Praying Together Helps Couples Stay Together
Rev. Fr. Charles Joanides, Ph.D., LMFT
When I conduct premarital preparation workshops and marital enhancement workshops, at some point during the day, I may ask participants some questions to determine how many couples pray together. Here’s the approach I use.
First Question - Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have ever tried praying? In response to this question, usually everyone raises their hands.
Second Question - How many pray when you’re experiencing challenges and problems? Please respond by a show of hands. A response to this question is also usually unanimous.
Third Question - How many pray when you aren’t experiencing challenges? Please respond with a show of hands. The response rate is also usually almost unanimous.
Fourth Question - How many pray together as couples on Sundays? Let’s have a show of hands. Once again, the response rate is generally high.
Final Question - So, if you’re all familiar with the benefits of prayer, then here’s my last question. How many couples pray together at home? Without fail, this question usually creates some discomfort and elicits the fewest number of responses. Sometimes I can count the number of couples on one hand.
Benefits of Praying Together
Judging from the responses I’ve received during this exercise, I suspect that many couples fail to pray together at home. I’m not certain why, and in many ways this is not important. From my perspective, what’s more important is that you’re aware that research indicates that couples who pray together, have a greater probability of reporting higher levels of marital satisfaction and staying together. The following results from a research study I reviewed recently validate this point.
- Partners who pray together are more willing to forgive their partner for a transgression.
- Prayer protects marriage partners from risk factors like drinking to excess, viewing pornography and excessive buying habits.
- Prayer decreases infidelity.
- Prayer helps couples count their blessings.
- Couples who pray together are more likely to have common goals.
- Couples who pray together are more likely to regulate their emotions or not get angry.
- Couples who pray together report feeling as though they have a 24/7 social support system.
The Life Blood of our Spiritual Lives
Of course, this information should come as no surprise to those who have engaged in this blessed activity. Prayer is the life blood of any Christian lifestyle. It serves to feed and nurture our spirits and souls. I’m convinced that this is the reason why Saint Paul would counsel us to “…pray constantly…” (I Thess. 5:17). Coming from the same perspective, Saint Basil of Caesarea, would write the following about prayer. “Without it [prayer], our spirits wither and die.” I could easily fill a number of pages with similar quotes from other Christ-centered people. Bottom line, prayer is to our souls what water and food is to our bodies. Through our efforts to pray, the transcendent becomes accessible. More than any other spiritual discipline, prayer functions to keep God at the center of our lives. It nourishes and strengthens us with increased faith through God’s hope, love, increased faith, mercy and forgiveness.
Just as prayer is important to our personal spiritual well-being, it is as important to our well-being as couples. The act of standing before our Creator with the closest person in our lives, while disclosing our innermost needs, or lamenting our worst failings, can be a humbling restorative experience. Couple prayer can repair severed connections, strengthen our mutual efforts, enhance understanding and provide time for forgiveness. So, don’t underestimate this strategy in your efforts to either reclaim the love that has been lost or protect the love you hold in common with one another.
Tips for Praying Together
If you’re interested in introducing couple prayer into your lives, here are some guidelines that should prove helpful.
- Make an appointment to discuss this topic. During your discussion, talk about some of the benefits and challenges you might encounter respectfully and prayerfully.
- Should you both decide it’s not time to begin developing a prayer life together, then don’t dismiss this strategy outright. Instead, try and leave some room for you to revisit this subject in the near future. Incidentally, this might be a good time to consider meeting with your priest. He may be able to provide some helpful insights.
- If you decide to try praying together, my recommendation is that you begin praying together at dinner and on special occasions such as birthdays, name days and Thanksgiving. Beyond these suggestions, you might also consider prayer in the evening before bedtime. In this case, a prayer book might help facilitate this process.
- Prayer can also prove most beneficial when you are struggling with a seemingly irreconcilable couple issue or some outside challenge. In these cases, find some private space, come together and stand before God and speak to Him about the issue as you might speak to Him alone. For instance, let’s suppose you’re having problems deciding how to handle an issue related to your children. Here’s an example of a prayer one of you might offer. “Dear Father, help us to gain a deeper understanding of this issue. We do not understand what is keeping us from coming to some resolution. However, it may have something to do with what I’ve said or done. (At this point, mention what you’ve said or did that may have contributed to this issue.) I also want to gain a better understanding of my partner’s view of this challenge. Please help me obtain this understanding. I also want to ask you to forgive me, and help me avoid repeating these sins. I also want (mention spouses’ first name) to know that I love him, and I shall try to make some changes in Your Holy Name. Amen.” Once the first person has completed their prayer, if the other spouse is comfortable, they should then proceed with their prayer.
- As you get better at this, you might want to introduce some common prayers from your religious background at the beginning and end of this process.
In a world that undermines marital oneness and separates couples, praying together is yet another powerful way to help you protect oneness. So, if you’re not praying together at home, make it a point today to ask God to help you both incorporate couple prayer into your lives. Like the personal benefits that you derive from your personal prayer, praying together can be equally helpful.