Read an Excerpt
From the Foreword (pre-publication version)
On Marriage and Prayer
Thanne and I have been married for thirty-two years. Vigorous years. Our marriage has been a story of calm days, common days, days of a sudden and blinding transcendence; we've sinned and confessed and forgiven; there have been trips and children, emergency rooms, schoolrooms, courtrooms, and through it all-through the daily round of human duties-faith. Our faith, yes; but more surely than that, the faithfulness of heaven.
God has been the deeper love and the ground of our marriage, always.
But I myself-I did not always acknowledge that. Nor did I always take advantage of the sweet communion of prayer.
Thanne has. And it was Thanne who persuaded me to pray out loud with her.
Within days of our wedding, I began studies at Concordia Seminary in preparation for ministry, and Thanne began her profession as a teacher. Those were hard times for her. Often, in visible stress, she would say, "Wally, we should pray together."
I didn't disagree. But neither did I actually agree.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps because, though my father was a pastor, I never experienced spontaneous prayer before. We'd only prayed formal prayers-as Thanne and I did at mealtimes now. And I think I was embarrassed by the danger of prayer: revealing myself, inverting the truer truth of myself before Jesus and Thanne together.
But in those days I was an angry young man, angry for causes I couldn't see-so neither could I see the anger in me. Thanne did, of course. Thanne suffered my fits of gloom. And sometimes I saw that: her suffering. And when I knew that I had hurt her, I grieved.
"Thanne," I said. "Thanne," I begged her in the heat of my shame, "what can I do to make it up? What can I do to prove I love you?"
One day, when I was in deepest need of her forgiveness, the opportunistic Ruthanne said, "Pray with me, Wally. Pray out loud with me."
I was caught. I could not avoid the issue.
But I was the seminary student. I knew about God. So I took us into the bedroom and said we should lie down on the bed. We did. Side by side.
But I felt breathless. Nervous. "Wait!" I cried. I jumped up and turned off the light. Somehow this praying thing seemed as awkward and exposed as the first time we made love together.
"Now, then." I went first.
I gathered my thoughts, cleared my throat, then, in the darkness, began to fashion a formal, literate prayer. Petitions. Bible verses. I surprised myself. My voice grew strong. See, Thanne? See? I can do this after all. I succeeded very well in sounding like a preacher in the pulpit.
When I finished there was a silence. Had she fallen asleep?
No, she hadn't.
Quietly Thanne began to pray, with no more force or formality than when she talks softly to me at night. But she was talking to Jesus. It seemed as if I weren't even there. Jesus was close, intimate to her. Jesus was all. And I felt a little like a peeping Tom, not so much hearing her prayer as over-hearing it.
I was ashamed. My brazen prayer was only a crashing cymbal next to the common honesty of her language. And I realized that I had, in effect, prayed to her, prayed for her approval, while she was praying to Jesus, for Jesus' blessed response.
And then, still in her tender and sacred conversation, Thanne began to tell the Lord Jesus about "Wally." About me. As if I were so important that Jesus should take care of me. And in that moment, in the darkness, I started to cry.
How to Use This Book
This book offers three distinct opportunities for married couples:
(1) Prayers on many topics (sometimes there are two prayers per topic, one for each spouse; sometimes there is a line-by-line dialogue; sometimes one prayer for both of you). Pray these out loud together, whenever the need and occasion arise. Take time! Sit down. Allow yourselves a devout attitude. Go slowly. Make the expressions and the appeals your own by fitting the prayer to your lives.
The index in the back of this book shows you at a glance how many topics these prayers can cover. If you feel the strong need to pray, but are too confused to know the reason, look in the index.
(2) Litanies for repeated occasions (to be used at the beginning of important moments in the marriage-to be used over and over again). Each of these contains its own instructions-but all of them ask you to find a special place in your home for your prayers, devotions, and litanies together.
(3) Directions and suggestions for an annual private retreat, the two of you alone. We urge all married couples to consider the importance of this retreat. Often it was the sweetening-and sometimes the salvation-of our marriage.
In the prayers you will hear our separate voices, husband and wife distinguished from one another. We've made our prayers both personal and universal. But we suggest that you choose which of you will pray a particular prayer the best; just switch the language, replacing husband for wife, and vice versa.
We've designed the book to last you many years. Even though you will repeat the prayers over and over, you can make them new by referring to the Bible passages bracketed within them. In the beginning, ignore the citations; but the more you pray a particular prayer, the more you'll want to study those passages to enrich the prayer's words and meaning. If you wish, you can base a series of marital devotions upon these prayers, discussing the biblical passages together.
There is no necessary sequence to your use of this book. Choose prayers as they apply; pray each litany at its appropriate time.
Nevertheless, we do suggest that you both, independently, read through the whole book before you begin its regular use. Learn the tools it offers your private worship so that you can make the book your own.
