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Praying With Your Spouse – A Brief Guide – Marriage Spirituality (4/4)

February 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Family Prayer, Marriage Spirituality, Prayer

I have an admission to make; I (Dan) really like to pray alone. Several of you have indicated the same preference. Because of this and other human factors, a few have also decided that this will always be the case in your marriage. However, if you have followed this series, you know that, in and through valentineour call to be married, we are also responsible to help our spouses to heaven. Of course, there are many ways to do this; we contend that one of the best and most rewarding ways is to build a habit of prayer together.

As couples lift their voices to heaven as one, they are growing in holiness and their commitment to bear one another’s burdens. As their intimacy grows, so does their ability to forgive each other’s faults, all the while supporting each other every step of the way. Sometimes one will fall back, but the other is there to encourage, forgive, pray, guide, drawing them back to their side along the straight and narrow path. Often, through the beautiful instrument of our spouse, God gives us the healing, support, and strength we need the most. And through it all, love deepens and grows from the original singular love of eros towards a more complete love… a love that increasingly becomes more Christ-like in depth, intensity, and commitment.

Assuming that the brave among you are still reading this, we understand that most couples, don't know how or where to begin this kind of adventure. As well, there are a few pitfalls that are easily avoided as you enter this realm of vulnerability. Human nature and spiritual forces will conspire against your noble commitment to serve your spouse in this way, but thankfully, there are simple ways you can overcome these challenges.

Fear: Regardless of the reason (pride, insecurity, past hurts, etc.), fear is a common barrier to spiritual intimacy. To mitigate this, your prayer time together must remain 100% safe 100% of the time. You would never argue or criticize your spouse in adoration or during the Eucharistic prayer at mass; don't do it during your prayer time together. In the same vein, the time you set aside for prayer is never the right time for preaching, teaching, or correcting (i.e. “Dear Lord, please help my husband see how selfish he is…”). This is a time to share hopes, desires, struggles, joys, failings, and forgiveness with God. Be very careful to protect each other in this sacred space – especially when you are tired and struggling with life or each other. If you struggle too frequently and find the forgiveness topic too difficult to deal with, use a different venue (outside of prayer time) for these discussions.

Time: This one is often at the top of the excuse list, but don't let it be yours – it is very easy to deal with (house full of kids or no). Prayer together only takes a matter of minutes. If you believe differently, set your sights a bit lower and get a little more practical. If you can get up a few minutes earlier or go to bed a few minutes later, you can pray with your spouse. The key here is to make a realistic commitment – once a week – once a day – whatever it is, make it together before God and then resolve to make it work no matter how long or how much effort it takes. Make this a life commitment. Even if you fall 100 times, he is always ready to receive you back again. Never give up on God and his ability to transform or mature your marriage spirituality – he has never, and will never give up on you, or your marriage.

Method: If this is new for both of you it is important to do two things:

Decide who is going to lead. Community prayer, whether with two or fifty, always requires one person to lead and others to follow. Without this designation, you will find small matters of timing and synchronization to be odd and distracting. From here it is simple, if you are the leader, you always start and your spouse follows at the pace you set (don't ever rush each another or run ahead because of time – this is also an area that can cause frustration and unnecessary distractions).

Use a simple approach. We have included a simple prayer guide below that you can work your way into. Just start with either morning or evening prayer, and take it from there. If you don't like the wording, or if another sequence works better for you, change it, make it yours. Even better, decide together which prayers work for you and design your own guide. If you read through the prayers here, you will find that they take less than five minutes to say together. If you double that time to add the few minutes it takes to get together and quiet down, you are looking at ten minutes at the most. This should be a very easy start given a reset of the alarm clock and a tiny bit of self-discipline.

Before you begin the journey, pray this prayer of commitment together.

Merciful Father, out of love and commitment to you and each other, we desire to pray together and to help each other to you. Please fill us with your Holy Spirit, and help us to pray, love, serve, and live as you desire. Help us to learn to pray and submit ourselves to you and to never waiver in our commitment to help each other to heaven. When we fall, please remind us to return back to you and to remember that you will, as you did the prodigal son, always receive us back with joy.

Spouses' Morning Prayer

Father all-powerful and ever-living God, we thank you and bless your holy Name, for you created man and woman to be a help and support for each other. Remember us today. Protect us, and enable our love to be the mutual gift of self in the image of Christ and the Church. Enable us to grow old together in joy and peace so we can always praise and thank you in our hearts through your Son, in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

– Our Father – Hail Mary – Glory Be –

Spouses’ Evening Prayer

Prepare for a moment by thinking back on your day (examination of conscience). What were the best moments? What were the worst moments?

In simple conversational prayer, talk with God as you would a good and holy father. With your spouse and God, thank Him for the highlights of your day and ask forgiveness for areas where you have fallen short of God’s best for you.

– Our Father – Hail Mary – Glory Be –

Visit this house, we beg you Lord, and banish from it the deadly power of the evil one. May your holy angels dwell here to keep us in peace, and may your blessing be always upon us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

It is just that simple!

As you make this level of commitment, you will deepen your relationship with each other and with God fulfilling the ultimate purpose of your calling to marriage, to become one in Christ. May your journey be one of many returns to God, many discoveries of His grace, and a deeper relationship with your spouse than you could ever have imagined.

