October 12, 2011

Are you dating prayerfully?

By Anthony Buono *
Many unmarried persons are seriously interested in finding love and getting married, and are serious about their religious beliefs and sharing that faith with someone in marriage.

However, many of these persons are without the close friendship of God to accompany that which they profess to take seriously.

What do I mean? Isn't a person serious about their faith close to God? Well, yes and no. Those of us who love God know very well that we don't love Him as much as we should, nor do we include Him in our everyday life as we should. We are all sinners precisely because of this fact.

Jesus told us to pray without ceasing for an important reason. It seems unfathomable, and probably crazy, to most people to pray constantly, and impossible to do.

But this is truly and literally how we need to approach our lives. Not just seriously, but prayerfully.

How often have you witnessed in dating others (or within yourself) inconsistency with what is professed as belief and the words and behavior?

Christians who are dating each other are confused and get damaged or discouraged because the expectation of taking Christian life seriously is tainted by experiencing rudeness, lack of charity, insensitivity, and all manner of things contrary to love as Jesus taught it.

The seriousness about dating in order to find a marriage partner is unproductive and unsuccessful because the individuals involved are not serious about being Jesus to each other.

Being like Jesus and bringing Him to others is serious business. And it must be taken "prayerfully." Not just seriously, but prayerfully. Jesus wanted us to know that if we are going to be like Him and maintain sharing His very life, we must pray without ceasing.

The more prayer is involved in our life, the more Christ-like we are. If we are not prayerful, we are left to ourselves, which means sin is not far behind.

Dating is frustrating for many because it does not seem to be much of a Christian experience. You have individuals who ARE Christian just kind of putting that aside while they take care of more "important" things like their selfish desires and personal pleasures. After all, God wants us to be happy, right? So we should date with a mindset to find someone who makes us happy, right?

Well, perhaps. But not at the expense of the purpose of dating, which is getting into the vocation of marriage, nor the dignity of the person, which is the treatment of Christian love that every person we date deserves.

We should be praying at every step along the dating path, including each date and inbetween dates. Asking the Lord, the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, our Guardian Angel, or anyone in heaven or purgatory, for help as to what say next or what would be the proper thing to do, or to protect you from a temptation, or to smile when you might be inclined to say something rude, etc.

How many people do this kind of praying while on their dates? My guess is not many do. They just wing it on their own and hope for the best as they interact with the other person.

This is high risk, primarily because we are prone to sin and messing things up, but also because this kind of approach can disconnect us too much from the heart of our moral compass. I’m sure many people feel that they are a good Catholic and pray for God’s assistance and all that, and that means they have enough in place to be okay on their own as they interact with others.

Of course, some are able to do this better than others because they have developed personal human virtue enough that they have good social habits. But even those persons need to keep attentive to what they say and do, and should remain connected to the divine as they interact with people.

For most of us, there are too many bad habits in the way we speak and act that require us to be careful and to invoke divine assistance in the moments, not just at the beginning or end of the day. For those who are dating, this is imperative. Our selfishness is always at work to dominate our interpersonal relationships, so the connection to God and His angels and saints will go a long way in navigating us appropriately through these relationships, especially the beginning stages when first impressions are so important.

Here are some examples of what might be petitioned in the moment on a date:

  • “Help me stop focusing on the physical, and pay attention to the whole person”
  • “Help me to overcome my initial feeling to pull back, and give this fellow Christian my best and my full attention”
  • “Help me to recover from not liking what they said and restore your peace in me” “
  •  "Help me to refrain from staring lustfully at this woman, or looking at other women while with this one”
  •  “Help me to resist correcting what he said or from dominating the conversation”
  •  “Help me to stop talking about myself and show more interest in him or her”
  •  “Help me not take the way they speak or eat or certain mannerisms too decisively”

Thinking before we speak is a form of prayer. But actually including a heavenly person is better. We cannot have the habit of being thoughtful until we have the habit of considering in thought before we speak or do. And thinking before we act is critical.

Praying in the moment does wonders for keeping us on the right path. None of us are beyond doing stupid things, or going as far as to ruin perfectly good opportunities in our dating experiences even though we are generally good people. If we don’t realize that there are things about us that might very well be unique, but not necessarily good or Godly things, and that these things need to be controlled through key virtues such as prudence, temperance, modesty, self-discipline, and moderation, we risk letting these less desirable things about ourselves be unruly, and thus more destructive than they need to be.

Praying at all times is how to keep yourself on the straight and narrow. You can still be yourself, but praying through your day can enhance your better self, and tame your lesser self. Don’t consider this impossible or too hard. The grace is there. It can be done. It takes practice. Keep it short and simple. Just ask for the help as you recognize you need it. And help will come. It’s a worthwhile habit to develop and will make all the difference in having success in your dating life.

If you have a problem with taking life prayerfully, take it up with Jesus. It was His idea, and command.

Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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