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.
A Prayer For Couples
Please make of our relationship a great and holy adventure.
May our joining be a sacred space.
May the two of us find rest here, a haven for our souls.
Remove from us any temptation to judge one another or to direct one another.
We surrender to You our conflicts and our burdens.
We know You are our Answer and our rock.
Help us to not forget.
Bring us together in heart and mind as well as body.
Remove from us the temptation to criticize or be cruel.
May we not be tempted by fantasies and projections, but guide us in the ways of holiness.
Save us from darkness.
May this relationship be a burst of light.
May it be a fount of love and wisdom for us, for our family, for our community, for our world.
May this bond be a channel for Your love and healing, a vehicle of Your grace and power.
As lessons come and challenges grow, let us not be tempted to forsake each other.
Let us always remember that in each other we have the most beautiful woman, the most beautiful man, the strongest one, the sacred one in whose arms we are repaired.
May we remain young in this relationship.
May we grow wise in this relationship.
Bring us what You desire for us, and show us how You would have us be.
Thank you, dear God, You who are the cement between us.
Thank You for this love.
By Marianne Williamson. Taken from Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul.
I thought this was so apt, such a balm for the heart that sometimes is weighed down unnecessarily. A reminder to refocus and re-see the goodness in the other.
I hope this blesses you as much as it has me.
Prayer is one of the most tangible and powerful ways you can love your spouse. For Christians, the importance of prayer is readily acknowledged but often forgotten. This tendency to forget is probably because we haven’t had a deep revelation of what prayer is and why we do it.
NOTE : Our NEW prayer devotionals will be here in September, 2018! Make sure to visit
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The Fierce Marriage Podcast:
In a recent podcast episode, Selena and I discussed the below points in great detail. If you’re a podcast person, give it a listen below or subscibe on your podcasting app of choice so you never miss an episode. Enjoy!
3 Underlying Principles of Prayer
I recently began reading Prayer by Tim Keller. I recommend it to everyone looking to deepen their understanding of prayer and its role in the Christian life.
If nothing else, this (very) quick look of prayer will set a baseline for this post. I also hope it reminds us of the purpose and power of prayer as well as our position as those who pray (wow, look at all of those P words).
- We have access to the God through Christ
Jesus paved the way and cleared the lines of communication. It’s only through Jesus that we are “acceptable” to God. This is not because God is mean, but because He is holy. I’d imagine us approaching God without Jesus would be like throwing a lit match into a hurricane – there’s just no way the match wouldn’t be snuffed out. Jesus is the titanium globe surrounding our match as we’re hurled into the hurricane. Jesus covers us with his righteousness through grace (fancy word: propitiation).
Scripture: Hebrews 7:25-28, Romans 8:34
- We can influence God’s actions
I almost didn’t include this point because it’s such a complex thing to say. However, from what I’ve learned, been taught, and observed in the Bible (and in modern history), God listens and intercedes based on prayers of His people. Even if the converse is true (we cannot influence God’s actions), it would really have no bearing on whether or not we should pray… but that’s a discussion for a different blog! Let us humbly assume we can talk to God and sway His heart through praying. (Note: our hearts must be aligned with His. That is, we don’t change God’s mind however we want, God changes His mind because He’s a loving Father).
Scripture: James 5:16, 1 John 5:14
- God listens and answers
When you pray to God, your prayers are heard. There are many passages of scripture which explain this, but it’s important we don’t take it for granted. The “God answers prayer” part is what can cause immature believers a crisis of faith – being immature is fine but staying immature isn’t. We may get frustrated when our prayers are unanswered. But, note that the Bible never says “God will always do what you ask no matter what”. God always answers, just not always with what we want. (“No”, and “not right now” are answers too).
Scripture: 1 John 5, Hebrews 4
Ok, so we’re hopefully on the same page about prayer. Given our role as God’s children – and in an intimate relationship with Him – prayer has staggering implications on our marriages! So how should I pray for Selena? How should you pray for your spouse?
5 Specific Ways to Pray Intentionally for Your Spouse
As I’ve stated before, I’m not exactly a black-belt in praying. Selena is much better at it than I am—she’s a great communicator and I tend to under-communicate. She’s even written about 10 Ways to Pray for Your Husband (I love that woman so much…!)
I’ve found it helpful to follow a logical progression for how I cover my bride with prayer. I like to start inside and work outward. As you pray for your spouse, make sure to pray for:
1: Their Heart
I don’t mean their physical heart, but their general softness of heart toward God and the Holy Spirit. Pray that they will be receptive to conviction (teachable); that they would continue to hear God and respond. Also pray that they would be refreshed by God – being constantly given new joy, hope, peace, and love. Ask God to protect their heart from attacks and temptation (Matthew 6).
Just knowing that Selena covers me in prayer for my purity of heart (lust, financial idols, stress, etc) gives me great confidence that she’s in my corner, fighting for me.
2: Their Mind
Wisdom and discernment. God has given us these incredible organs called “brains”. We can think, reason, and decide. Everyone makes decisions all day every day; pray that your spouse makes wise decisions big and small. Pray that they have a renewed mind, one that perceives and considers choices through God’s lens.
It could be said that the mind sees options and outcomes, but the heart chooses the right one (see #1 above). Pray for your spouse to have clarity of thought and focus as they go about their day—whatever task they’re putting their hands to, may it be completed wisely and diligently!
3: Their Health and Safety
Your spouse may be fighting off a sickness or working a perilous job. Pray for protection and health. Also, make sure to give God plenty of gratitude for when health and protection are evident! (Actually, give thanks ALWAYS, no matter the circumstance).
4: Their Concerns
When Selena is dealing with something difficult, it’s part of my role as her husband to cover her in prayer. We often pray together when facing a tough time, but I have to remind myself to contend for her with God on my own. This is what compassion is all about: taking on someone else’s situation and burdens as your own.
Go to God on your spouse’s behalf, taking on their concerns as your own.
5: Their Purpose
Selena and I are one, and our purposes overlap quite a bit. By God’s grace, we are working together toward a common goal… most of the time.
Selena is also a unique, special, gifted, and annointed woman with purpose specifically tailored to her. In fact, she’s God’s child before she’s my wife (whoa, heart check!). As her husband, it’s my role to support her in her God-ordained purpose by encouraging her, watching her back, offering counsel, and most of all, praying.
Now, Pray with Boldness
So we’ve briefly covered some principles of prayer. It’s safe to say the above is not exhaustive. Make sure to dig into God’s word on your own to build up your own prayer life, your own faith, and your own understanding about why you pray. You don’t need to know every theological detail about prayer to participate.
Just talk to God—He’s your loving Father who loves to hear from you. Ask God to show you how to pray, and remember your role as a prayer. As you pray, also remember your role as a spouse. You are in covenant with your husband or wife, and you are in covenant with God.
There’s power in the covenant you have with God, and one of the most beautiful aspects of that covenant is the ability to pray.
What is one thing you pray for regarding your spouse?
Is there a specific prayer request you’d like the Fierce Marriage community to pray for?
Please let us know in the comments below!
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