For this reason (and to ease your shared praying) we suggest that you get two copies of the book, one for each of you. You'll want to make notes on your own pages; and you won't have to switch one book back and forth while praying.
Note: We ask each of you to keep two diary-like notebooks: one for personal thanksgivings (see the litany for suppertime), and one to list the things you give to God (see the litany "For the Sabbath"). These books will increase your constant attention to God, and they will serve you well during the annual retreat.
The litanies are meant to act as milestones throughout the journey of your married life, shaping your time, devoting it to the Lord. The "Thanks at suppertime" litany can be used daily; the "For the Sabbath" litany, weekly; the "Before Bible study or devotions together" litany, as regularly as you two determine; the "On an anniversary" litany . . . well, of course.
As we said, we hope that our book becomes your book; that you establish certain prayerful patterns with us in order to fill those patterns with your words, your topics, your needs, your souls.
Therefore, each of the litanies also leads you to language of your own, invites you to discover practices special to the two of you. As you grow confident in these brief moments of worship, introduce gestures and prayerful exchanges that carry the meaning of your own faithful experience.
This collection is not intended to fulfill all of your prayer needs, nor does it presume to be a substitute for your more personal spontaneous prayer. Because this book, by its nature, focuses on your relationship with each other, it does not address the many other facets of your lives as parents or friends or members of a community. It is our hope, however, that it will become a tool for establishing and maintaining a healthy prayer life, strengthening the bond not only between the two of you, but also, together, between the two of you and God.
Daily Living as Husband and Wife
God of creation, you made us man and woman, male and female. You created and blessed our union. You made us different, yet perfectly suited to each other. Still we struggle with defining our roles. We can't always figure out who should be shopping for groceries or doing the laundry or mowing the lawn. We can't always agree on who should call the electrician or take the car in for repairs. We each struggle with finding time to take care of the many family responsibilities we have every day.
Give us your wisdom, Lord, to balance our lives and to define our roles within our marriage. Forgive my self-centeredness when I feel I'm bearing more than my share of the load. Forgive me when I don't carry my share of the responsibilities. Give me the quietness and peace to talk to my husband without anger and without blame. Give us both wisdom to know how to divide responsibility, and give us each a spirit of self-giving to ease the burden of the other.
You created us both, Lord. Use your creative hand to form for us a way to equitably divide our duties in peace and harmony. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Holy God, your image is not in me alone; it's in us both; it's in the living relationship between us, in our marriage, in the way we work together to serve you in your creation (Gen. 1:27-31).
Forgive me when I destroy that image by making demands rather than making consensus with my wife.
Let us from that image wisely divide the family work between us according to practical needs rather than pride. Help us to learn how we are helpers that fit one another (Gen. 2:18) rather than laborers forced to work unwillingly, unhappily.
Direct us, Lord, by your presence to divide our duties not according to selfish personal desires but rather according to the family's needs; the spiritual gifts, skills, and talents God has given each of us individually; and with love as the dominant motive.
Finally, Lord, make all the service I give my wife and my family be my service and worship unto you, and then it shall be a perpetual expression of joy.
Giver of all things, you have blessed us with far more than we need in our lives. You have given us shelter and food, clothing and transportation, employment and children. And yet we struggle and sometimes disagree about how we should spend our money. We can't always decide whose needs or wants should have priority. We can't always agree on how much we should spend on Christmas and birthday gifts. We can't always be clear about which charities should receive our gifts. We can't always decide whether we should buy a new car or repair the old one.
Forgive us, Lord, when we forget to thank you for your abundance. Help us to distinguish between what is necessary and what is desired. Cleanse us from the sin of covetousness and direct our decisions about how to spend or save our money. Help us to remember to give to you first and to trust that you will provide the rest. Keep our hearts focused on what is most important-you, our faith, our family. Guard us against greed and the desire to accumulate earthly goods, which are only temporary. Keep our eyes trained on your eternal treasures so that what we have here becomes less important. When we disagree on how our income should be used, remind us of your greatest gift, Jesus, and the poor whom you love. Then show us how to use your gifts wisely and to your glory. Amen.
Before praying, read Deuteronomy 14:22-29. This blessing described in verse 29 means that we will find a holy delight and a sacred satisfaction in the work we do, not that we will make more money.
Jesus, I confess:
I've allowed my concerns about finances to break faith with you, as if money were more important to our survival than your love, your promises, and my obedience. I have sometimes used my control of the family money as a means to control my family. I sometimes believe that because I make the most money I should have the most to say about how we spend it. I think our resources are mine to earn and deserve, not yours to give and oversee for the benefit of all. I see myself as the owner, not as your steward.
Jesus, let me begin with you:
I will obey the Lord's blessed call to tithe all the yield of our labor, for by the tithe, we will "learn to fear the Lord our God always"; I and my household, by serving the Lord, will truly experience joy; and, in return, "the Lord our God will bless us in all the work of our hands that we do."