Research shows that couples who pray and read the Bible together at home are happier. Couples who are happy together also stay together — all of which supports the popular claim that couples who pray together stay together.
Popular romance movies and novels perpetuate the myth that after the wedding, husband and wife live happily ever after. Think Cinderella. That’s not what happened after my wedding. Think Adam and Eve! My wife, Tami, and I hit a rough spot in our marriage only a couple of days after saying our vows — and that rough spot lasted for the next three years.
Our trials started on our honeymoon, and continued as we set up our home in a small, two-room apartment in the boys’ dormitory at Milo Adventist Academy in Southern Oregon, where I worked as an assistant dean, supervising about 80 teenage boys. It continued as we moved into the men’s dormitory at Walla Walla University, when I decided to earn a master’s degree in social work. When I got my first social work job, we moved into an apartment near Astoria, Oregon. There we reached a turning point.
A wedge came between us and threatened to split us up. We turned things around by getting help. We met several times with a clinical psychologist who helped us begin to mend our fractured relationship. But we still went several years without regular prayer and devotional time together.
My wife and I haven’t always been faithful about praying or reading the Bible together at home. In the beginning of our marriage, we didn’t do either of these very much. By neglecting to have devotional time together, we failed to benefit from the power that prayer and God’s word have to unite couples.
The Science of Those Who Worship Together
“The Couple That Prays Together: Race and Ethnicity, Religion, and Relationship Quality Among Working-Age Adults,” published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, reports a high association between marital satisfaction and participating in family devotional activities at home. Prayer and reading the Bible together were included as devotional activities. Other religious activities shared together in the home were also counted, including worship activities that involved the whole family.
Tami and I were about 10 years into our marriage when we made a habit of spending time together at home in prayer and other spiritual activities. We included our three-year-old daughter. She was our only child at the time. Later, we added our son.
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Devoting time as a couple or family to prayer, and turning our thoughts to religious themes, has helped cultivate valuable virtues and character strengths — like forgiveness, respect, and kindness. Because we do this in the evening, it also gives us time to talk and listen to each other as we share highlights from our day.
Setting this time aside as a special time for us as a couple and family has added happiness to our lives.
6 Tips for Family Devotional Time
Christian couples who schedule daily time to pray together and for other devotional activities, and include their children, promote a happy marriage and family.
Here are a few tips for making this time together valuable:
1.) Set aside regular devotional time in your weekly schedule.
Most families can only make time to do this once a day. If you can make time to worship together twice a day, that’s even better. If all you can start with is once a week, that’s better than nothing.
2.) Minimize distractions.
Turn off the TV. Turn off phones and tablets — or put them out of reach.
If you can make time to worship together twice a day, that’s even better. If all you can start with is once a week, that’s better than nothing.
3.) Take turns praying.
There are various ways to do this. In our home, one of the boys prays on even days, a girl on odd days. Some families use sentence prayers, where each family member prays a sentence. You can involve young children once they’re old enough to speak simple sentences.
4.) Read age-appropriate material.
If you’re married without children, or with older children, this is easy to accomplish. But you might alternate between reading the Bible and reading passages from inspirational books, articles, or blogs. When young children are at home, you might read the parables of Jesus or simplified Bible stories from children’s books.
5.) Cultivate happiness.
Use this time to share with each other one thing you’re grateful for that happened, or didn’t happen, in your day. Or tell each other about one thing that went well, or about one thing you each accomplished in the past 24 hours. Actively listen, ask questions, and offer positive comments to each person as they share.
6.) Be creative.
Other things to consider include learning and singing hymns or spiritual songs together, teaming up family members to act out a Bible story or parable, reading stories about Christian missionaries, or memorizing Scripture together. Use your imagination to come up with unique ways to learn about God and worship Him together.
Jon Beaty, a life coach and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.”