I've been reading a lot of books in preparation for marriage (and I read a lot in general), but it occurred to me that as much as I desire a great marriage and worry about things and think about our future married life together, I don't consistently pray for my fiance.
Yeah, for real.
I realized that I tend to pray when I'm in church, whether for mass or eucharistic adoration. I tended to go to adoration a LOT more last year before my new workout routine took the place of that on my daily commute this year, and during the rest of the day/week, I tend to pray in desperate moments or occasionally in moments of thanksgiving. I might offer up a halfhearted Our Father as I drift off to sleep, and I often listen to religious broadcasting (podcasts, radio, etc.), but basically, my prayer life sucks.
I have operated under the assumption that G-d knows my heart, less is more, and that I keep G-d in my mind and heart without having a set schedule/routine of prayer. I guess I thought it was working for me.
But, lately, I started to realize that maybe that's not the best way. I'm not a "spiritual, but not religious" type. I'm spiritual and religious. I see the value in religion, and I love my Catholic faith. In other areas of my life, it doesn't work for me to have zero structure. I have to plan when and how I work out in order to exercise at all. I have to set an alarm clock to get up and go to work. I plan each week and put it on my calendar that I will go to mass. Even my fiance and I set regular date nights and regular "work on the relationship" nights (different from dates). I plan and cook my meals for the week in advance so I'm encouraged to make healthy choices. So, why did prayer slip into the nebulous area of self-governance? Or an internal matter of the heart only?
I think I still have a lot of residual rebellion. Part of it is my prideful and selfish nature. Part of it is the inherent rebellion of Protestantism that remains (no offense to Protestants, this is just something I'm still unraveling in my own experience). I feel like I can take matters into my own hands and be just as well off. I feel like I can be my own authority and be great. I feel like my wisdom outweighs the wisdom of 2,000 years of Church wisdom and authority from Christ Himself. And (news flash), it doesn't compare.
It is important and necessary to have a personal relationship with G-d, but that does not mean a relationship without structure, format, or follow-through. A relationship of simply good intentions really doesn't do much in the "real world," and I doubt it does much in the spiritual realm either. I love the liturgy of the Church. Why am I so reluctant to apply some liturgy/structure/a plan to my own prayer life?
Well, after reading some marriage preparation books and thinking about all this stuff, after surviving yet another mediocre Lenten season, I have become really convicted and aware of how much I do not pray for my fiance. I have all these hopes, fears, expectations, worries. They come through my mind as fleeting thoughts or disastrous, panicky thoughts. I might pray in that moment, but why am I not consistently praying for him? The Bible talks about "when you pray and fast", not "if you pray and fast..."
So, I really believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to me that I am called to pray for my future husband. Not in a fleeting, passing, mediocre way, but in an intentional, consistent way. In fact, I need to fast and pray for our marriage, and for other needs of the world and my family. The more I realize the self-sacrificing love that marriage requires of me and my fiance, I am convinced that is the life I am called to, but I am also terrified. When I see threats to our relationship, whether internal or external, I realize that I could have done more on my part to pray for him and us, not just put out a fire as it happens or become overtaken with anxiety. I know that prayer isn't a magic fix for everything, but I do believe it works. It is powerful. It involves G-d, not just me. And at the very least, I can die a little bit to myself as I pray for these intentions.
So, I may have been Catholic now for eight years, but I'm just now figuring out that maybe I need to pray in a more Catholic way. I've got a prayer book, and I may buy a Liturgy of the Hours book (we will see how well this goes first before I take that leap). But each day, I'm going to say prayers - written prayers by others, or reading the Bible in the form of Psalms or Proverbs as prayer. I'm going to say prayers in the morning and at night. I'm going to mention my needs, intentions, and requests by name, and I'm going to fast each week for our marriage. Fridays, perhaps?
I am excited about this because I know it's the right thing to do. I'm also a little worried that I'm behind. Why didn't I think of this already? Why haven't I been doing this since before we even dated, or since we got engaged? I'm too selfish to do this on my own. It's taken years for G-d to make me aware of this area of neglect. I want to be a supportive wife, and one way I can do this is try pray, pray, pray for my husband and marriage. (And other needs.)
It's been a journey with G-d. While I've been Catholic now for about eight years, it wasn't until I began going to the sacrament of reconciliation consistently and also until I stopped committing mortal sin consistently that I have finally heard G-d's voice in my life and grown deeper and deeper. I still have a long way to go, but staying close to G-d in the sacraments has finally gotten through to me. Confession is powerful. It has brought more grace to me than anything. Once I got honest and agreed with G-d about what is wrong and what is right, doing the right thing became so much easier because I had the grace to do it and I had confessed my sins. More on that another time.