Welcome. Enter into one of the most pastoral and tender moments in all of life. In my ministry, I have practiced the use of the pastoral prayer in the Order for the Solemnization of Marriage. During this time in the service, after intentions have been declared, Scriptures read, a homily offered on one of the texts, I invite the bride and groom to follow me deeper into the chancel (a church architectural term that signifies the space where the pulpit, and in some churches, the Table, are located). These “holy movements” within worship are important. In my service at both First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, where I was the senior minister, as well as in my internship at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, one must “climb” several steps to enter the respective chancel areas. In my opinion, this is a very important part of the ecclesial design and is most appreciated during the wedding service. When we reach the chancel, I invite the Couple to kneel before me. The “kneeler” has, on occasion, been merely simple but tasteful pillows. Sometimes I have been able to offer the couple a prie-Dieu. So, there the couple kneel. Often, in this time, a solo is offered. Sometimes, there has been a special instrumental piece performed. During these remarkable moments, I look with pastoral love upon the couple, seeking to offer the loving blessing of Jesus by my presence. The anthem is complete. The solo artist takes her seat. I wait for the click of her heels to cease as she is seated. The pause is good. Silence amplifies any sounds of angelic attendance. The last distinct click of the heel still reverberating, I speak. “Let us pray.” Now, the pastoral prayer begins. This prayer, composed for Breanna and Ryan, is representative of the prayers that I have prayed through many years and over many beautiful couples. I offer this prayer today, firstly, as a gift of love to Breanna and Ryan. Secondly, I offer this for all of our kind readers, that they, too, may know the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in their own marriages. Thirdly, I ask that the Lord use this prayer to not only glorify His name but to also send His heavenly response to this supplication upon the Couple and upon all who read this.
I wear a pastoral stole when I conduct the Solemnization of Marriage: my Army Chaplain Corps white stole, “issued” by the Army (almost three decades ago) seems just right for just such wondrous occasions. During this wedding Pastoral Prayer, I bind the hands of the couple with the silken sash, wrapping the stole around their hands, with mine, as a tender moment of pastoral blessing and divine intent: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9 KJV).
As I hold their hands in mine, wrapped by the white stole of service to Christ Jesus, I look at them, love them, and pray (from Mark 10:21). Oh, how I cherish the memories of uniting couples into the Covenant of Marriage. The Spirit-kissed visions of those singular, intimate, and still moments continue to nurture vocational satisfaction, remind me of the honor and the joy of shepherding the flock of Christ through every season of life. Will you now me in this special time in the service? Be still. Listen with your ears as well as your heart. If you are married use this time to renew your vows. If you are not married, pray for the institution of marriage. Whisper a prayer for those whose unions have been tested by the storms of life or the vicissitudes of fallen nature.
Alright, then. Come closer; a little closer. Listen in as shepherd and lambs of Christ’s flock seek the approving face of the Lord. A new family is being born before you. Wet with sweet-smelling olive oil of Aaron’s anointing cup from God, the new family emerges like two butterflies taking flight into the world.
Marriage is the ever-present sign of the love of Jesus Christ for His Church and the Church for her Groom, Jesus the Lord. Let us reverence the holy institution of marriage as the golden remnant that withstood Eden’s fall, reminding us that the plan for Eden restored is already present in the world. This is the power, this is the sign of the God-ordained Covenant of Marriage.
My dearly Beloved in Christ: Let us pray.
[You may listen to this Wedding Pastoral Prayer with the video images and the accompanying music of Mark Isham (“In Half-light of the Canyon;” © 2018 Mark Isham, all rights reserved). Alternatively, you may prefer to listen to only the audio. We have provided both formats.]
THE VIDEO VERSION OF THE WEDDING PRAYER FOR BREANNA AND RYAN
THE AUDIO VERSION
The Pastoral Prayer by The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Milton
BEFORE THEE, OUR DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER, Thy humble servants come; By Thy Son we appeal to Thee, whose love is so great that Thou art love Thyself and all other desires that would reflect this love are touched with an impression of light, as the sunlight shimmers on the seas; And which love could not be constrained, so that its very essence came down from heaven to assume human form in the fleshly nursery of a maiden, the Virgin Mary, and this wonder of wonders without the aid of a man—thus, redeeming womankind from the shadows of Eden’s sinister, serpentine trickery, and redeeming her honor as the glory of Thy Creation, the highest order of Thy Divine artistry—Humanity witnessed the fullest expression of pure love fulfilled in the Incarnation of our precious Lord Jesus Christ, Thine only begotten Son, and our sweet Savior and our glorious God;
Renew all covenants of marriage here; For, Thou, O LORD, hast ordained the holy institution of marriage—the sacred union of a man and a woman, from two, one—to display in perfect union on earth the glory of Triune love in heaven; For in Thy revealed Word, our Father, we learn by lesson what we observe in experience, that a lad is alone without his bride, and the lass locates her destiny in filling what is lacking in her groom, for each needs the other, and is perfectly fitted for the other in every way; So, O Lord, we pray through the matchless name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, that a goodly portion of Thy love would fly with express intent from heaven’s altar-cloths, this day, this moment, like a silken sash woven from the unsullied hands of seraphim and cherubim, floating across the nexus of dimensions unknown, and find its home here: gently but firmly binding together the hands and hearts, spirits and minds, yes, the very bodies and persons of Breanna and Ryan; So that the two may become one;
Even now, O GOD, we ask in humble confidence that what we do on earth in Thy Name will be recorded in heaven by Thy hand; So, that throughout the coming ages, from this moment on, as the Covenant of Marriage hereby establishes a new family, according to Thy holy Commandments, Thou wouldst weave a legacy of love with a sequence of faith braiding together successive generations into one, until that Day when Jesus Christ comes again; And all true love, and all godly marriages, and all families are at last perfected in Thee, and we return those silken sashes, those nuptial cords of unity, to the altar table of God, as a thanksgiving for the earthly gift of marriage, so that God’s love to Man may be absorbed into Thy love in Thyself; That God may be all in all; This is my prayer, this is my plea; And I earnestly seek these gifts of Thy Spirit for an outpouring on our Breanna and our Ryan, on this Day, according to Thy will. recorded forever in Thy records, through the Name and merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose precious Name I pray, and for whose Kingdom’s sake, I do as Thine own unworthy minister of the Gospel, invoke the eternal blessing of God upon this eternal moment, upon this loving couple. Amen.
— A Prayer for Breanna and Ryan on their wedding day by your Poppy.
© 2018 Michael A. Milton, PhD