Ever since I was in Primary, I knew that prayer was important. Praying is, after all, how we talk to God! We can thank Him for things, ask Him for what we need, and even ask for forgiveness. Since my Primary days, I’ve found great power and strength from prayer in my personal life.
But when I got married, I discovered prayer on a whole new level. I learned that it doesn’t just help individuals. As described in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” prayer is one of the essential components of a successful marriage and family.
While prayer provides amazing spiritual blessings, research has actually supported it as a principle that can bless your marriage. Once again, social scientists have discovered what prophets have long taught us about the benefits of prayer. In researching, I found three specific ways that prayer can help your marriage.
1. Prayer helps us calm down.
As a teenager, I was extremely emotional. While I like to think I’ve improved a little since my teenage years, out-of-hand emotions can still complicate any relationship, including my marriage.
When conflict in marriage begins to escalate, it can be more than a little difficult to calm things down on our own. But thankfully, we aren’t on our own in marriage. We have the “supernal gift of prayer.” I’ve felt the blessings of prayer as my thoughts turn to the Lord. Instead of getting more and more worked up about the issue at hand, praying helps me slow down and remember what’s really important.
Research shows that for religious couples, praying “de-escalates hostile emotions and reduces emotional reactivity.” Calming down a conflict can make all the difference as we try to resolve issues in our marriage.
2. Prayer helps soften our hearts.
Admitting that we’re wrong, making changes, or apologizing are some of the hardest parts of reconciliation with our spouse. It takes an enormous amount of humility to make the leap to say “I’m sorry”, especially when we feel wronged. In my marriage, sometimes my stubbornness gets the better of me, and I shy away from making necessary changes or apologies.
But Nephi found that the Lord “did soften [his] heart” when he prayed. While this helped Nephi believe a difficult message from his father, it can help us wherever we need softening. Maybe we need help softening on an opinion, acknowledging a mistake, or admitting our part in a conflict.
Research echoes Nephi’s experience. Religious spouses in one experiment “noted relationship softening” during a conflict, all because they prayed! This softening can help heal the conflict and increase love in our marriage relationship.
3. Prayer helps us forgive.
Calming down and experiencing that softening are perhaps the first steps to being able to forgive our spouse when we feel wronged. While sometimes small and sometimes big, the need to forgive in marriage is almost constant.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught us how praying plays a part in the forgiveness process: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Research shows that praying for a friend makes it easier to forgive, even compared to people who simply thought positively about their friend. The forgiveness benefits of prayer carried over to the marriage relationship, too.
While many tools or principles can bless your marriage, prayer is an often over-looked yet powerful principle. Whether you need help calming down, softening your heart, or forgiving your spouse, prayer can help you. It’s helped me as an individual, but even more, in my marriage.
How has prayer helped you in your marriage? Comment below and let us know!