The Washington Post recently highlighted studies conducted over two decades that demonstrate a petitionary prayer for your spouse not only impacts your marriage, it is linked to increased "relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment. Many of these benefits apply both to the prayer as well as the one being prayed for."
Conducted by Frank Fincham from Florida State University’s Family Institute and other collaborators, these studies reveal that prayers that improve marriages must focus on specifically praying for one's spouse and the divine love, direction, and blessings they can receive.
The positive qualities this kind of prayer can generate, according to The Washington Post, is more satisfaction in marriage and willingness to sacrifice, greater cooperation and forgiveness, and a greater commitment to marriage, both for those praying and those being prayed for.
These studies found that praying for others not only improves romantic relationships, it strengthens friendships as well.
The Washington Post continues: "Yet how exactly does prayer improve relationships in so many ways? None of these studies presumed that the prayers were being answered by a divine being. Setting aside the possibility of supernatural intervention, research suggests that partner-focused prayer increases selfless love towards one’s partner. It could also help reorient a couple toward long-term shared goals, and away from short-term, adversarial behavior focused on 'winning' conflicts."
While the article takes a scientific approach, we are blessed to have the counsel of prophets who have counseled us to pray for our spouses, family members, and loved ones. For Latter-day Saints, these findings are not new. In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," it states, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
As President Russel M. Nelson counseled us in 2006 April general conference, "Marital unity is sustained when goals are mutually understood. Good communication is also enhanced by prayer. To pray with specific mention of a spouse’s good deed (or need) nurtures a marriage."
For more Church quotes about how prayer can strengthen marriage, click here.