This seems like an opportune time to reflect on the importance of regular prayer as a couple and the support of peers for strong marriages. Since we piloted the Marriage in Christ seminar in the spring of 2011 nearly 1,000 couples have attended a seminar. We discovered early on that there were five key elements of the seminar. The first three are the intentional daily activities of prayer, conversation and loving actions (PTA). We also noticed that developing habits required two other essential ingredients, the support of other couples and the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is an old saying, “the couple that prays together stays together.” Sociologists have demonstrated that indeed it is true and now they can point to factors that show how it works. In a recent article, “Faith and Marriage: Better Together?” W. Bradford Wilcox, describes two mechanisms that help explain the power of joint church attendance. First, almost half of couples who attend church together form most of their friendships with fellow parishioners. The evidence is clear, couples who have many shared friends are happier than other couples. Second, couples who attend church together are more likely to say they pray together or have shared prayer. Why are these so helpful for a healthy marriage?
Friends can provide
- Role models
- Support when we hit road bumps
- Support to avoid affairs either by threat or stigma
- Helps couples deal with stress
- Enables them to focus on shared beliefs and hopes for the future
- Allows them to deal constructively with challenges and problems in their relationship, and in their lives
We know from our experience in the MIC seminar that, as important as these sociological factors are, there is a deeper and more profound truth at work. We know that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is present. He is present with his Holy Spirit, who strengthens our resolve to love and serve one another, deepens our affection for one another, makes it possible to reconcile with each other and brings a peace that passes all understanding. The Holy Spirit is God’s own presence in our lives that allows us to live one life together and to witness to the life of God.