Column name: The young and the faithful
I remember the first time my husband and I prayed together out loud. Simply put, it was awkward.
It was Matt’s suggestion. We were in college and dating at the time, and I was leaving soon for a study abroad stint in South Africa. He thought it would be a good idea to pray together before I left.
The prayer was free form; we didn’t have text in front of us. We both spoke, him much more eloquently than I. I was nervous and sounded foolish. I had never prayed like that with someone before, and I didn’t enjoy it all that much.
Fast-forward five years to our current dinner table. Now, we have an unspoken rule: Before we go on to our regular chorus of “Bless us, O Lord …,” we sit in reflective silence until we’ve each had an opportunity to voice our petitions out loud. It only takes a few moments, but it helps slow us down and open our hearts and minds to each other before those precious mealtime minutes together. Sometimes, we’ll even leave dinner on the stove while we pray, so as not to succumb to the temptation of whatever meal is waiting for us and rush through that time of peace and shared prayer straight from our own hearts.
This is a regular habit for us now, and one I have encouraged other couples to try. It may be difficult at first, without a script, to speak to the Lord with your petitions out loud in front of someone else, but it’s amazing what a little patience and practice will do.
For Matt and me, praying together like that obviously did not come easily. About one year after that first rocky attempt, we tried again. We decided for Lent that year to pray together every day, in that free-form style, together in the school chapel. I was more open to the idea, which definitely helped, but the first few days were still hard for me. I was letting someone else hear my conversations with God, and I didn’t even know if I was saying the right things. Prayer is a place where we can be at our most vulnerable, and I really had a hard time letting someone else be there with me.
But, as I said, through patience and practice, and a couple of years of on-again and off-again with the effort, we eventually settled into our pre-dinner shared prayer routine. And every night is a different experience. Nobody’s perfect, and there are definitely nights where we rush through our reflection time or skip right into “Bless us, O Lord … .” Other nights, we have more to say, and our prayer can take several minutes as we voice our concerns and fears, pray for healing or peace or thank God for blessings and joys.
In prayer, Matt and I reach a greater intimacy with one another than I ever would have thought possible years ago. Why shouldn’t we approach God together every day, to give thanks, to ask forgiveness, to seek guidance? Why shouldn’t my husband hear what I wish to bring before the Lord after a long day at work or when a worry is weighing heavily on my mind? Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to rejoice together in our many blessings every evening?
We have still both maintained and pushed ourselves in our separate prayer lives – Matt tends to dedicate his first wakeful moments of the day to the Lord, while I usually stick to kneeling at the bedside in the evening. But, just as Tobiah and Sarah pray together on their wedding night (Tobit 8:4b-8), we too, will seek to pray together each evening to ask God, among other things, to “allow us to live together to a happy old age.”
Anna Jones is a writer who lives in the New Haven area.