Marriage enrichment: Inviting God into a marriage

Prayer between husbands and wives can enhance matrimony by emphasizing listening, forgiveness

My husband and I recently attended a Celebration of Life service for the father of a close friend. Our friend’s father, Chester R. Cecil Sr., had been married to his wife, Barbara, for 67 years.

The eulogy given in honor of Mr. Cecil was beautiful and very inspirational. It was clear that his entire life had been defined by his 67 years of marriage and all that went with his family life. The minister could not talk about Mr. Cecil’s life without referring to his love and devotion to his wife.

The couple had been mentors and role models of a strong Christian marriage for their church community and for the people they knew socially and through work. Mr. and Mrs. Cecil had a Christ-centered marriage, and it was apparent to everyone that they met.

It is not always easy to put what is best for our spouse and marriage ahead of our own interests. Sometimes, in fact, it may seem impossible, but Jesus assures us in Matthew 19:26 that “with God all things are possible.” For God to help us in our marriages, we must first invite Him into our marriage. It was clear that Mr. and Mrs. Cecil had invited God into their marriage.

I often get requests for more information on how to integrate God and the spiritual life into busy marriages. There is a short book called “Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness” by Deacon James Keating that helps couples begin to add prayer to their daily routine.

Mr. Keating outlines three prerequisites for beginning prayer with one’s spouse.

A husband or wife should “behold” the other spouse, which means you are open to your spouse’s true identity. “Listen” to each other at the deepest level by actually accepting what your spouse has to say as a gift. And “forgive” each other, allowing Christ to bring any healing that is needed.

These three prerequisites build a strong foundation to begin or enrich couple prayer time. Mr. Keating also discusses how this foundation helps couples stay in love with each other and with God. As we fall more in love with our spouses and with God, the more our actions and decisions will reflect that marital and spiritual love.

As the Lenten season comes to a close we have an opportunity to work on these prerequisites to enhance spousal prayer. We can look into our spouse’s heart and find the true person.

Practice active listening, and make sure that you understand the joys and sorrows of their daily experiences. Let go of injuries and allow Christ to heal hurt feelings. The practice of spousal prayer, of praying together, will help all married couples have Christ-centered marriages like Chester and Barbara Cecil.

Wouldn’t Mr. Cecil be happy to know that his marriage continues to be an inspiration to others?

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.