When I meet with couples preparing for marriage, I usually ask them about their prayer life together. Most couples find this question difficult to answer, apart from responding that they might go to Mass together or that they pray a prayer before meals. I remember one couple in particular who, after struggling to respond, asked me for some advice on how they might approach the practice of praying together as a couple. I was delighted at the question, and it made me think of the request from the disciples of Jesus: “Lord, each us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). It was that request that led to His teaching them the Lord’s Prayer (though a slightly different form than we are used to, which comes from Matthew’s Gospel). So I would like to offer a few simple ideas on how to pray together – as a couple, as a family, or in some other group.
My first suggestion is to let the Lord begin the conversation. By this I mean turning to the Scriptures. Reading a passage out loud together is already praying! Even if that is the only thing you do, you have begun. You could take it a step further and spend some time sharing some thoughts about what struck you by the passage. Not sure where to start with in the Bible? Consider turning to one of the Gospels, or using the readings for the day or the upcoming Sunday.
My next suggestion is to pray the Rosary together. Even if a full five decades seems too much, start with at least one decade. Have one person say the first part of the Hail Mary, and the other person can complete it. Consider rotating who leads each decade. To step it up, maybe invite those who are praying together to voice some intentions to bring to the prayer. When I taught a combined 7th / 8th grade PSR class last year, I often started class this way and it was a wonderful beginning to the evening and I could tell that the students got something out of praying together, and they usually had no problems voicing an intention for which they wanted the class to pray.
My final suggestion gets a little more advanced. Try praying with your own words. Now, I know that sounds intimidating. But let me share a simple formula that can help you to pray like a pro. Remember these four words: “You, who, do, through” They are easy to remember because they rhyme. These four words are the basic structure to many of the prayers we hear at Mass. Here’s what I mean:
- You – begin by addressing the prayer to God the Father in some manner (Heavenly Father, Almighty God, Good and gracious Lord, etc…)
- Who – say something about God, such as something He has done, or something about who He is (who are all good and loving, who never fail to come to our aid, etc…)
- Do – ask the Lord for something (watch over our family this night, bring healing to our loved ones who suffer, help us during these difficult times)
- Through – conclude by offering your prayer through Christ (through Christ our Lord, through your Son, Jesus, who lives and reigns forever and ever, etc…)
Why not give this formula a shot and you will be surprised at how you too can pray with confidence with your own words. And never forget that when you pray, it does not all depend on you. The Lord will do His part, as St. Paul reminds us: “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought.” (Rom 8:26)