The Power of Prayer in Marriage
By Dan Vis
Have you ever heard someone tell you 50% of all marriages end in divorce? That most of the marriages which do survive are unhappy? And that the divorce rate within the church is no better than the divorce rate in the world? Well, I have good news for you. None of those statements are true!
In 2014, a Harvard-trained researcher named Shaunti Feldhahn, published a book entitled "The Good News About Marriage." In it, she reported her findings from an extensive eight year study on marriage and divorce. According to Feldhahn: The divorce rate of first time marriages is around 20-25%, and has actually been declining for decades.
Most couples are happy. In fact, 80% of those who have been married for 5 years or more report being happy.
The divorce rate among couples who attend church regularly is as much as 50% lower than those who don't.
You can read more about her study in this post at Western Journalism from a couple years back.
Another article by Dr. David Stoop cites an even more shocking statistic: the divorce rate among couples who pray together on a daily basis is less than one per thousand. That makes prayer an almost fool-proof way to secure your marriage! Unfortunately, he cites another statistic: only 4% of Christian couples actually do pray...
How to Get Started
Here's a few tips to help you get your partner to join with you in this vitally important practice:
1. Be hopeful. Don't use guilt to motivate your partner to pray with you. Rather, be positive and optimistic. Invite them with a smile. If they are unwilling at first, stay cheerful. Begin praying privately that God will work in their heart, and invite them again another time.
2. Start with a challenge. Join with your church in doing a 30-day marriage challenge or something similar. Making a commitment to do something everyday for the rest of your life can seem overwhelming. A shorter goal may be more appealing. And if your partner enjoys the experience, they may just want to continue.
3. Keep it short. People are busy these days, and trying to squeeze in an extra hour a day for prayer can be tough. So instead, ease into it, even if that means keeping it to 5 minutes a day or less. Refuse to hold your spouse hostage to long prayers. As prayer becomes a more regular part of your lives, the time may gradually increase, but let it happen naturally.
4. Be flexible. While it is best to schedule a regular time for prayer, and skipping days now and then is a sure fire way to break a good habit, stuff happens. Be flexible when your spouse can't meet with you, or wants to postpone/reschedule. A failure to be gracious in such situations will turn your prayer time together into a duty or obligation. Don't let that happen!
What Do We Pray About?
Some people feel uncomfortable praying with their partner, because their partner's prayers seem more directed at them than God. One way to avoid that is to learn how to focus on praying blessings.
Don't whisper a word that might make your partner feel judged or condemned. If issues need to be addressed, find a different time to discuss them. Keep your prayer time as loving and supportive as possible.
Don't pour out your heartaches and anxieties. Your spouse may not know how to deal with that kind of pressure. Save those for your private time with God. He can handle any burdens.
Don't come with a long laundry list of personal requests. If there are one or two urgent matters that are important to both of you, don't ignore them. But don't make these your focus.
Rather, learn to pray blessings.
Thank God for qualities you admire in your spouse. Express gratitude for things they have done that you like. Celebrate the positive ways your spouse makes you feel. And then ask God to do special things for your partner: protect them, guide them, give them wisdom, success, happiness. Pray they would feel God's presence throughout the day--His peace, love, and joy. Don't just pray with them, pray for them.
Use your prayer time to practice focusing your mind on the most kind, caring thoughts you can muster. Eventually, those feelings will spill out from your prayer time into the rest of the day. And your marriage will be stronger and richer as a result!
Dan Vis is a pastor in the Chicagoland area and is president of FAST Missions, a discipleship ministry dedicated to helping people learn to memorize the Word.