St. John Paul II says that the prayer of Tobias and Sarah found in the book of Tobit has the power to free couples of all times and places from the demon which threatens to destroy the body. This bold proclamation is found in his epic work Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. He describes this prayer as a “conjugal creed.”
John Paul says the book of Tobit “has always been a favourite source of instruction on the sanctity of marriage. In it, the state of matrimony is very clearly regarded as a holy union (Tb 8:5). It is to be entered upon with a clean and upright conscience (Tb 4:13; 3:16, 18); its use is to be held sacred (Tb 6:17, 22) and approached with prayer.”
The tale revolves around a young Jewish man named Tobias who is “the chief minister of healing in the book.” The Archangel Raphael (disguised as Brother Azarias) serves as his guide. After an exciting encounter with a large fish, Raphael informs Tobias that he is to marry his kinswoman.
[T]he angel said to the young man, “Brother, today we shall stay with Raguel. He is your relative, and he has an only daughter named Sarah. I will suggest that she be given to you in marriage, because you are entitled to her and to her inheritance, for you are her only eligible kinsman. The girl is also beautiful and sensible. (Tb 6:10-12 RSVCE)
However, Tobias has reason to be afraid:
Then the young man said to the angel, “Brother Azarias, I have heard that the girl has been given to seven husbands and that each died in the bridal chamber. Now I am the only son my father has, and I am afraid that if I go in I will die as those before me did, for a demon is in love with her, and he harms no one except those who approach her. So now I fear that I may die and bring the lives of my father and mother to the grave in sorrow on my account. And they have no other son to bury them.” (Tb 6:13-14)
Raphael assures Tobias that he is destined to marry Sarah. He instructs Tobias to dispel the demon Asmodeus by burning the heart and liver of the fish and to pray to God for mercy.
But the angel said to him, “Do you not remember the words with which your father commanded you to take a wife from among your own people? Now listen to me, brother, for she will become your wife; and do not worry about the demon, for this very night she will be given to you in marriage. When you enter the bridal chamber, you shall take live ashes of incense and lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish so as to make a smoke. Then the demon will smell it and flee away, and will never again return. And when you approach her, rise up, both of you, and cry out to the merciful God, and he will save you and have mercy on you. Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity. You will save her, and she will go with you, and I suppose that you will have children by her.” When Tobias heard these things, he fell in love with her and yearned deeply for her. (Tb 6:15-22 emphasis added)
The ancients believed that foul odors would magically drive way demons. However,
In the book of Tobit, the magical nature is muted; it is recommended by an angel along with prayer as only one part of a complicated remedy…The prayer indicates that the banishing of the demon is not due to magic, but to the power of God.
The Conjugal Creed
After Tobias and Sarah are married, they retired to the bridal chamber. Before consummating their marriage with their bodies, they prayed the following:
“Blessed are you, O God of our fathers,
and blessed for all generations is your name.
Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you for all ages.
You created Adam, and you created his wife Eve
to be a help and support for him.
From the two of them the whole human race was born.
You said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;
let us make him a help similar to himself.’
Now it is not out of lust that I take this sister of mine, but with
righteousness of intention. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that
we may grow old together.”
And they both said, “Amen, Amen.” (Tb 8:5-8)
Thwarting the Demon’s Attack
Christopher West in his book Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II’s Man and Women He Created Them explains that Tobit 8:5 directly thwarts the attack posed by the demon in the Garden of Eden:
In Genesis, the serpent wanted the first spouses to question God’s benevolence, so he aimed his attack straight at God’s character: “Did God really say…” (Gen 3:1). As a precise antidote to this attack on God’s name, Tobias and Sarah begin their prayer with praise and thanksgiving: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers, and blessed is your holy and glorious name forever. Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you” (Tobit 8:5). In this way, John Paul says that Tobias and Sarah speak in some sense for all of creation — both visible and invisible.
How does the conjugal creed apply to marriages today?
West says that Tobias’s prayer empowers married couples to be confident in love’s victory over evil. “It enables them to ‘go without hesitating toward this …test of life-or-death.’ And in this test ‘life has the victory, because…love supported by prayer is revealed as stronger than death.’”
He says that spouses can overcome the diabolical threat of evil when “they open their union totally to the presence of the living God… [for] there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1Jn 4:18)”. He adds,
John Paul declares: “The truth and strength of love are manifested in the ability of [love] to place itself between the forces of good and of evil that fight within man and around him because love is confident in the victory of good and is ready to do everything in order that good may conquer’ (TOB 115:2). No sacrifice is too great for true lovers — no suffering too much to bear — when it is needed to ensure the victory of good over evil, love over lust, life over death. This is precisely the testimony of the cross, of Christ’s spousal love for the Church. This is precisely the perfect love in which every husband and wife are called to participate.”
When God’s design for marriage is your “conjugal creed,” death has no chance. Life refuses to surrender. Because of the eros-agape love that united them in “one flesh,” Tobias and Sarah witness to God as the God of life. Their union joyously proclaims: “Where O death, is your victory: Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).
How about it?
Overcome the diabolical threat of evil against your marriage by praying together the ancient prayer of Tobias and Sarah before going to bed!
May God bless you and give you hope as you trust in His wonderful plan for your marriage.
 C. F. DeVine, “The Book of Tobias,” A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by B. Orchard and E. F. Sutcliffe, (Toronto, New York, Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1953), 396.
 Leander E. Keck, ed., The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. III, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 1042.
 Keck., 1040.
. Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II’s Man and Women He Created Them (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2007), 507.
 Ibid., 505.
 Ibid., 506.
 Ibid., 509