I grew up in a faithful Catholic household with Catholic parents who prayed with us and with each other. I thought that was adorable, but not for me. Maybe I would feel differently when I found a man I loved.
“Not for me.”
As I grew up and started dating, I was still pretty sure that it was not for me. I would hear all sorts of things about praying with your boyfriend and making God a part of your relationship and once again, it was lovely. Just not for me.
I became engaged (to a wonderful, faithful Catholic man) and went through the FOCCUS process and archdiocesan marriage prep. Prayer is central to the sacramental marriage, everyone said. Great, I thought. But not for me. Not for us.
I do not know why I had this block against praying with my spouse. I loved to pray. I spent most of my college and graduate school years immersed in Church history and documents, a form of prayer that was very akin to falling in love. I attended daily Mass whenever I could. There was even a period of time when I said the Liturgy of the Hours (before children, obviously. Hah.) I loved to pray. I loved my husband. I just never wanted to sit down and consciously pray out loud with him. It made me uncomfortable.
When I had been married for three years, I attended a talk at my parish’s mothers of toddlers group.The topic was praying with your spouse. “Oh great,” I thought, “Another faithful Catholic telling me I should pray before sex. Oh well, at least there’s coffee and childcare.”
“It made me really uncomfortable at first.” When the presenter, a woman I’d known in our parish for most of my life, said these words, my head shot up. Really? Someone else thought this was weird? Maybe I should at least listen to what she had to say.
She went on to say how she and her husband were faithful Catholics- just like me and my spouse. But they never prayed together. It seemed weird- just like me and my spouse. But after witnessing a couple they knew grow so close together, they wanted to know what their secret was. Prayer was the answer. The intimacy they craved, that I craved, was brought about through prayer.
That got my attention. Intimacy has always been an issue for me in my relationship with my husband. He was married before (to a woman that tragically passed away before I knew him.)
Obviously, he had been (and continues to be) nothing but supportive and loving in support of my attempts to deal with this. We have a true sacramental marriage and I can honestly say that I have never doubted his devotion to me for a moment in our marriage. But emotionally, I had problems. I constantly sought out intimacy with him that would reassure me that we were okay, that this was a real marriage, that I would have the fullness of emotional connection that I had been lucky enough to witness with my parents and grandparents.
So if prayer could help with that, I was all on board!
How to Pray Together
Then we had to figure out how to get started- and it made sense that after years of avoiding, we started slowly.
First of all, I realized we already had a practice of praying the most important prayer together- the Mass. We have gone to Mass together every weekend since we started dating. We go on weekdays whenever we can. We even went to Mass the morning of our wedding because we could not think of any better way to begin the day. I had always loved attending Mass with my husband, and finally, I realized that that meant I loved praying with him!
We started saying prayers together at night. Quickly at first, and then moving into longer prayers. Today, we will say a rosary together and do novenas throughout the year for various intentions. I so look forward to praying with him.
The benefits have been amazing. We pray for each other, and I find that we are a lot nicer to each other too. I am more conscious of all he gives up for us to support our family, and he is more conscious of what I do as a mother. As we raise two small children and have countless other outside forces pressing in on our marriage, that time of quiet together has become so important.
And yes, the promise of intimacy has been completely true. It is hard to explain, but praying with my husband has deepened what we have in all aspects of our marriage- physical, spiritual, and intellectual. Not to mention that it is really nice to have something so wonderful to be able to do together when physical intimacy is not an option for any reason.
How to Start
If you’d like to start praying with your husband or boyfriend, there are many resources available on the internet. Most are focused on married couples, so beware of that when researching if you are still engaged or dating. One of the best I’ve found is the USCCB’s For Your Marriage website.
Very simply, here are some suggestions.
- Admit it’s going to be uncomfortable. If you’re shy or a private person like I was, praying with someone might not come naturally. That doesn’t mean that you should stop.
- Utilize the Mass. Realize that this is the greatest prayer we have available to us as Catholics. Regular participation in the Eucharist together can pave the way for more prayer breakthroughs.
- Short is great- especially if you have kids. We love saying the rosary together, but there are days we don’t have seventeen minutes together quietly. Just saying a quick prayer together before bed can be wonderful.
- It’s okay if you don’t pray the same way. I love rote prayers- the words form almost an incantation to me that allows me to move beyond myself. My husband loves contemplating while he prays in a way that I don’t. That’s fine.
- Talk about it. With your kids, with your friends, with your family. It’s normal and wonderful to pray together in a marriage and talking about it will make it less uncomfortable.
I hope you can begin a prayer journey with your husband or boyfriend. I promise you, the intimacy with him and God cannot be beaten.
About Kathleen Kirchner
Kathleen is a cradle Catholic, but on a journey to greater understanding and reverence. Formerly a historian specializing in Vatican foreign policy and Jewish-Catholic relations, now she homeschools her two young children and tries to get them interested in...anything other than Netflix. Married to Matt, her engineer and personal Geek Squad for five years and counting. If it's not the school day, you can usually find her playing with makeup, reading a book, or napping. You can read her personal blog at www.pencilsandeyelashes.com