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him – Together

Dan and Stephanie

Series Links


Art for this post on marriage spirituality: St Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla, Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte), 1500s, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Rachel Gehring

    Hi Dan,

    I like these but is there a prayer that encompasses more of the life and responsibilities spouses share together such as parenting, etc.


  • Dan Burke

    Dear Rachel – We will have a recommendation for you on the post next Tuesday!

  • Betsy

    Dan, thank you for placing the apostrophe in the correct place to make the plural “spouses” possessive. It’s so refreshing to see this!

    I don’t think I’ll be ready any time soon to pray with my husband, but it’s good to have a resource in case we should decide to do so.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  • Anna

    Beautiful! I am not married… I’m still just a student working on discerning how God is calling me to love him; but these posts on marriage have been absolutely beautiful! I hope one day, if God calls me to marriage, to live with my spouse in such a Christ-centered way! Thank you for sharing about the beauty of marriage.

  • Joan

    Dan and Stephanie,

    This is so very helpful! My husband and I have been praying together, on and off throughout our 25 year marriage, but have had difficulty in this area.

    I e-mailed this to my husband and he really likes it. So, we have begun to put your suggestions into practice.

    Your recommendations for morning and evening prayers are such a help! Thank you!

    • Dan Burke

      Fantastic – be assured you are in our prayers!

  • I fell into the trap of letting our resentments to set the tone of our prayer together, which was still in its infancy, and it killed it. Before fear was the worst barrier, perhaps out of the baggage of our volatile marriage, now, it seems insurmountable.

    However, we may have aimed too high by praying the Rosary together, which is among the finest prayers for a couple, but perhaps too meditative and long to start with, because the distractions could gravitate towards any resentment and spoil the moment.

    I like the suggestions of shorter prayers together. God willing, we’ll be blessed with praying as a couple.

  • Kathryn McDonald

    I’m brand-new to this site, drawn here by Dan’s conversion story in The Coming Home Network. I wanted to mention a couple of things related to husbands and wives praying together. One is our experience. I’m not sure how we got started but I’m sure it was my husband’s urging that started us in the habit of praying together every morning, Monday through Friday, since the beginning of our marriage 15 years ago before we were Catholic. We have followed varying formats but since becoming Catholic, follow the Divine Office prayers in “Shorter Christian Prayer”. We follow this with the daily Mass readings and short commentary using “One Bread, One Body”, and, finally, a book that we both agreed we’d enjoy (currently reading “Making Moral Choices” by Peter Kreeft). We meet for a half hour (sometimes longer for discussion) before the children get up. I believe, without a doubt, that this prayer habit has saved our marriage and brought countless blessings.We do not pray extemporaneously together–yet. Sticking to the form has helped us continue despite our being in different places spiritually. I pray that we will be walking closer together some day but, for now, it is important that we keep on going as we are.Finally, the post mentioned that someone be the leader. Unless the husband is mute, he definitely must lead. That doesn’t mean the wife doesn’t say anything, but it must be that both spouses recognize the husband’s leading.God bless you and thank you for this wonderful site.

    • Thank you for the encouragement and for your example. God bless!

  • Becky

    Great post! The difficulty with forgiving someone is so hard, but there seems to be peace. I really enjoy your insight on this. I’d love to read more on this topic.

    I recently stumbled upon another blog like I stumbled upon yours and I really appreciated their insight. I thought you might enjoy it:

    I’d love to see more like it. Thanks!

  • 3rdviola

    Great series of posts! I greatly look forward to beginning this long overdue morning worship of God and fellowship with my wife.

  • judeen

    the importance of prayer is so powerful.. yet we are not organized.. weve done litergy of hrs.. together. in spurts.. rosarys , chaplet of mercys .. all come and go.. yet when it is hard I as God to bless him and silently place a cross on His head or shoulder.. so too I caught him doing this to me also.. bless the house is so important.. and I ask my husband to do it also.. this is so powerful.. be pacient.. dont push ,,, not ready.. -then just touch him while you pray so the Holy Spirit will be in HIm also….

  • Dan and Stephanie,

    My husband and I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. We pray Evening Prayer together nightly as well as Morning Prayer together on weekends. We take turns leading every other day. We also pray a Rosary together on all Fridays, and sometimes when one or both of us feels the need.

    I have a question regarding the “fear” aspect. There are some words in the psalms that are unfamiliar and which my husband doesn’t know how to pronounce. In the past I have commented at a later time if I noticed he mispronounced them. Should I refrain? My main focus is to prevent him from being embarrassed when he prays with others (he often spends time with seminarians and we also pray the LOTH with our Dominican Lay Fraternity group), but I think it may seem as if I’m just mentioning because it annoys me.


    • I wouldn’t jeopardize the gift that you have in any way. I would purchase an audio version of the psalms and give it to him as a gift… Either way, let him learn this through others or from some other source. Men are not so good at receiving correction about such things unless they are unusually humble.

  • Guest

    Would it be possible to do a post on what to do if your spouse has left the Church or the faith (e.g., is agnostic)?

  • JOJO

    We will try this. My husband is very private in his prayer life, but I would like to lead him into group prayer. He fording like to express his inner thoughts & fears aloud.

    • Sounds good – did you read the four part series?

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