God has invited us to come into his presence. He has told us that he is with us and within us, that he is waiting to hear from us, and that he can and will respond to us.
Our spirits, like our bodies, have requirements for health and growth. Some people don’t want to pay the price of developing good spiritual habits. Sadly, they end up paying the much higher price of spiritual disease and even death. Do we want to form any habits that would increase our spiritual health?
Two warnings that are some extremes that some people choose: One, it to make a list of things to ask for or have a special formula of what to say. The second, to let go and let God do whatever he want to do, and I will just see what happens.
Ask the Expert: When they ask Jesus he responded, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by all… When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.
Pray regularly, Jesus said, “When you pray,” not “if you pray.”
Pray privately. God is not impressed by public displays of piety.
Pray sincerely. God is not interested in formulas. He wants to hear what is on your heart.
Pray specifically. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model.
Name some habits that contribute to spiritual health.
I used to think that happy couples didn’t have to work on their marriages. True love is free and easy, right?
The happiest of couples are those who make their marriage a priority and are committed to improving their relationship, in big and small ways, day in and day out. A happy marriage takes work. Lots of work. And a healthy dose of sacrifice too.
“How to live a good marriage? United to the Lord, who always renews our love and strengthens it to overcome every difficulty.”
That sounds very nice, but how exactly are we to unite ourselves and our marriages to the Lord? Well, Lent is all about uniting ourselves to the Lord, growing closer to Christ, and, in some small ways, sharing in our Lord’s redemptive suffering. Why not make a commitment to unite yourself to the Lord by making some changes and small sacrifices to improve your marriage this Lent? Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Give up negativity.
Do you whine and complain to your spouse? Do you criticize and judge too harshly and too quickly? It’s okay to admit. Many of us do become comfortable in long-term, committed relationships and fall into the easy habit of venting regular negativity to our spouse. Some of this kind of venting can be a normal part of a healthy relationship, but negative words and attitudes tend to feed, grow, spiral downward, and rob you of joy.
For Lent, resolve: I will avoid making negative comments and observations to my spouse. I will seek out positive things to say and foster encouraging conversations we can enjoy together.
2. Be active together.
What do you and your spouse do after the kids have gone to bed or whenever you have downtime together? Do you silently stare at a flickering television screen? Do you retreat to separate corners of the house, each pursuing your own activities?
There is nothing inherently wrong with television or independent projects, but Lent offers a unique opportunity to replace these things with shared activity that will feed your marriage and nurture your relationship.
Shared goals and common activities bring you closer and foster a cooperative spirit in your marriage. Think of something the two of you can actively participate in together. You might exercise together—taking a daily walk is an easy way to connect and engage. You might play board games, plan a summer garden, tackle a home improvement project, or take a class together. The key is to find something you will both enjoy doing together.
For Lent, resolve: I will replace some of our daily passivity and separation with an activity my spouse and I both enjoy. I will commit to spending regular time together, focused on common goals, and enjoying one another’s company.
3. Do more than your share.
Do you nitpick and keep track of who does what around the house and how often? Do you feel like you are the only one who ever changes the toilet paper roll/empties the dishwasher/takes out the trash/fill in this blank with your own pet peeve?
When you share living space with another grown up, it’s only human to feel unappreciated on occasion and get annoyed with what sometimes feels like an unfair division of household chores. But this Lent offers a challenge for you to be better than that. Stop nitpicking. Stop keeping score. Cheerfully aim to do “more than your share” of household tasks and daily drudgery. Looking for small ways to do “more than your share” is a small sacrifice you can offer up as a Lenten sacrifice, but also a practical means of letting go of the pettiness, selfishness, and bitterness that threaten to poison your married relationship.
For Lent, resolve: I will stop keeping track of my spouse’s daily contributions to household chores. Instead, I will look for ways to do extra work myself and take on tasks that are “not my job” with a spirit of cheerful generosity and out of love for our Lord.
4. Pay more compliments.
Can you think of a time when someone said something critical of you and it cut you to the core? Can you think of a time when someone complimented you and you felt over the moon? Words have real power and are an important tool we can use build up those we love … or tear them down.
Lent presents a challenge for you to use the positive marriage-building power of words. Find something complimentary to say to your spouse every day. Is she worried about her aging appearance? What can you say to make her know just how beautiful you think she is? Is he stressed about work? What words can you say to let him know how much you notice and appreciate his dedication and hard work on behalf of your family?
For Lent, resolve: I will pay my spouse a sincere and specific compliment at least once every day. I will look for ways to affirm my spouse as a parent, as a friend, as a worker, and as the most important person in my life.
5. Pray together.
Some couples avoid praying together because it makes them feel awkward or embarrassed. Others see it as too much of a time commitment. But there is no better way to unite yourself and your marriage to the Lord than by putting yourselves in his presence, together.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You might like to pray extemporaneously together, but if that’s not your style, simply praying a Hail Mary together before going to sleep at night, or praying the Angelus in the morning can be beautiful ways to unite your hearts in prayer. You might also try reading scripture together. Choose a Psalm or a Gospel passage to read aloud and then share what is on your hearts with each other and with God. Just this one small practice can help you not only grow closer to God, but it can help you get to know your spouse on a whole new—spiritual—level. Shared spirituality is an intimacy every couple deserves to experience.
For Lent, resolve: I will set aside time to pray with my spouse every day. I will overcome any personal reluctance I might have and commit to praying with and for my spouse on a daily basis.
6. Soak up the sacraments.
We Catholics have such a great gift in the sacraments! Because he loves us, Jesus gave us the sacraments as a means of attaining the grace we need to do God’s will every day. The sacraments feed our souls, heal us, and fill us with God’s own life.
