December 26, 2014
I often ask people how they are doing in their prayer life. “Fine” is a frequent answer, without a lot of enthusiasm. Or I hear “Good” a lot. Rarely do I hear much detail or much enthusiasm for that matter. We fool ourselves about our relationship with God. I go to the temple. I tithe. I’m a Buddhist. I’m trying. Most prayer is pretty boring. “Lackluster” would be a much more honest answer. “My prayer life has been uninspiring lately. I really want to deepen it!” would be the proper response.
Deeper in our mind is a resistance to prayer. It is foreign territory. An active prayer life is uncomfortable at first, because it is so different! Being quiet - listening - is very foreign to our way of life. However, instinctively you know you need to listen more to God. You know you need to be more still. Correct? Meditation, silent prayer, is drinking directly from the Heart of God. You are embracing deeper prayer, meditation and couple prayer because you want to know God and be more peaceful in your marriage! Prayer has power in it. Couple prayer is even more powerful. This is the essence of The Contemplative Marriage. How can we put God first in our marriage if we are not actively working on our prayer life? How can we listen to our mate if we are not listening to our self or to God?
We are married to be as one. Yes, we are individuals. Of course we have our own prayer routine. We do have our own relationship with God. Yet, the spiritual path is meant to be shared. It is not separate from our spouse’s path; it is intertwined. Christ comes to us in relationship. Buddha nature is oneness with another.
The first step in building a couple prayer routine is to get one going for oneself. Do you have a prayer time established daily? We’re not talking about a quick, on-the-fly kind of prayer. Those are great. In fact, that’s what "Recollection", the Christian name for Mindfulness, is all about. A continuous awareness of life being sacred is at the core of Recollection. Prayer time, though, is a good ten minutes of prayer. What does your prayer consist of? What is prayer to you? Don’t you think two or three ten minute prayer periods every day would be wise? Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Doesn’t a spiritual person know that God is the Only power? Why then do we sacrifice prayer at the altar of busyness, of materialism? We get so busy that we "think" we have to sacrifice something material in order to pray!! Isn’t’ that odd? If God is all power and the real "doer" in our life, and we really believe that, then we would spend more time in prayer since that is the place from which God’s talent and abundance flows!!! Therefore, from that space, make a commitment to pray daily.
Let me suggest several styles of prayer:
God already knows our heart. But we don’t know His. Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for something from God? By no means! Prayer is relationship with the divine. Your wife may know what you are thinking at times, but that’s not good enough. She needs to express a verbal understanding of what you are thinking and feeling. You need to feel understood, correct? So does your mate. Open and honest sharing of concerns. Responsive listening. This back and forth sharing of empathy and communication build the intimate mental and emotional connection in a marriage. That is the same with God. Often, without our realizing it, God plants desires in our heart that invite us to pray. That can be the initiation of prayer. We then hear that desire, God’s quiet leading, and ask, “Beautiful God, maker of all wonderful things that supply our needs and wants, I adore you! Thank you for the blessings of this delightful weather, my good health and my curious children. I am Grateful! Help me with the wisdom to know my True Path.” At that point in our prayer what is there to say? We could keep babbling. We could ask more questions. Some of that may be good. But at a point in the conversation with God, we might want to Listen. Just like what we need to do in our marriage: listen! That is what ‘spend some quiet time with the Lord’ is all about. That is meditation. Get your preconceived notions of reality out of the way and allow Spirit to fill your Self up. Meditate. Find the quiet spot between your thoughts! Prayer and Meditation are ultimately a quiet connection between you and God.
Wonderful! You have set up a prayer time for yourself which you follow faithfully. So has your perfect partner!! Now for the tricky but very powerful process of joint prayer. Couple prayer is simple, yet it is a very intimate encounter. Because of that the first few times can be intimidating, embarrassing and uncomfortable. We are not used to sharing such personal expression in front of anyone.
You might want to set up a sanctuary for your couple prayer. Light a candle and place the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita or an icon that will stimulate a devotional attitude. Devotion helps us to open up our heart. Develop an attitude of relinquishment, of awe and love for the Divine that envelopes your prayer practice. Feel that same love for you mate. Grow that love. Feel the appreciation and gratitude you have for this beautiful child of God who wants to grow spiritually with you. Sit down in separate chairs close to each other, even facing each other. Relax. Quiet yourself. Get your mind and being into an attitude of total reliance on God. It can be difficult to set aside our own agenda. There is a tendency to be avoidant, tense, or agitated, especially praying with another. The idea behind this time together is to set aside our own self interests and allow God to direct the encounter!
Whether you use a previously written prayer or not, start your time with gratitude and praise to God, then ask for guidance and intervention in your marriage and in this encounter. The words need to be from the heart. As an example from Psalm 25:
"Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior."
We desperately want and need God to be in charge of our conversations! Rest in this space for a minute. Take turns leading a spontaneous prayer. Thank God for something. “Thank you, Lord, for our family’s health!” Praise God for something. “I am in awe of your majesty in this beautiful day, God!” Ask God for something. “Dear God, please help me develop more openness to your Will in my life!” It is important to take turns. Usually, one person is a little more outgoing or versatile at saying a prayer. The other might be more self-conscious about it. That polarization is normal. Push through it by taking turns. Prayer is not about doing it right; it’s about the feeling underneath. Simplicity is the best. “Dear God...” is the perfect salutation! It’s important to be spontaneous. Practice speaking from the heart. God already knows it. Your spouse already knows your strengths and weakness. This is not a time for self-consciousness. The ego, that part of you that idolizes materialism, doesn’t want you to pray. Your fear of not doing it right is the perfect tool to block the process!
The best part of couple prayer is spending quiet time with the Lord and your spouse. This is the time of silent meditation. This is what Jesus was doing in the early mornings on the mountainside: communing with God!! There is so much healing and so many conciliatory processes going on during mediation. This is the 5th level of consciousness. The intention of connection with God in stillness allows the Holy Spirit to heal the deeper mind. We are not able to do this on our own. Try this a few times with your mate and feel the energy in stillness. You don’t talk when you kiss! Relationship with our mate and God is passionate. Words don’t convey the meaning. Allow God to love you in silence. Feel the connection with your mate in silence. Being conscious of your spirituality as a couple is the essence of having a Contemplative Marriage, a partnership that allows God’s Will to merge with our will to bring more peace and harmony into our relationship.
Pick a time, every day hopefully, when the two of you can share in this glorious process. Try it for 60 days and see if it doesn’t change your life and relationship. Most of the conflicts in our marriage are due to our sense of self, to our ego. Couple prayer dissolves the unreal self and allows God to make us truly One.