My husband did not always pray over me in the morning from the beginning of our marriage. When we first saw this modeled for us in a talk during a marriage retreat, we had already woven prayer into other aspects of our daily routine. As a couple, we already quietly knelt together for an Ignatian examen in the evening. For many years, we’ve prayed (at least a few decades of) the Rosary after dinner with our four daughters, and our baby son now squeals in delight as our family prays grace before and after meals. While these are all important for our domestic church and for our marital spirituality, for some reason, it is the few brief moments of praying for each other very simply as husband and wife at the start of the day that make the biggest difference for my next fourteen hours of mothering.
Glimpsing into the private prayer life of another married couple is not something that naturally happens—by nature, this type of prayer is intimate and private. If it’s something we don’t see our married friends doing, if we don’t see how the other husbands and wives in our parish pray with each other, we’re not likely to adopt this practice in our own marriage.
That’s why it was such a privilege to see the example our retreat presenters gave us. Now, when Nathan wraps his arms around me in the morning and asks God to bless me, to help me through my day, and to give me strength and wisdom to handle the homeschooling, the doctor’s appointments, and whatever forms of tending to needs that the day will call for, I can practically feel the palm of God’s hand resting above my head. When he thanks God aloud for me, his “beautiful wife,” I feel utterly cherished. I pray over his day as well. I thank God for another day of our life together; I give gratitude for my strong husband, and I ask God’s blessing specifically on whatever he has ahead of him in his day—his video conferences, his big projects, his joy in our children. This little prayer ritual often takes less than sixty seconds, and we catch each other for our morning prayer in the oddest places now that he’s working from home—after brushing our teeth in the bathroom, say, or in a hallway. One of us might find the other with a half-eaten toast in the kitchen and seize the moment right then and there. We wouldn’t skip it, though, because for some reason, this prayer together is the one that makes us feel closest to each other and reminds us that everything else in our day flows from our primary vocation. My motherhood flows from my marriage, and this simple prayer taps into the grace from our sacrament in a practical way that helps me to flourish.
Dr. Sarah Bartel and her husband, Nathan, are the founders of Cana Feast, supporting online Catholic marriage enrichment. She and her husband are ministering and raising their four daughters and one son in Western Washington.