Most of us are familiar with the little adage that “couples who pray together stay together.” Few of us doubt this is true. But most of us don’t realize how a great deal of impressive academic research proves its truth time and again and has done so for more than a decade.
An article published by the Institute for Family Studies gives a brief overview of some of this research. It explains that a couple’s regular devotion to and shared intimacy with the Creator of the universe can absolutely transform a marriage. Clinical research demonstrates that couples experience a great number of marital benefits when they regularly pray together. It increases forgivingness, emotional and sexual fidelity, relational happiness, trust and unity. It even improves conflict resolution, helping the couple realize that as they have individually been unconditionally forgiven by God, so they’re to forgive others.
Why is a couple’s prayer life such an important aspect of marital happiness? Scholars explain that it likely has to do with Christian couples experiencing what they call a “gravitational pull” toward each other when they commune and communicate with God “as a personified being possessing specific qualities and interests toward their marriage — a marriage advocate.” Through the invitation of prayer, God becomes an intimate daily partner in their relationship. Thus God is the “transcendent gravitational presence and pull [that] can be felt daily in their relationship.” How can that not be effectual on a stronger, happier, more enduring marriage?
The research points to three different situations in which couples pray together. They each happen in different instances and have unique marital enhancing effects.
Fire-prevention prayer. This is prayer that takes place every day with the couple. They’re establishing a system in which they can address God with issues that are arising in their life, relationship and family. By asking God to intervene early, it encourages and allows the couple to deal with problems before they become serious.
Fire-extinguisher prayer. This takes place during or just following a relational hot spot. The couple is able to recognize and agree that right now is a good time to lay down the weapons they have set against each other and join together in using the tool of mutual prayer. This can de-escalate emotions and even bring healing.
Band-Aid prayer. This form of prayer takes place after a relational crisis. The couple looks back at the event and seeks to create a healing situation, with spouses confessing their individual contribution to the problem and offering their apologies for being hurtful.
All of these are helpful — and even essential — to a thriving marriage, and couples often need to employ each of them. But it’s clear that daily fire-prevention prayer is the ideal. It provides consistent opportunities for spiritual intimacy between spouses and with God. This translates positively into every other area of intimacy between spouses. Not only are they inviting God into their lives routinely, but He also becomes a regular partner there.
That’s why couples who pray together stay together.
Glenn T. Stanton is director of Global Family Formation studies at Focus on the Family.
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