Do you believe prayer has a positive impact on your marriage? If you are a faithful person, you may think so, but can you prove it? A new research study provides evidence that praying for your spouse can benefit your marriage. The results were reported by Julie Baumgardner in The Washington Times.
Frank Fincham, director of the Florida State University Family Institute recently presented his research with his colleagues at an international conference on marriage and families. Fincham had wondered about the impact of prayer on a marriage, knowing that more than 90 percent of Americans have been married by age 55, and that 90 percent of them say they pray at least occasionally.
Fincham designed a four-week study and randomly assigned recruited individuals to either pray for their partner, engage in general prayer, or set aside time to think positively about life and about their partner. The participants were asked to record what they had done twice a week online.
An interesting result was that those who prayed for their partner showed a greater willingness to forgive their partner for a transgression. This fact is significant because long-term married couples report that forgiveness is one of the most important traits in their relationship, and that it contributed to their marriage’s longevity. Fincham concluded, “Based on our research, prayer clearly impacts marriage relationships in a positive way.”
Researchers took the study a step further, asking if prayer can protect a marriage partner from risk factors. Researchers focused on college students for this question, asking if talking to God makes the students less inclined to drink. Students were recruited and randomly assigned to either keep a journal daily or to pray for their partners. The results, which have been replicated, show that for the students who prayed, their partner’s alcohol consumption was reduced by 50 percent. Since alcohol is associated with violence and unfaithfulness in relationships, this was a significant finding. Researchers also found that college students in committed relationships who prayed for their partner saw a decrease in infidelity.
Why does Fincham think prayer can significantly help marriages? “Our research shows that praying for your partner can bring you back to the common goals,” he says. “When people pray, they become one with their spouse. A subtle shift occurs. Praying regulates your emotion and it never leads to anger. We know that couples who have access to social support (including prayer) tend to negotiate their relationship affairs better than anyone else.”
Baumbgardner reports that other studies have shown prayer increases gratitude, and increases in gratitude help reduce stress. She says, “Fincham noted that being grateful in life is associated with better mental health and better mental health is associated with better relationships.”
In the Times article, Baumbgardner suggests, “Incorporating prayer for your spouse into your life can be done in small steps. Start by taking a few minutes to focus on the things you like about your spouse, ask for help in relating to him or her, and be specific about what you would like to see happen in your relationship. Be willing to forgive and to realize your need for forgiveness. Try praying together and watch what happens in response. You just might be surprised.”
Are you surprised by these findings? Do you believe prayer, either alone or with your spouse, helps your marriage?
Source: “Praying for Spouse Benefits Marriage,” by Julie Baumgardner. Aug. 16, 2009, The Washington Times.