This all sounds wonderful, but how often do we take the sacraments for granted? Do we remember that our marriages themselves are a sacrament and ask God to give us the graces we need to grow in love together? Do we receive the Eucharist unthinkingly and avoid confession?
This Lent, challenge yourself to find new ways to partake in the sacraments with your spouse. You might make time for a weekly Holy Hour together, attend an extra Mass per week, or have a “confession” date followed by dinner out. Find a way to put yourself and your spouse in God’s presence more often, and you will find yourselves growing closer to one another as you grow in love for God.
For Lent, resolve: I will find new ways to receive and appreciate the sacraments with my spouse. I will pray daily for the sacramental grace from our marriage and look for more opportunities to receive the Eucharist and sacrament of Penance together.
These are everyday words we often use with others, but sometimes neglect to use enough with those we love most. Lent offers us an opportunity to think about the healing power of everyday words and use them to build our marriages and communicate love, appreciation, and humility to our spouses.
Use the word “please” to soften the everyday demands of life and the ongoing requests we all make of each other in marriage. Think of some thankless task your spouse does for you on a regular basis (making dinner? emptying the trash? doing laundry? going to work? cleaning the gutters?) and look for a way to say “thank you” for their gift of service. Be quick to notice even small offenses you may be guilty of in your relationship, and offer a genuine apology for them. We all long to hear healing words, and yet sometimes fall into the bad habit of neglecting to say them or thinking our spouse “knows that already.”
For Lent, resolve: I will use healing words (please, thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you) every day. I will look for new opportunities to love, appreciate, thank, heal, and build up my spouse through small words and phrases.
Pope Francis reminds us that, like the wedding at Cana, our marriages are meant to be a celebration of love. By making some small changes, sacrifices, and commitments to improve your marriage this Lent, you and your spouse can enjoy a celebration of love that will reward you with a stronger, happier, more satisfying, and Christ-centered marriage for Easter.
With the input from the children, plan a low-cost Lenten family meal. If you have older children have them research what might have been considered a proper Lenten meal in the past. Be sure to take notice of the cost.
Share with the kids how much you would spend on a typical meal for the family when eating out, and how it compares to the minimalist meal they are helping plan. As a family, take the difference in cost between the two meals and donate the savings to a ministry or charity that cares for the poor.
The amount of money doesn’t matter. What is important is the sacrifice of the entire family and the input that the children are able to give.
If you could ask God for one miracle in your life, knowing that he would grant your request, would you ask him? Most of us have to admit that we don’t pray that often about our deepest needs. We often try to face our difficulties with our own power, because at some level we doubt if God really can make a difference in the problems that we face. Is He able to help me?
The federal deficit has dogged us for thirty plus years and not one person has ever asked me to do something about it – with good reason. I don’t have any power to effect a change in national policy that would solve our economic woes. God is able.
Believing in the Heart: God is capable of handling any problem we could bring him. Creating planets isn’t much of a problem for him. Neither is raising the dead. Nothing is too difficult for God to handle – but he’s waiting for us to recognize his power and ask for his help.
God has power over Nature: When God decided certain sear needed parting, he parted them. When his people were hungry, he dropped food from heaven or multiplied bread and fish. When his people needed water, it came from a rock. Read and reread these stories about God’s power over nature until you are convinced again they really did happen in history.
God’s Power over Hearts: He made a shy Moses a leader. He softened cruel Pharaoh’s heart. He turned a fanatical persecutor Saul in to a globe-trotting apostle. We should continue to read these passages not just to agree with the doctrine of God’s omnipotence, but that we own it. Until you own it, you will be a faint-hearted prayer. You’ll make a few wishes on your knees, but you won’t be able to persevere in prayer until you know in your heart that God is able.
Your Personal Invitation: Hang back no longer! God, through Jesus, has issued you a personal invitation to call on him anytime. You don’t need to be timid: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and fine grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). It would be foolish not to accept God’s invitation:
“You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2)
When you accept God’s invitation, miracles begin to happen. You won’t believe the changes that will occur in your life. Whatever matter to you is a priority for his attention. He’s is your Father; he want to hear from you. In fact, he’s waiting for you to call right now. He is saying, “come into my presence”, “talk to me”, “share your concerns”, “I am listening very closely hoping I will hear your voice”.
God is busy keeping the cosmos in order; He doesn’t want to hear about my little problems.
God would think I was selfish if I prayed for my own needs.
He does not have time to take care of me.
Have you made one of these statements?
(Luke 18: 1-8) “Will God not bring justice to those who cry out to him day and night?”
Don’t think that you have to figure out a way to wrench a blessing from him or somehow trick him in to giving up something he would rather keep for himself. God’s Word teaches us that God loves to bestow his blessings on his children. Have you not given something to your children and experience great joy? I believe God feel the same way about giving his blessings and grace on us, his children. Some examples from the bible are Leviticus 26:3-6, Deuteronomy 28: 2-6, 12 and 2 Samuel 12:7-9. All through the Old Testament we see the theme that God is ready and willing to share his resources with his people. IN the New Testament this concept is made even more precious where Jesus taught us to call God Father, actually, Papa or daddy. The most repeated Christian prayer starts with “Our Father”. What father would give his child a snake if he asked for a fish? None.
Some of us have a hard time accepting the gifts God gives us. Sometimes we feel guilty about the good fortune, as if we had somehow acquired something that God did not really want us to have. Give God a little credit. If imperfect fathers love to bestow blessings on their children, imagine how our perfect Father in heaven must delight in giving good gifts to us, his children.
No one’s voice sounds sweeter to God than yours. Is anything holding you back from making your requests known to him right now?
Do you feel comfortable going to God with your problems?
What factors cause you to think that God is unwilling to respond to your prayers?
When do you have a hard time accepting God’s gifts? Why?
When you think of God’s generosity, how often do your thoughts center on material blessings? Why?