A 20-year study was recently completed at Florida State University on the positive effects of prayer—and the results were startling. It was proven that praying for your partner’s well-being, and wishing them divine guidance and blessings, makes marriages grow happier and stronger.
The form of prayer used in the study was petitionary prayer, a prayer with a specific request, in this case for your partner. To be sure the study would be accurate, researchers carefully designed the experiment by assigning couples to either a treatment or control group. While both “engaged in activities that could theoretically improve relationships, such as self-help books and marriage enrichment programs, the control groups consistently prayed for their partners.”
What was the magical prayer that improved and strengthened relationships, both inside and outside of marriage? At the beginning of the study, those in the control group were asked to repeat a specific prayer daily. It’s listed word-for-word below:
Dear Lord, thank you for all the things that are going well in my life and in my relationship. Please continue to protect and guide my partner, providing strength and direction every day. I know you are the source of all good things. Please bring those good things to my partner and make me a blessing in my partner’s life. Amen.
The result of those who said this prayer daily was “increased relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment” as well as “selfless love towards one’s partner.” And the researchers found the prayer was so powerful that its benefits applied to both the person who was saying the prayer as well as the one being prayed for.
A closer look at the prayer reveals that is not far different from the prayer of thanks I’ve discussed here before. You’ll note that it begins with giving thanks for the good in the person praying’s life, followed by a request for providing protection and guidance to a loved one. There is nothing self-serving about it as it does not request personal riches but asks that they be bestowed upon another.
Petitionary Prayer versus Contemplative Prayer.
When we think of petitionary prayer we may have the image of kneeling by our bedside and praying up to the heavens. But there’s another kind of prayer popularized a century ago by Charles Fillmore that takes a different approach to communicating with the divine.
One of the leaders of America’s New Thought movement in the early-1900s, Fillmore had a different take on prayer that took its cue from The Cloud of Unknowing. He saw prayer as entering the silence and actually used a mantra to get in the right head space. Fillmore wrote:
There is a quiet place within us all, and by silently saying over and over ‘peace be still,’ we shall enter that quiet place and a great stillness will pervade our whole being.
This kind of prayer is all about going into the silent place inside us and communing with something wise, the result of which bring us peace. As John Templeton says, “the silent communion will look different to each of us. Some of us commune with an inner wisdom when we are with nature or sit quietly with someone we love. It isn’t important how we enter the silence, as it is that we do.”
There is an indisputable power to prayer, and no matter whether you’re attempting to strengthen your relationship, or fortify yourself, those who engage in it may stand a better chance of achieving the happiness that is a hallmark of a life well-lived.