Our primary goal, our first vocation, as husbands and wives, is to help our spouse get to heaven, to help them grow closer to Our Lord. In fact, our marriage covenant is designed to be a reflection to each other, to our families, and to the world of how God loves us His bride, the Church. If we strive to love each other as God loves us with an unconditional sacrificial love, even our challenges in life will bring us deeper intimacy and authentic joy. There are several practical ways we can share the Gospel with our spouse so to grow in faith, hope and love.
The surest way to marital bliss is having God at the center of our marriage. Several years ago the Gallup organization identified a way to achieve a 97% increase in joy within marriage and less than 1% divorce rate – that method was to pray together as a couple. It makes sense “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:19-20).
But, what do you do if our spouse is not ready to pray as a couple every day? What if your spouse doesn't believe the same things we do? This can be a source of great strife and pain for many couples. If we desire the ultimate good of our spouse - heaven - we can and should take some important steps to help them expereince the relationship with God that give so much meaning to our own lives.
First, pray for your spouse and be their advocate before God. If you pray for your spouse faithfully, you will begin to notice the evidence of God’s grace growing in their life. You will begin to rely more on God and less on yourself. Praying for your spouse faithfully, you will become more patient with their imperfections. If you ask God, in the presence of your spouse, to help you with your imperfections, through God’s grace you will draw favor in the eyes of your spouse. And, if you praise and thank God for your spouse, they will be affirmed, inspired, and more open to allowing God more intimately into your relationship.
Second, while we are praying for our spouse, we should also be willing to make sacrifices for them. In the Gospels, when Jesus' apostles are faced with particularly difficult situations (MT 17:21, MK 9:29), he encoureges them to pray and fast. These sacrifices might not be seen by our spouse, but they will help us continue to develop a heart for others. When we are willing to sacrfice for another, we are more willing to be aware of our daily witness to others too. Consider simple fasts like giving up soft drinks or condiments at meals to get started and as you increase your prayer for your spouse you can increase your fasting.
Third, let the fragrance of your actions lure your spouse to Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 2:16). Your every look, every word, and every action should gently speak the Gospel to your spouse. Developing the virtues of self-control, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and charity in yourself will penetrate the heart of your beloved. We are to love our spouse with the same humble sacrificial love that Christ has shown us (cf. Eph. 5:21-33). When there is discord offer peace. When there is anger return with love. Where there is doubt encourage with faith. By our actions and reactions we can grow in the marital intimacy we crave and find rest in the most sacred heart of Jesus.
In his small beautiful book Spousal Prayer, Deacon James Keating, PhD observes there are four parts to achieving true intimacy:
With marital intimacy developing within the safety and trust of a prayerful and vowed relationship, your final evangelization step is to continue to invite your spouse to things. We should make an invite to enter into a deeper spiritual relationship with you and God. Schedule quiet time together, holding each other’s hands if possible, and make time to communicate as a couple with God. Invite your spouse to the sacraments, to the banquet of the Lord, in the ultimate prayer, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
But we should also continue to invite them to low pressure events around the Church community that help them meet others. This can be a great entry into a Catholic community.
Please remember, as we evangelize our spouse, we are just the instrument because God is doing the real work (Matt. 19:26). As instruments of God’s love we must constantly sharpen our skills, our virtues, our very lives to be the conduit of God’s grace and love (Eph. 6:18). As a couple, we should never stop communicating with God - pray together always.