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The Marriage Secret No One Is Telling You About

marriage prayer Mar 09, 2017

My ears perked up as I listened to Pastor Sid start sharing marriage statistics. Cullen and I were engaged. We were actively thinking about how to be intentional about building a healthy, thriving marriage.

Pastor Sid shared about how the divorce rate, even for Christians, was 50%. That was not particularly inspiring. Then, there was a “but.” He went on to share a statistic that would change the course of our marriage (which hadn’t even started yet) and our lives.

“Less than 1% of couples who pray together daily get divorced.” Wait, what?! Did he just reveal the secret to a successful marriage?

Wasn’t it more complicated than that? What about communication, forgiving one another, and mutual respect? Didn’t we have to go on regular date nights? Wasn’t he going to tell Cullen to make sure that he took on chores at home and didn’t focus only on work? Wasn't he going to tell me to ask for what I needed and not always put myself last? Of course, all of those things are important. They have become important in our marriage.

And yet, when you look at the statistics about marriage success, people who might have followed all the other advice still end up divorced. And, of the 50% that remain married, how many of them are happily married?

Today, I want to share with you a very personal and very profound thing that Cullen and I do in our marriage. Of course, it’s not the only thing we do to have a strong, thriving marriage, but we believe it is the most important. And, *spoiler alert*. I already told you the secret.

We pray together. Every. Single. Day.

When we were engaged, we went to a "Couples Night Out" event at our church for engaged and married couples. We sat at a table with 2-3 other couples, shared a meal, talked, and then had a mini-lesson from the marriage and family ministry pastor. Pastor Sid, who has since passed away, was an extremely gifted teacher and speaker. He was warm, funny, and had been married to his wife, Christine, for more than 30 years at the time of this event. During his talk, he shared the research above that changed our lives. He even admitted that praying together was not something that he and Christine had done early in their marriage, but it was something they learned and now did daily.

Cullen and I both come from divorced homes. Both sets of our parents divorced after nearly 20 years of marriage. So, for us, entering into marriage was not something that we did lightly. We were committed to working on our marriage from the beginning. We were not going to settle for just “ok” or come anywhere near the place that would cause us to separate. So, we actively sought pre-marital counseling, talked with married friends, and sought God’s wisdom about marriage.

Now, back to this prayer advice. We knew that God would be the center of our marriage, but this simple statistic gave us a very practical way to make that reality in our marriage.

We did. That was nearly 11 years ago.

Today, it’s an integral part of our life. And yet, when we talk to other couples, even those who are Christians, many do not pray together daily. It’s always the first piece of advice we give when couples ask us for marriage advice.

So, you might be wondering what’s the big deal? Well, here are 8 benefits that we experience from our daily prayer time:

  1. We pray before Cullen leaves in the morning so it helps center us before our day “officially” starts. It’s a chance to invite God into our daily lives.
  2. Praying for each other is a powerful way not just to show that we love each other, but that we are really listening to the other’s cares and concerns.
  3. Cullen praying for me and praying for our family demonstrates to me that he is accountable to God for leading our family.
  4. Prayer softens our hearts toward each other. It’s hard to stay upset with someone who is humbling themselves in prayer and who is praying for you.
  5. We didn’t think about this when we first started, but we model a strong prayer life to our children. They are included in the prayer time each morning.
  6. Prayer helps us to be less self-centered, as we pray for each other, our family, our friends, the community, the world and work we are doing. Sometimes we pray for specific challenges we are facing or for specific people in our family and friends network.
  7. Praying together can be a way to share unspoken fears, challenges, or issues that we are privately wrestling with.
  8. Even if there is a challenge that is hard to talk about with each other, we can be vulnerable in prayer about it. Sharing these in prayer has led to many communication breakthroughs for us over the years.

When I was drafting this blog post, I tried to think about whether there is a more general way to say this, like spend time together each day and talk.

And, while I think that is a great idea, it’s not what I mean. I specifically mean that prayer is the difference here.

There isn’t a different way to say it. It might sound like “magic” or something “mystical”, but it’s not. I believe that there is a God and that He hears prayer and wants to be in relationship with us. More importantly, we made vows before Him when we got married and He wants our marriage to be a success.

How to pray together:

  1. Pick a consistent time. This is important if you are committed to making it a habit. Will it be in bed before you go to sleep? In the morning before you leave for work or to drop the kids off at school? At dinner time when the family is all together?
  2. To start, have one person pray each day of the week. Then you can switch off the next week. From there you can decide when/how you want to alternate (if at all).
  3. Pray aloud. This might seem obvious, but it’s not just you two praying separately and quietly at the same time
  4. Don’t try to sound “spiritual”, smart, etc., or try to impress your spouse. Just talk and speak from your heart.
  5. Don’t try to pray for a long time. It doesn’t have to be a marathon session. Around 3-5 minutes is a great way to start and build the habit. See #4.
  6. Hold hands or touch in some way (hand on shoulder, etc.).
  7. Don’t have distractions (TV off, no phones in hands, etc.).
  8. Do it with or in front of your kids if you feel comfortable.

Prayer is powerful. I write this from experience, knowing that it has changed my life and my marriage. I hope you will consider it for yours.

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