Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but hopefully the effects of your shared affection will linger longer than just this month. And to demonstrate, what if I told you a gift existed that was completely free, would take a minimum of time, and would make your love relationship measurably better? Would you try it even though Valentine’s Day is over? Well, Saint Valentine might be a Saint about whose historical record is sparse, but I personally think he would give you this gift too.
Before I tell you what my present is, I want to tell you about Saint Valentine. What seems to be known is that he was a priest and physician in Rome under Emperor Claudius II. Claudius II made an edict that his soldiers were not allowed to marry because they would then focus on their wives and families instead of on fighting. St. Valentine, however, continued to marry Christian couples, thus helping them as he could, and this was considered a crime. He was jailed, and while there St. Valentine restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer by laying his hands on her: a miracle which prompted the jailer to be baptized along with his family and forty-four other family members and servants. But finally after being beaten with clubs and stones, St. Valentine was beheaded on 14 February 270 AD. And on the day of his death, he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it, “Your Valentine.” During the middle ages, it was believed that birds paired into couples in mid-February, and this then became associated with the romance of Valentine. Thus Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as a day for devotion and romance.
Well I found a $2.00 book in the Goodwill store called The 30 Secrets of Happily Married Couples by Dr. Paul Coleman. It was written in 1992, but the statistics from a Gallup survey at that time were astounding. According to the survey, “Happiness in a marriage is better predicted by how often a couple prays together than by how often they make love. Couples who pray together (compared to couples who don’t) report having greater respect for their mate (83 percent versus 62 percent), agree on how to raise children (73 percent versus 59 percent), are more playful (56 percent versus 45 percent), and believe their mate is a skilled lover (62 percent versus 49 percent). Individual prayer correlates with marital happiness, too, but joint prayer correlates at a level twice as high.”
Also according to a 1990 university study, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people highly involved in religion have the happiest marriages.” But we certainly don’t hear much about these results, do we?
Now it gets even more interesting. If joint prayer can help your marriage (and I would also add your dating with chastity), it can also help in other amazing ways. Dr. Larry Dossey wrote in Recovering the Soul in 1989 that numerous experiments showed that prayer even helped germinating seeds. Prayed for seeds grew more shoots than non-prayed for seeds. And researchers even “stressed” some seeds by adding salt water to the seed container. “The results were consistent and striking: prayer worked even better when the seeds were under stress.” And Dr. Dossey elaborated that non-directed prayer (thy will be done approach such as in The Lord’s Prayer) worked even better than directed prayer (where one prays for something specific). “While both types of prayer worked, non-directed prayer brought results almost twice as powerful as directed prayer.” So if prayer even works in something as simple as plant growth, why not give it a get-go within your dating or marriage.
But how do you start if you have never prayed together as a couple before? Well begin by taking each other’s hands, bowing your head and saying what is on your heart. Pray together before meals; pray before you leave the home for work; or pray before you fall asleep. My husband and I always hold each other before he leaves for work, and he will ask God’s blessing on each family member by name and any other pressing requests on his heart. I will chime in with my petitions too. Somehow, if he goes off to work and we haven’t prayed, it seems like the day isn’t complete. This joint prayer, however, gives my morning and day a protected feel.
As an addendum, I shared the above statistics with my son and his wife as they were embarking on their honeymoon. David reported back with these results. “We prayed together on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and they were amazing, smooth sailing days. Everything worked well. Then on Sunday, we forgot, and it was a crappy day that ended with a head injury from roller-blading. Man if we had taken two minutes to pray, maybe that injury would have been offset.”
So there you have it. The Bible has a lot, of course, to say about prayer, but perhaps one of my favorite passages comes from Mark 11:24 (NRSVCE), “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Powerful stuff in your free gift; now employ it.