It never occurred to me before reading Isabel Anders’ new book how apt the ever-loved Prayer of St. Francis is for married couples. But Anders startled me to full attention with this prayer in the early pages of her fine collection of ancient and modern prayers, blessings and reflections – all presented “as potential guides for naturally incorporating prayer into a marriage.”
Think about it. God is petitioned in the Prayer of St. Francis to “grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that are born to eternal life.”
Don’t those lines relate rather directly to the needs and hopes of most married couples?
What I liked best about Anders’ “Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples” was its down-to-earth approach to spirituality for married couples. Here couples will find prayers to employ when making decisions, or after making a mistake, or when faced with money problems, or during a crisis.
“Teach us how to be not only more kind and tolerant of each other’s mistakes but also more understanding of each other’s occasional lack of judgment,” a couple might pray in words borrowed from Rene Bartkowski’s “Prayers for Married Couples.” In a prayer from Ruth Harms Calkin’s “Hold Me Close,” a weary couple prays:
“Please rest us. We’re thirsty. Give us Living Water! We’ve fallen flat on our faces. Pick us up! … We’d like very much to give up. Hold us very close.”
One of Anders’ own prayers, presented in the context of a reflection on the wedding promise to take each other “for better or for worse,” pleads with God for “continued strength and grace to remember the sun when it is not shining, to believe in God’s care and love when we cannot know outcomes, and to endure with each other through uncertainties and fears.”
Souls are nourished even by difficulties, Anders suggests. In this light, she comments that the vow to take each other for better or worse is “a necessary component to a loving commitment that can withstand the inevitable storms of married life.”
Anders structured her book around the promises couples make when they wed. Thus, for example, the book includes prayers and reflections related to the couple’s vow to have and to hold each other, to love each other in sickness or in health, or in good times and in bad.
What is meant by a couple’s promise to “have and to hold”? A prayer by Anders offers insight here. A wife and husband ask God to help them “learn to laugh together, to cry when needed, to pick ourselves and each other up from where we may have fallen – and to go forward together.”
Anders, an Episcopalian, is a longtime writer and editor in Tennessee whose works have been published by Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical and Anglican publishers. Among her other books are “Simple Blessings for Sacred Moments” and “Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom.”
She describes her new book as “a montage or tapestry of ‘marriage enfleshed,’” that is, marriage as it is embodied in the lives of actual couples. A hope of hers is that the book will serve as an opportunity for readers to remember the “points at which God has ministered” to them “as a family, as a couple, as an individual.”
Numerous passages in the book reflect on the workings of marriage. Does that mean it should be read straight through? It could be, I suppose. But the book’s real value lies in its usefulness as a continuing resource for husbands and wives who want to meditate on marriage and begin to pray within their marriage.
The book should make things easier for couples who find it awkward to pray together at home. For example, a couple’s wedding anniversary might be a good occasion to turn to an anniversary prayer by Anders that reads: “On this our wedding anniversary, we focus on the many blessings of our years together: the sharing of the cup of sorrow and joy …, the blessings that have exceeded all hopes.”
The prayer thanks God because through the oneness granted them in earthly flesh, a husband and wife “are more that the sum of two persons,” and when they pray, their “efforts are doubled.”
A number of blessings collected in the book seem appropriate for engagement celebrations, anniversaries and even times when couples face unique challenges. I particularly enjoyed these lines of a blessing from “9 Ways to Nurture Your Marriage,” by William and Susan Rabior:
“May the days of your marriage be joyous and rich. May you find shelter and safety in each other’s arms, respect and reverence in each other’s heart. May your friendship be faithful and firm, your trust total. And may you remain young at heart as you grow old together.”
About the reviewer
David Gibson is the former, now-retired editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.
Two Hundred Laughs
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
It’s been said that the average child laughs two hundred times a day, while the typical adult laughs only four times every twenty‐four hours. So what has happened to us grown‐ups? Maybe it has something to do with those grueling hours at the office, long lines at the grocery store, and piles of bills on the kitchen counter.
Of course, life can be very difficult, and some people face serious obstacles and hardships. But many of us frown or complain over relatively minor inconveniences. I (JCD) knew a woman who made herself and her husband miserable just because she had one more child than she had bedrooms in which to put them. Too many irritations come from a complete inability to appreciate the humor and blessings that exist around us. When your husband forgets to take the kids to their dentist appointment, or your wife accidentally gives away your favorite sweatshirt, or your toddler draws his version of the Mona Lisa on the living room wall—wouldn’t it be easier on everyone if you looked on the funny side of the situation?
Kevin Jones, dealing with increasing paralysis from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was asked to describe the worst thing about his condition. He replied, “My wife’s driving! She has to take me everywhere.”
No matter what you’re facing, a smile can only make it better.
Just between us . . .
• How often do you laugh each day?
• Do we keep our heavenly destination in mind when adversity strikes?
• How could we add humor to the next difficult situation we face?
Dear God, when problems threaten to affect how we treat each other, help us to see them in the perspective of Your unfailing goodness. Amen.
Listen to today’s broadcast of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk at OnePlace.com. For more from Dr. Dobson, visit the resource center at drjamesdobson.org.
This devotional is taken from Night Light for Couples. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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O God, we thank you that you have given us another year of life together. We thank you for the love which grows more precious and for the bonds which grow more close each day. We thank you for the happiness we have known together; for the sorrows we have faced together; for all the experiences of sunshine and of shadow through which we have come, up to today.
We ask for forgiveness for any failure on our part; for any times when we became difficult to live with; for any lack of sympathy and understanding; for anything which spoiled even for a moment the perfect relationship which marriage should be. Spare us to each other to go on walking the way of life together, and grant that for us it may be true that the best is yet to be: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
This is a daily prayer is for all married couples. Husband and wife may hold each other’s hands while reciting this prayer.
O God, we want to live our life together with you and always to continue it with you. Help us never to hurt and never to grieve each other. Help us to share all our works, all our hopes, all our dreams, all our successes, all our failures, all our joys and all our sorrows. Help us to have no secrets from each other so that we may be truly one. Keep us always true to each other, and grant that all the years ahead may draw us ever closer to each other. Grant that nothing may ever come between us and nothing may ever make us ever drift apart. And as we live with each other, help us to live with you, so that our love may grow perfect in your love, for you are the God whose name is love. This we ask for your love’s sake. Amen