We’re entering week seven of shelter-in-place here in Massachusetts. COVID-19 has hit us hard. The direct effects are visible in the obit section of the city paper (all 21 pages!) but also in the everyday lives of men, women, and children whose worlds have been turned upside down.
My husband and I do pastoral care and we’ve been having lots of conversations with couples who are struggling. Some are now trying to shepherd their kids through online learning while working from home and trying to be productive employees. Those who have to go to work are scrambling to figure out how to care for their kids or elderly family members. Others have lost their jobs and have no idea what the coming months may hold.
The cumulative stress can be overwhelming. Many of us are exhausted, feeling guilty because it seems we’re not doing anything well, and anxious about whether or not we too will be afflicted. All of that angst and frustration often gets expressed toward our spouse. Hence this prayer.
I encourage you to pray it slowly. Reflect on the words. If you feel convicted about any of the ways that you might not be loving well, consider apologizing to your spouse and making amends. Use this prayer to keep your accounts short and your hearts clean. You may want to pray it together on a regular basis.
BLESS AND PROTECT THIS SACRED COVENANT:
Father, in this time of unprecedented suffering and great turmoil,
In this time of loss and pain, let my marriage be a refuge from the storms.
Let this covenant provide a place of safety
where we can turn to each other
and ease our aloneness,
and our fears.
Help me to notice and value my spouse’s needs above my own,
to respect their limitations and boundaries
and to faithfully lift up their needs to you.
Give me the strength to serve even when I’m tired or feel empty.
Give me a servant’s heart.
Give me the desire to serve.
Keep me from resenting their neediness.
Give me the capacity to fulfill Philippians 2:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
Help me to be an empathetic listener.
Let my listening be an offering of love rather than an obligation.
Help me to let go of my agenda and hear my spouse on their own terms.
Father, when anger and hurts surface, give us humility to apologize quickly.
Keep us from being defensive.
Help us to forgive quickly and fully.
Help us to believe the best about each other and always offer grace and mercy.
Keep us from holding onto hurts or weaponizing them.
When there is a divide between us, give us the courage to reach across,
trusting that you are with us.
Inspire our imaginations to find a way through this difficult place.
Ignite our God-given creativity and help us direct it toward our marriage.
Let us see from your perspective.
Give us each a heart of gratitude for the person we share our lives with.
Let that gratitude help us to focus on our spouse’s strengths.
Give us the faith and hope that we need to go through each day
loving each other,
and loving others you have placed in our lives.
Continue to fill us with your Holy Spirit
that we might love extravagantly in sickness or in health,
in times of peace and times of war,
until we draw our final breath.
Stay well. Love hard.
This prayer first appeared in Pandemic Prayerbook: A Pray-at-Home Guide for the Coronavirus Crisis, complied by Darcy Cross Wiley.