When we got married in 1975 prayer wasn’t a highly valued part of our relationship. We had a sense that God had blessed us with a great and awesome love. But, we felt it was an entitlement that came with good jobs, a nice apartment, and a comfortable life together. Everything that we thought we needed we thought we had in each other. Prayer was infrequent and rare. It was something we did separately, alone and from the quiet recesses of our minds. It was after a major struggle in our marriage when we were “forced to our knees” that we came to understand the power of prayer in our married life.
Turning to God in what was our darkest time saved our marriage. We had depleted our personal reserves and had to go beyond ourselves to “fix” what was broken – to save our marriage. Prayer was a compulsion that rose from our desperation.
Once past the crisis, it would have been easy to slide back into our former infrequent practice of prayer. But, something had happened to us in the struggle to save our marriage. Through prayer God had touched us – transformed us – in such a way that we could never be the same. Prayer became a high value to us. Though, we still had to struggle to make it a daily habit and not just something to do in desperation.
Prayer for us both was something that we did either privately and alone or with a large assembly of people at church. Praying together as a couple was a challenge. Learning to pray together took some instruction and mentoring.
In 1978 we got involved in a couple to couple ministry through Marriage Encounter. We met monthly with several other couples to pray, learn and play together. We were the youngest couple in the group and got a lot of mentoring from the other couples, all of whom were a stage or more ahead of us in the family life cycle.
One couple in particular, Ada and Fernando Casado, émigrés from Cuba, had a way of praying together that charmed us. It was their attentiveness to each other, their confidence in each other, their patience, and their easiness in speaking to God. Whenever they lead in prayer it seemed that God’s presence was more palpable. It seemed that God spoke to us through them. At those times God had a Cuban accent. In the few years that we were part of that group, we watched them closely and learned from them. We emulated them as we prayed as a couple. And we grew.
Now, forty years into marriage, prayer has expanded into all corners of our life. Because our marriage is a daily sacrament, we recognize that our being together is a prayerful experience, even when we seem unholy. Grabbing the other’s hand and snatching a moment to express our thanks, offer a petition for someone in need, or to give glory to God is common with us. The rhythms of grace before meals, morning coffee rituals, hello and goodbye kisses and weekly community worship are the pulse of our faith life together.