faithfamilyQ. My wife and I have never really prayed alone together. How can we get started?

Get started praying together today! Praying together as a married couple has great benefits, one of which is “divorce insurance.” Perhaps you’ve heard the startling statistics reported by Fr. Andrew Greeley: while the divorce rate in the general population remains close to 50 percent in new marriages, the divorce rate among regular churchgoers drops to 18 percent. The divorce rate among couples with an active faith life drops to 8 percent, and among couples with an active faith life who pray together, it drops to 0.7 percent. Couples who do all of the above and become active in their faith community cut the divorce rate down to 0.08 percent!

Why does praying together as a couple strengthen your marriage? All human love is a manifestation of Divine love, so truly, God is the source of your love and the author of your marriage. The two of you are able to experience marital love because God first loved each of you into being.

Have a faith and family question?

Questions may be sent to Jennifer Christ at Catholic Herald Parenting, PO Box 070913, Milwaukee, 53207-0913, or by e-mail.

How to get started praying together? The easiest way to begin is with a simple meal prayer. Sitting at table together and “breaking bread,” we share our day, the joys and the challenges. We eat food to nourish our physical bodies, but we are nourished emotionally as well by pausing and being present to one another: an oasis in the busyness of a typical day. Our meal prayer is spiritual nourishment.

We turn to God in the pause and acknowledge Our Source. We are creature; God is Creator.

This is a moment of getting back into “right relationship” with each other and with God. Grace before meals is usually a fairly short prayer, but it holds great significance. Start with a simple grace learned in childhood or say a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving not only for the food, but for all your blessings. I like this beautiful “one-liner”: Lord, as we gather to share our meal make us realize our oneness in you so that with the strength obtained from this meal, we will be a source of strength for each other. Amen.

Once you are comfortable with praying together at meals, begin to add other couple prayer times. A simple “God bless you!” before leaving in the morning, an evening walk praying the rosary, or a pause before bed to thank God for five blessings from the day are ways to make prayer the “bookends” of your day.

My husband and I like to pray the rosary on our evening walk. We pray one decade for each of our four children and the last decade for our marriage. We take turns leading. It’s a great meditative, walking prayer that helps us to shed the stress of the day and keeps us spiritually connected to our four grown children.

Besides Sunday Mass together, might there be one weekday morning the two of you can rise early and attend morning Mass? Find a church in your neighborhood with a 6:30 or 7 a.m. Mass. These usually are prayerfully and concisely celebrated in about 30 minutes and go a long way in starting the day off right.

Some couples find great meaning in going to eucharistic adoration together for an hour once a month. Sitting with the Lord, together, in silent prayer can be a powerful bonding time for married couples.

This traditional Celtic prayer makes a good “hugging prayer.” Embrace each other and recite:

God to enfold us,
God to surround us,
God in our speaking,
God in our thinking.
God in our sleeping,
God in our waking,
God in our watching,
God in our hoping.

Perhaps the two of you could compose an “everyday prayer” that you commit to pray daily, no matter what. Try to incorporate praise, thanksgiving, petitions, and sorrow for wrongdoing. A prayer you write as a couple and recite daily becomes the spiritual glue holding it all together. Remember to keep God at the center and all else will fall into its proper place. God bless you!

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats, and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass. Questions for Christ may be sent to her at Catholic Herald Parenting, PO Box 070913, Milwaukee, 53207-0913 or by e-mail.)