This year our parish asked Matt Simmons who works for the diocese of Lincoln to come during Lent to talk about spousal prayer. So every Tuesday night Matt and I have gone to listen to Matt's words of wisdom on prayer. Matt worked with Matt Simmons during his time with FOCUS and as we have gotten to know Matt over time we knew these talks would be good. There are five different themes that we discuss each week. So far we have completed sessions 1-3 which were: Session 1: The Spousal Relationship, Session 2: Relational Prayer, Session 3: Spousal Prayer. The next two are sessions 4 & 5 which will be Marriage as a Ministry and Praying through Marital Pain. When we get there, Matt speaks on the theme for the night for roughly 30 minutes, then as a couple we go into the chapel and pray for 30 minutes in silence. After we are done praying we wrap the session up. Matt and I always leave these sessions feeling like we learned something new! I'm so glad we decided to go. At first it's always so hard to commit to anything isn't it? I know when Matt originally told me about this Lenten series our church was offering I was hesitant. Thankfully our church provides babysitting during the talks and it helped that we knew the speaker already. I think that's the way the devil works his way into my heart, especially when there is something for me to really benefit from spiritually. I immediately come up with so many excuses and I just don't feel like going. I feel like that's pretty common for others as well. Again, so glad I ignored those voices of doubt and decided to go.
Like I said above we have gone over 3 sessions. In the first session we learned about the spousal relationship and how a relationship consists of two essential movements giving and receiving. I think the lesson I got out of this session was to remember to behold your spouse and see them for the gift God has given us. In session 2 we talked about relational prayer. Meaning, God engages us through relationship. Our response to God is an act of grace. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in "A School of Prayer" said, "Of course when we speak of prayer...it is necessary to bear in mind that it is an inner attitude before being a series of practices and formulas, a manner of being in God's presence before performing acts of worship or speaking words." The biggest lesson I got out of this particular session was a good reminder that we need to come to God in prayer with out all our "masks" on, God just wants to spend time with us and there is really no right or wrong way to come to Him in prayer. The last session we just had was about spousal prayer which has been my favorite thus far.
Praying with your spouse can be awkward and almost impossible with young children around. However, if we believe that God is and should be our foundation...then obviously prayer is important to actually do on a daily basis and it's not something we should do alone...praying with our spouses is life changing. Matt gave some practical ways on how to begin praying with your spouse. You find a time when you both can be attentive to one another. For Matt and I (have I confused you on which Matt I'm talking about yet!!?? :)) this time is after dinner. The big kids get to go downstairs and watch a show while Lucy is with us in the living room. For a span of an 'Our Father', you just sit there and begin by recognizing that you are in the presence of God, a Father who loves you. One spouse shares their most significant or insignificant thing that happened to them that day. You are just sharing your heart here, the challenge is for the other spouse to JUST listen to the spouse talking. No commenting, no giving advice, nothing...you are there just to listen. After your spouse is done sharing, you then pray for them. It can be short and sweet or long,whatever is most comfortable to you. Then it's the other spouses turn. I think the most important step in all of this is to be patient with one another. Sharing is hard. Praying can be hard. Praying together can feel awkward if you have never done it before.
Since this last session Matt and I have started sharing and praying for one another each night. (Or at least trying to do this each night.) Since we have started this, I can already feel us getting closer together and closer to God. It's just nice to share with one another and make time for one another. The days can be busy and long and pretty soon you may realize that you and your spouse haven't talked a whole lot. This is a great way to begin meaningful discussions and it's nice to hear my spouse pray for me.
Again, I'm so glad we decided to go and learn more about spousal prayer. I'm excited to see what changes God will make in our marriage from this prayer!