Prayer, Bible-reading and Marriages
I’ve recently and successfully completed the oral defense of doctoral dissertation from Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary. It is taking some effort to fully realize that there will be no more need for late night or early morning word-smithing or proof reading; that it is finished! Aside from the profound relief, I also now have time to fully realize and communicate some of the things my research revealed.
For years, a portion of my counseling practice has been with clergy and their spouses. I provide that help at no charge. My heart is certainly tender for those whom the Lord has called to lead and encourage church fellowships, and those who are called to be their spouses. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that confront clergy couples, far exceeds what most church-goers ever realize. The rewards for them are large as well, but mainly within the economy of the Kingdom of God, and not financially or socially.
The title of my study was: An Assessment of the Attitudes and Practices Regarding Prayer and Bible-Reading Among Indiana Clergy and their Spouses. Actually, the connection of increased marriage satisfaction and couples praying aloud together, has, for years, been studied extensively by even psychological and sociological researchers who, themselves, were not professing Christians. Almost always, prayer is shown to have a positive effect on marriages. Most secular researchers are not sure why. I created a survey and, through email contacts, distributed it to as many church-based, Indiana clergy and spouses as possible.
One of the things I learned is that clergy are very hesitant to participate in an on-line survey, sent by anyone with whom they ae not personally acquainted. Likely, that is wise. Another thing I learned is that the spouses of clergy are even less likely to participate in such a survey. For the couples that did participate, the survey was constructed so that I could connect and compare the responses of clergy and spouses as a couple.
This is not the place for a broad based summary of the finding of my research, but you may find the highlights interesting. They appear in no certain order of importance.
- Approximately 75% of the clergy couples reported that they pray aloud together at least 1 to 2 days per week
- Far fewer pray together more often
- Approximately 75% of the clergy couples report that reading the Bible aloud together is not a tradition in their marriage.
- Only 2 couples reported having united prayer and Bible-reading as a marriage tradition.
- Most clergy believe that “being too busy” is the reason they fail to pray or read the Bible together.
- Most spouses believe that it is “lack of discipline” that cause united prayer and Bible-reading to be absent in their home.
- Both clergy and spouses strongly believe that increasing the frequency of united prayer and Bible-reading would have a very positive effect on the quality of their marriage.
- Spouses are, on average more satisfied with their personal prayer lives than their clergy mates.
- Younger clergy are more satisfied with their personal prayer lives than their older counterparts, but older clergy tend to pray more frequently.
- And most importantly in my study, it is completely clear, that as the frequency of united prayer among couples increased, conflict in their marriages decreased. That correlation was so strong, that it there is 99% statistical confidence that those findings would hold true if all Indiana clergy and their spouses responded.
About 15 years ago, my wife, Teri and I began enjoying the amazing benefits of regular and united prayer and Bible-reading. While the relationship benefits have been obvious to us both, we have also realized that united prayer and Bible-reading are not, primarily, a marriage improvement strategy. Rather, they are a gift from our Creator, given so that we may know Him better. I suppose it makes sense that as we grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and know His word more deeply – we will be better at loving one another.
As a Biblical Counselor, I frequently encourage my client couples to begin adding united prayer and Bible-reading as a part of their counseling homework. Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time a couple came in for counseling that already had united prayer and Bible-reading as a marriage tradition. Give it some thought, then give it a try!
P.S. If anyone wants a more detailed summary of my study findings, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings to all!
Jim Evans, Ph.D.
CCC Executive Director & Staff Counselor