Title taken from the Orthodox Marriage Service
The prayers and hymns of the Orthodox Church are ancient and revered, but also replete with references from the Scriptures and the historical life of the Church.
Let’s take a closer look at the Marriage Service, particularly the second prayer before the crowning of the Bride and Groom. After the celebrant/priest speaks their names, he asks the Lord to bless the couple in ways He did for very special people.
For example he asks that they be: Blessed as Abraham and Sara, Joachim and Anna, and Zacharias and Elizabeth; Preserved like Noah in the Ark and Jonah in the seabeast; allowed to experience Joy like St. Helena when she found the Cross of Christ; and Remembered and Crowned like the 40 Holy Martyrs.
The prayer continues -- “Remember also, Lord our God, the parents who have brought them up, for the prayers of parents make firm the foundations of households.” It amazed me that in the middle of this prayer, the Church acknowledges the power of the parents’ prayers. Looking at this from a different perspective, the Church hopes that the parents are praying for their children.
This same prayer includes another great blessing for the couple. The celebrant offers prayers for their children and grandchildren, asking that they fill their parents’ home with great joy —“that they may see their children’s children, … may they shine like beacons in heaven.” Think about it, before we were born, before we were conceived, prayers have been said for us.
Getting back to parents’ prayers for children, when do they start? It may begin with asking the intercession of St. Anna, the mother of the Theotokos, or the Lord Himself for a child because of difficulty conceiving. Once that happens, think about how many different prayers expectant parents can pray.
First, they can offer prayers of thanksgiving to God, the Giver of Life.
Then, throughout the pregnancy it is appropriate and good to light candles and offer prayers for the physical well being of the mother and the health and safe delivery of the unborn child.
A very important part of our spiritual life as Orthodox Christians is receiving the Eucharist. As preparation for their new role as parents, the couple can receive this together if they are both Orthodox Christians, or singularly if only one is Orthodox. They both can come to Liturgy to pray.
There is no doubt that the prayers for our children will change over the years, but regardless of how old we are, we need to ask our Lord:
- To help us be the best parents and spouses we can be.
- To guide and protect our family.
- To guide and protect our children’s friends and their enemies.
- To give our children the strength to ward off temptation.
While they are in school, we need to ask our Lord to grant our children’s teachers love, patience and kindness. As Orthodox Christians, we can call upon the children’s Patron Saints to watch over, guide and protect them, as well.
We can be Informed Parents by keeping current about the physical, emotional and spiritual development, plus the social concerns (media, morals, heroes, music, etc.) of children by reading reliable information.
Our awareness will guide our parenting and direct the concerns of our prayers.
Developing and then nurturing open and natural communication with our children is of utmost concern. We need God’s guidance to nurture these relationships, and depending on the ages of our children, the wisdom to be a good listener without giving our opinion, to ask before offering an opinion, to offer an opinion when asked, and to say the appropriate words. An active liturgical life can help us develop the strength we need.
Son and Daughters-in-Law - When do parents begin thinking about their children getting married? What about our future sons or daughters-in-law? Is there anything we can do?
Four concerns come to mind as the mother of daughters.
1. Will their husbands be men of Faith?
2. Will their young husbands have learned how to love their future wives?
3. Will they lovingly accept my daughters' shortcomings?
4. Will they agree to "work out" the inevitable problems or will they quickly “give up”?
Before my daughters were teenagers and dating, a friend with sons of similar age shared that she had begun praying for her future daughters-in-law. This is something we all can do.
I began to pray to the Lord to protect and guide my future sons-in-law as they mature and become the faithful and responsible men who will love and complement my daughters. I added praying for “boyfriends,” too, since these young men would be in their lives (and mine) along the way.
We all hope that our children become mature, understanding and loving adults. We want them prepared for the responsibilities as well as the joys of marriage. We can help in two ways. We can pray, asking the Lord to guide them and us and lest we forget, we need to be good examples.
Even though marriages in the Orthodox Church are not exempt from difficulties, separations and divorces, we Orthodox Christians continue to teach that God gave marriage between a man and a woman as a gift to humanity, and Jesus blessed marriage at the wedding in Cana.
Now that we know that the prayers of parents have great impact on the lives of their children’s marriage and home life, and the different prayer, if we have not started praying for our children’s (grandchildren or godchildren) future spouses, today is a good day to begin.
The next time you attend a wedding, listen for this prayer in its entirety and for all the blessings that we hope God will grant the bride and groom as they begin a new household.