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.
Prayer is one of the primary aspects that hold a marriage and family together. Many traditions surround Catholic prayer. Asking for God’s blessing is just one of the ways you can celebrate your relationship. Here is a look at some of the best Catholic prayers for married couples.
O Jesus, lover of the young, the dearest Friend I have, in all confidence I open my heart to You to beg Your light and assistance in the important task of planning my future. Give me the light of Your grace, that I may decide wisely concerning the person who is to be my partner through life. Dearest Jesus, send me such a one whom in Your divine wisdom You judge best suited to be united with me in marriage. May her/his character reflect some of the traits of Your own Sacred Heart. May s/he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with pure and unselfish love we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children it may please You to entrust to our care. Bless our friendship before marriage, that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely, that our future home may ever be most like Your own at Nazareth.
O Mary Immaculate, sweet Mother of the young, to your special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future wife/husband. You are my guiding Star! Direct me to the person with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s Holy Will, with whom I can live in peace, love and harmony in this life, and attain to eternal joys in the next.
(on this happy day)
we thank you for the joy of N. and N.
Through all the years of their life
you have watched over them
to bring them together in holy Christian marriage.
Now Lord, bless them,
for they are united in love of you and of each other.
Redeemed by your Precious Blood
and strengthened by your grace,
may they live in kindness and fidelity,
in unfailing trust and love
so that their whole life may be pleasing to you.
Mary, who with Joseph
made a happy home at Nazareth for Jesus,
take these dear friends into your motherly care.
You who showed concern for a newly married couple at Cana,
help and guide N. and N.
May their union on earth lead to that eternal union
in which all the blessed will be joined together,
praising the Redeeming Blood of Jesus, the Lord.
I offer you this prayer, to help me with my current relationship situation. Please take away all the pain and hurt in my heart. Fill it with love, joy, patience, and understanding. Bless me and my partner, so that we may never surrender to whatever challenges that come our way. Fill our hearts with love for each other, and may you make each one of us realize each other’s worth. Please touch the heart of my partner,fill it with much love for me. Make our complicated relationship become uncomplicated. I seek for your mercy and blessing that you may allow us to spend the rest of our lives with each other. Please make this feeling mutual for both of us. Lead us not into temptations. Guide us wherever we go. Always put us in each other’s heart and mind. Thank you Lord for hearing my prayer. I love you. Amen.
We know that all of us need God’s blessing at all times; but at the time of their engagement to be married, Christians are in particular need of grace as they prepare themselves to form a new family.
Let us pray, then, for God’s blessing to come upon this couple: that as they await the day of their wedding, they will grow in mutual respect and in their love for one another; that through their companionship and prayer together they will prepare themselves rightly and chastely for marriage.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge; I say to the Lord, “My God are you. Apart from you I have no good.” I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me. I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body abides in confidence.
You, O Lord, will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.
We have gathered here to celebrate the love of N. and N. God has brought them together, and we pray that God will hold them in his love always. As the food we share will strengthen our bodies, may our time together strengthen the love that binds us.
Let us pray. Lord God, you sustain all creatures and never cease to give your children the food they need. We bless you for bringing us together in the love that unites us around this table where the food we take strengthens our bodies. We pray that, nourished by your Word, we may grow ever stronger in faith as we strive for the coming of your Kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We have come together to celebrate the anniversary of the marriage of our brother and sister. As we join them in their joy, we join them also in their gratitude. God has set them among us as a sign of his love and through the years they have remained faithful (and have fulfilled their responsibilities as parents). Let us give thanks for all the favors N. and N. have received during their married life. May God keep them in their love for each other, so that they may be more and more of one mind and one heart.
I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty and eternal God, you have so exalted the unbreakable bond of marriage that it has become the sacramental sign of your Son’s union with the Church as his spouse. Look with favor on N. and N., whom you have united in marriage, as they ask for your help and the protection of the Virgin Mary. They pray that in good times and in bad they will grow in love for each other; that they will resolve to be of one heart in the bond of peace.
Lord, in their struggles let them rejoice that you are near to help them; in their needs let them know that you are there to rescue them; in their joys let them see that you are the source and completion of every happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
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
Here is an excerpt from a Catholic Marriage prep class. Presented by Marriage Ministries, this segment covers the topic of couple prayer.
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