Monday, March 3, 2008

Wife Rule #25: Prayer Pays

My religion teaches the importance of praying together as a family, and I fully endorse this activity. Besides the very real benefits of blessings and protection upon our family, prayers together each morning and evening serve as vital bookends to our daily activities; they serve to hold us up and help us keep our balance. They force us to come together, even if just for a few minutes, and cut out all outside noise. Admittedly, we can create quite a bit of noise all by ourselves, and the quality of prayer time varies greatly depending on the energy levels of everyone involved. But even our least effective family prayers produce tangible dividends, which are conspicuously missing on the occasions when we don't pray. Our family needs prayer together.

There are also lessons being taught by each offered prayer. Hopefully our children are learning gratitude, faith, and something of our values by listening to the prayers that my wife and I utter, and we learn humility and love and what is important to our children by listening to their thoughts. Prayer serves as another form of family communication, not only linking heaven and earth, but linking us to each other.

If the bonding benefits of family prayer are powerful, then the couple prayers my wife and I offer each morning and night have even greater potential. For one thing, the practical 20-second time limit we often self-impose with our kids isn't necessary when two adults pray together; we can take whatever time we need to express the feelings in our hearts. I don't know of many better ways to learn about my wife's in-most appreciations, aspirations, and anxieties, than to listen carefully when she prays aloud. I have learned a lot about her and those she loves, from our couple prayers together.

And I hope that she learns about me too, by listening to the prayers I say when it's my turn. Like her, I don't ever alter my prayer for her ears, but it's always nice to know that she's listening and to feel connected at the end of a prayer. Don't get me wrong--the quality of our couple prayers isn't always high either. Often times it's pretty late before we get around to getting to our knees, but again, the prayers always pay dividends.

Now, entertainment value isn't usually one of those dividends, but then again, couple prayers don't usually involve background singing, either. There are exactly two instances of this unusual behavior in our marriage history. The first time, I was saying the prayer, when my thoughts kept being drawn into a quiet, pleasant, humming sound. Was it a heavenly choir? I finally realized that my wife's mind had wandered completely away from the prayer and she was quietly humming one of her favorite tunes (she sounded pretty good, too).

I have to admit that I found this minor deviant behavior highly amusing, and I gave her a pretty good ribbing about it afterwards. Not to say that I usually focus like a laser beam during her prayers--my mind frequently catches hold of something she says, and then wanders off down a different path than where she has gone in her prayer. It's a fault I have struggled with for years. But honestly, who ever heard of becoming so distracted that you start singing an unrelated song during a prayer? I chuckled myself to sleep that night.

So of course, you know that I was perfectly poised for a big fall when a few days later I found myself singing a song while she was saying our couple prayer! I have no rational explanation for this odd behavior except that the Just Desserts Fairy must have visited our room that night. When my wife finished praying, she had that look in her eye--you husbands know it--that half-twinkle, half-smirk that lets me know I've been had. She of course was more dignified than I was, and refrained from teasing me too hard about it. But I had to admit, I felt pretty silly.

So what is the Wife Rule in this story? Perhaps just that I learned not to be too eager to enjoy myself at her expense, because my turn to foot the funny bill, no matter how unlikely it seems at the time, always manages to come around. As they say, "The Couple that Prays Together, Laughs Last." Or something like that.

No comments: