Kayla Petersen of The Alluring World asked me to write a guest post for her blog about the Divine Office, to appear there next week. She particularly wanted me to discuss whether this would be a good prayer for couples in interfaith marriages to pray together.
So, in my little essay, I opined that the Liturgy of the Hours was indeed a fine way for Catholics and protestants to pray together: it's all scripture based, and there were only very occasional items that might be "red flags" for, say an evangelical Christian --mentions of Mary's intercession, the pope, and the like. I also stated that the Divine Office works well as a "couples prayer". The spouses can take turns with the antiphons and alternate reciting the strophes of each psalm. It's all very cooperative and complementary. Like marriage should be.
Then, the other day, I mentioned in a post on this blog that when my husband and I say Morning Prayer together, we repeat the antiphon of the Invitatory psalm after each strophe. (Not that we do this often--Bill's job has him travelling a lot). This prompted another reader to ask me to write about getting a spouse interested in praying the Divine Office together. It got me thinking of this whole topic of joint spousal prayer.
We women, who buy and read nearly all of the popular Catholic Marriage books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we're told that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We're talking about a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.
Are there more than 100 Catholic male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country who enthusiastically go along with such a program? (not just tolerate it out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I'd be surprised.
This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful to women. But to most guys--good, devout guys--not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God about with his wife listening in. It's one more example of a woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.
So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is, utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.
I could write a whole 'nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church's critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one's turn to pray "spontaneously", mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one's audience. For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!
But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don't force it. Or here's another idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be.
My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately. There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I'd recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.
For those who cannot get their husbands interested in any kind of prayer as a couple, here is one more thought. Do the two of you attend Mass together? Then you have already been praying together in the best way possible! Be grateful for this. If you want to make it a little more intentional, wife, then tell your husband how glad you are to have him praying at your side at Mass. Tell him what intentions you are praying about at mass, and ask him if he would please bring those needs to the altar as well, and share them with Jesus after communion. Ask him whether there is anything in particular that he would like you to pray for.And if he just shrugs his shoulders, you are to smile, say "I love you", and let it go.
Now, maybe all of the above is just me speaking from my personal experience and prejudice. So.... Comments are welcome, especially from men.
*This is not to knock Steubenville. I love the place, and sent my oldest daughter there.