During our marriage preparation weekend waaaay back in 2007, my wife and I were given some advice that I struggled with: pray together as a couple. I want to point out here that I didn’t struggle with this advice because it’s bad advice; in fact it’s quite important and good. I struggled with this advice because I’m an only-child Cradle Catholic who grew up keeping my prayers to myself, and even the suggestion of opening up my prayer life to share it with another person (even someone as close to me as my wife) sounded uncomfortable and, quite frankly, terrifying.
We’ve worked on praying together, with varying success at various points in our marriage, and I concede that things generally go better for us in our relationship when we are in the habit of doing so. But still, I struggle…
I’m happy to recognize, however, that my preferred method of prayer (silent, alone, and in my head) may not be the most helpful method. I realized this when I spent a week living with the Daughters of Saint Paul at their motherhouse in Massachusetts.
It hit me over the head from the first moment I joined the sisters in morning prayer, from the very opening “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me,” and it was precisely because it…was…slow.
As someone with a devotion to praying the Divine Office (and Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more recently), I knew many of the responses, psalms, and Gospel canticles by heart. But as I raced through the words of Zechariah during my first morning prayer with the sisters that week, only to embarrassingly find myself two lines ahead of them within moments, I instantly recognized that I needed to slow down.
I took a deep breath and prayed aloud at the same pace as the sisters and I recognized an incredible beauty and joy in the prayers we were reciting that I had always rushed past before without even realizing it. When I prayed the Divine Office (or the Rosary, or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or even the Prayer before meals for that matter) by myself at home, I prayed it in my head, silently, and quickly.
Now that I was in an environment where everyone was praying together, out loud, and at a slower pace, I began to be overwhelmed by the beauty and joy of the words, the heartfelt petitions, and the powerful crying out to God.
After leaving the motherhouse, this takeaway has had the biggest impact on me (a close second being the incredible value coffee has on our evangelization efforts). Since coming home, I have tried to be more intentional about praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary out loud, slowly praying the Rosary aloud even though I’m in my car all by myself and it feels kind of awkward, and slowly repeating “For the sake of His sorrowful passion…” instead of rushing through it as quickly as humanly possible.
And it’s been great, you guys.
Slowing down, praying out loud even when I’m alone, and becoming more intentional about my prayers has not only led to my prayer life feeling like it’s finally getting back on the right track, but has also helped me to recognize the power of slowing down in other parts of my life as well.
And for that (and many other reasons, of course), I will be eternally grateful to the Daughters of Saint Paul.
So, what are you waiting for? Take a deep breath, and start practicing the art of praying slowly.
Tommy Tighe is a Catholic husband and father of five boys. You can find out more about him at CatholicHipster.com.