The Power of Praying for Your Spouse

The Power of Praying for Your Spouse

In our last column we showed that praying for your spouse was a Jewish necessity.  As usual, Judaism has a fundamental understanding of human beings that is confirmed by research. “Praying daily for one’s partner has been linked to numerous positive outcomes: 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. But to experience these benefits, not just any kind of prayer will do—it has to be praying specifically for one’s partner” Burnett, T., Frustrated with Your Spouse? These Scientists Suggest a Specific Kind of Prayer.”[1]  You can find the prayer the subjects used as well as one Mat wrote in footnote [2].

“[C]ouples who took marriage education programs with prayer had more marital satisfaction than those who did the education without it.”  Luscombe, Marriageology.[3] A professor who surveyed fifty years’ worth of studies on relationships “was surprised at how solid the data on prayer was”. Id.  One author, after exploring the various possible explanations for these results, suggested: “And, of course, there’s always a chance it’s help from upstairs.”  Id.  Our own view is that this is not chance.  It is a certainty.  Indeed, it is fair to suggest that perhaps the reason prayer for your spouse works is that it is what Hashem wants and how He set up the universe.               

We know there are some who will greet these words with skepticism and perhaps, even despair.  They feel trapped in horrible marriages and feel there is no way prayer can help.  We are sympathetic.  However, ask yourself, do you really think that God cannot do anything – including save a tough marriage?

Recall the story of King Hezekiah (II Kings 20; Isaiah 38).  Hezekiah became ill and was told by the prophet Isaiah that he would die of this illness.  Undaunted, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed (II Kings 20:2-3; Isaiah 38:2) because Hezekiah had a tradition that “even if a sharp sword rests upon a person’s neck he should not refrain [from praying for] mercy.” (Talmud, Berachos 10b).   Hezekiah recovered and lived another fifteen years (II Kings 2:5-6; Isaiah 38:5).   As Rav Chaim states:  “Do you want to know the effects of prayer?  If it does not accomplish fully, it will at least achieve half [of what was requested].”[4] Remember, great rabbinic authorities are in agreement that prayer in the time of need is a Biblical requirement.  Whether your marriage is in trouble or not, you need, both Biblically and psychologically, to pray.   Pray for the success of your marriage.  And, critically, pray for your spouse.      

[1] Washington Post, August 7, 2017 available at relying heavily on  F.D. Fincham, S.R. Beach, “I Say a Little Prayer for You: Praying for Partner Increases Commitment in Romantic Relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology, 28:5 (2014): 587-93

[2] The prayer used by study subjects was “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.”  Feel free to use that one (but delete the “amen”) or write one in your own words or say whatever is in your heart at the time.  If you are stuck or need some thoughts you might consider some of the thoughts from this prayer that Mat put together based on some other prayers:  “May it be Your will, God, our God and the God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob [women should feel free to substitute Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah] that you always watch, guard and protect my spouse X from any harm, evil or illness.  Give X a good life, a long life, a life of prosperity and honor.  Install in my spouse and me feelings of love, brotherhood, peace and fellowship.  Remove from X all distress and worry.  Remove from X and me anger and impatience.  Implant in my spouse’s heart Your love and Your fear, the desire to do Your will and the desire to serve you with a full heart and do acts of kindness for other Jews and for our family.  Forgive the sins of my spouse, X.  Give X a complete blessing with strength and peace as it says “May God bless you and guard you.  May God shine his Countenance upon you and give you grace.  May God turn His Countenance to you and give you peace.”       

[3] Luscombe, B, Marriageology: The Art and Science of Staying Together 25 (Spiegel and Grau 2019)

[4] Kanievsky, C, Orchos Yosher 420 (Artscroll 2019)  paraphrasing Devarim, Midrash Rabbah, 8:1 

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