Here’s an interesting observation. Never in all my years of ministering to youth and families and counseling couples have I ever encountered a couple that prayed together and experienced serious difficulties. Nor have I ever known a couple that, once they had agreed to pray together and stuck to it, ended up getting a divorce. Praying together restores balance and priorities in a marriage because it recognizes that God loves both partners equally. Furthermore, bringing a disagreement before the bar of ultimate justice removes it somehow from the influence of human bitterness. People change their tone of voice when they pray, and it becomes almost impossible to remain argumentative.
Marriage experts Les and Leslie Parrott reported a recent study that showed that couples that attend church, even as little as once a month, increase their chances of staying married for life. Studies also show that churchgoers feel better about their marriages than those who don’t worship together. Further research shows that the happiest couples are those that pray together. Couples that pray together are twice as likely as those that don’t to describe their marriages as being highly romantic. And according to the Parrotts, married couples that pray together are 90 percent more likely to report higher satisfaction with their sex lives than couples who don’t.1 Prayer draws couples and families closer together. It’s like the young couple that decided to start their honeymoon by kneeling beside their bed to pray. The bride giggled when she heard her new husband’s prayer: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful!”
One of the common themes in the temptation narratives of the Bible is isolation. Who replenishes your relationships spiritually? Are you proactively seeking out mentors to help you grow spiritually, both as a marriage partner and as an individual? Do you have a regular personal daily time with God in prayer and devotion? Do you ever take time as a couple to participate in a couples’ retreat at your church or in one of the many programs offered around the country to enhance your marriage and your spiritual life?
About once a month, I do a marriage conference somewhere around the world. It is one of the most enjoyable and fruitful parts of my life. At each conference, I offer couples the “Closer Challenge.” This challenge is based on Cathy’s and my many years of failure to draw together toward spiritual intimacy. Call it busyness, distraction, spiritual warfare or a combination of all three, but we tried every kind of book or program. We always started off well and then quickly faded. One day a mentor of ours said, “Why don’t you try making an appointment with each other once a week?” We did. It took the pressure off and drew us closer together spiritually. We have a book out called Closer that challenges couples to take 20 to 30 minutes together a week. We challenge couples to read Scripture, focus on a topic and then dialog about the topic and pray together. We have never met a couple who has taken on the Closer Challenge who has not benefited from it.
1 Les Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1995), n.p.; also found in Les Parrott, “Why the Soul of a Good Marriage So Often Aches” in When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2001), n.p.