern politics pushed various factions against each other.
I cannot paint this as a fight of Muslims against Christians. My great-grandmother’s death was senseless and a simple matter of being caught in a war. But the politics behind it were complex; we learn from Our Lady of Fatima that World War I itself was a chastisement which was allowed by God to shock the world back to its senses. It didn’t work: shocked, yes; sensible, never. At the time they naively called it “the War to end all wars.”
There were Christians and Muslims on both sides during various facets of the war, which as far as my family was concerned, was a desperate grasp of power between British and French on one side, Germany and what is now Turkey on the other side, and the Rayes family in the middle. The war was launched by devout Catholics in Austria and escalated by “freedom fighters” in my family’s ancestral home, who were given conflicting promises by the British and French, and eventually led by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). But all this passion and patriotism cost my great-grandmother and my great-uncle their lives in their own village. My grandfather was 26 years old in America when he received the telegram of their deaths.
I will pull two lessons from this. One, ideas have consequences. I am a traditional Catholic and I also have a romantic political tendency to root for the underdog; to advocate libertarian and subsidiary government. I dislike big government and I distrust all levels of government and all governing bodies. Yet, my great-grandmother was killed 100 years ago because of a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, in a war begun by conflict between Austrian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox. Politics played a far, far greater role than religion regarding the war, but the first lesson is that we must be prudent and prayerful when developing one’s own worldview. Rash, inflamed passion and misguided nationalism play exactly into the hands of rich, manipulative politicians. Innocent people thus die. (Catholic Austrians in full military dress came to the pope for his blessing when they were starting the war in 1914. He yelled from his balcony window, “we bless peace, not war!” and walked away, refusing to grant a papal blessing.)
The second lesson is that regardless of my own guarded and even hostile feelings about these United States of America, the nation’s Masonic origins, its vague pan-Theistic founding documents, and its unnecessary devolvement from a confederated republic into a military empire, I owe my very existence to it. If my grandfather had not emigrated to the United States a year before World War I broke out, he would have been killed alongside his brother and mother in his hometown in Lebanon. I thus would not exist.
Join me, as I reflect on my own fatherhood, in raising a generation of godly Catholic Americans who will benignly but assertively shape our country to be ruled by Christ the King, the Prince of Peace.
Here's some news you've all been waiting for: the sequel to Bank Robbery is finally published! Papal Bull Heist is the second volume in my Spencer Family Mystery series.
I want to thank everyone for your continued support. This is truly a family project, as my talented wife crafted the illustrations and my children read the manuscript and gave me suggestions.
To help Catholic families this Thanksgiving weekend, Rafka Press is offering free U.S. shipping and 20% off all orders. (Use coupon code BOOKS20 to receive the discount.)
Click on the book cover to shop online at Rafka Press, where you can buy the book.
I would like to show you something that is so quick it only takes 20 seconds. It is remarkably easy to do and completely free.
It won’t cost you one red cent.
And the best part: It will make God smile.
First, I have a question for you: Let’s say your sister comes to visit and she gives your children candy or a little toy. The child takes the gift from her aunt with a big, quiet smile on her face and turns to walk away. What do you do as a parent?
If you are like many parents, you look at your daughter and prompt her with "What do you say?" The child then remembers to thank her aunt.
Let’s get back to the quick, easy, and free thing you can do that will both please God and draw your family closer together at the same time. You probably already pray the "Grace Before Meals" prayer. It goes like this: Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Do you have trouble keeping the family together at meal time? Do the kids leave when they are finished eating, without asking if they can be excused from the table?
Pray "Grace After Meals" and your kids will stick around. They don’t have a choice. They have to wait at the table until pretty much everyone is done eating (you can start the prayer when the last person is still eating, so everyone isn’t stuck waiting for the straggler).
Grace After Meals is quick. It only takes 20 seconds. It’s a very easy prayer. And it’s free. The best thing: You and your entire family will now show gratitude to God! Your loving Savior in Heaven just has to smile when His children on earth remember to say "thank you" after they enjoy a meal from His bounty. Like your daughter who says "thank you" to her aunt in above example, your family can also learn a habit of gratitude.
The prayer goes like this: We give Thee thanks O Almighty God for all Thy benefits, who livest and reignest world without end. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Starting today, you can keep your family together at the table, teach them by your daily practice that they should be grateful people, pray for the poor souls in Purgatory, and show your own gratitude toward God for His blessings.
All in 20 seconds.
Originally published in The Remnant, October 15, 2007.
You pretend not to notice, but you see them.
All those families. Some with well-behaved children, some with, shall we say, issues.
You try to focus on Sunday morning Mass, but your own kids are distracting and perhaps you are aware of families in the pews around you with similar travails. Every family has children who misbehave at some point or another, but some parents seem to struggle every week. Are there simple changes parents can make that will immediately improve their children's behavior?
Parents with misbehaved children never position them correctly in the pew. On the other hand, parents with well-behaved children almost always position them well. Here are two examples:
The previous article discussed ways to spice up your Catholic marriage. Part II features even more ways to add zest to your marriage, keep it Catholic, and reawaken the love you and your spouse have for each other.
Like the love notes, this is more important for a couple who danced together in the past, but fell out of the habit. If you think your spouse won’t like dancing, try it anyway and see if your assumption is true. If neither of you enjoy dancing, stop and do something else. On the other hand, you may have both found a new activity together.
Music is very powerful. A relatively new field of study called "Music Cognition" shows that music affects the brain and can strongly affect memory. The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, held a symposium in 2006 on music’s ability to affect memory. Topics included musical therapy and psychology. [^1]
In the early 1980s, Dr. Howard Gardner developed a theory of "multiple intelligences." The idea is that children and adults learn best one certain way. Some learn through hearing, some are visual learners, some hands-on, and others are musical learners. Put words to a song, and the words will easily be memorized. [^2]
Whether you are newlyweds or celebrating your silver anniversary, you can try some new activities that will add zest to your marriage and help you both communicate!
This is a two-part article. Part I discusses ways to add spark to your marriage and encourages couples to express love in ways the other will readily understand.
Playing a game together (just the two of you) provides a non-stressful activity you can both work on and enjoy. Many couples already work on the bills together. They talk about child care, education, work, and other stressful topics together. A board game is a great stress reliever that will pull you and your spouse together again.
Watch her nose crinkle when she laughs. Look at his eyes when he’s concentrating on the game. This is still the same person you committed to on your wedding day.