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COUPLES WHO PRAYTHE MOST INTIMATE ACT BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN
By Squire Rushnell Louise DuArt
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNAKED TRUTH: MARRIAGE'S MOST INTIMATE ACT
Honestly, can you think of any act more intimate than joining together in a quiet place, holding hands in prayer, and allowing your soul to be bare naked before God?
This is our pledge: entering into this act of intimacy on a daily basis with the one person you love more than any other will take you to a level of joy and satisfaction that you simply will not believe.
Your love life will be better, your communication better. Your whole life will be so much better.
You'll find yourself beginning every prayer session saying "thank you" for this new life-changing experience.
Research Revealed-Then, Step-by-Step
In section two of this book, we'll take you step-by-step through the process of The 40 Day Prayer Challenge-asking you to commit to praying together for a minimum of five minutes a day for forty days.
For the moment, though, we want to reveal some very rare but incredible research on what happens to couples who pray, exemplified through true-life stories about couples just like you who have experienced the ecstasy that we've been talking about. We start with the two areas of primary interest for men and women-the effect of prayer on lovemaking, addressed in this chapter, and its effect on spousal communication, addressed in the next chapter.
Since they have been praying together, "Lovemaking is better," say Mari and Bill almost simultaneously.
"It has to be," adds Mari enthusiastically. "It's all about intimacy. I've never felt greater closeness to God than when Bill and I pray."
"When we're in communication with God," adds Bill, "God is in communication with us. And when you submit yourselves to God as a couple, you really see the difference."
Mari Falcone-the spirited, redheaded conductor for Donna Summer and many others-and Bill Cantos, Mari's handsome, bearded husband-a composer, singer, and keyboard artist in his own right-had been madly in love and married nearly fifteen years.
Before taking The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, they had occasionally prayed together but not with regularity. "We weren't committed to daily prayer," admits Bill.
By the end of the challenge, Mari's excitement was uncontainable: "We couldn't imagine that praying together would be so life changing. What an incredible experience!"
"When you're with God you're being as honest and unguarded as you ever get-you're being the best person you can be," deduces Bill. "And when you're with God together, you experience each other in that intimate, unguarded way. It allows you to have more of a heart for each other ..."
"And that affects lovemaking," continues Mari. "When you pray, you are vulnerable. A man thinks he always needs to show a woman his strength-that he has it all together-but when I hear Bill asking God for help, I actually feel more secure. As a woman, I know if he asks for God's help, he'll receive it, and that makes me more secure."
"It's interesting ... what a man perceives as weakness, the woman sees as strength," interprets Bill.
"Prayer definitely affects lovemaking," reaffirms Mari, as Bill nods in agreement. "The man says 'whoopee,' but the woman sees a different side of her husband that takes lovemaking to a whole other level."
Bill sums up their feelings about The 40 Day Prayer Challenge: "I was surprised by the effect. I thought it would be positive, but never imagined how God would keep on blessing us."
"When the forty days were over, we stopped praying for a few days," confesses Mari, "and we noticed our bickering level went back up. During the forty days, bickering had been nonexistent."
"Praying together is a daily discipline," concludes Bill.
"But who knew that it would be so incredibly life changing," repeats Mari excitedly.
Donna and Bruce on Intimacy
"Praying together bonds us," says Donna Summer. "I can't really explain the way it bonds us ... it's so deep and healthy ... I can't imagine living without it."
Donna and her husband, Bruce Sudano-who has a long history in the music business as a singer, songwriter, and producer-have been married for twenty-seven years. Bruce has cowritten some of Donna's most memorable songs. He travels with her as part of the touring show and oversees the day-to-day family business. Donna and Bruce have been praying together from the very beginning of their marriage. "We were attracted to each other because of our faith," says Bruce.
Prayer is the spiritual glue in their marriage. "Telltale signs will creep in, and one of us will say, 'We need to pray,'" he adds.
"I don't know how couples survive when they don't have this common ground," continues Donna, "this little room they can slide into and hide away with each other. It is a different thing than sex."
"Praying with your husband lets him into your inner sanctum, and when he can dwell there, he gets to really know you. That's what prayer does for me and my husband: it enables me to know him."
Bruce agrees. "When you are in prayer, you talk to God about things and let your true heart come through ... almost subliminal communication between husband and wife."
Donna remains in thought about prayer being a special place for a couple. "It's a place of arbitration. I know he doesn't want to go into that place with any sense of untruth. When we enter that space together, we are both putting down our weapons and standing there spiritually and emotionally naked. We say, 'God, this is what I need ... this is what I feel insecure about.'"
As with most couples, Donna and Bruce have found that joint prayer is such an intimate act that all feelings become transparent.
"It is a humbling thing to know if my husband feels insecure about something," says Donna. "As a woman, it makes me want to nurture that place. Vice versa, when he knows something is a deep wound for me, then he doesn't trample on that place in me anymore. He prays for that place in me."
"It is so healing and so healthy," they agree in unison.
I recommend You look at the word intimacy in a new way. Think of the word as: Into-me-see. -PENNY BANUCHI
The Research That Surprised the Researchers
In the late 1980s there was a flurry of publishing activity on human sexuality, ignited in part by the popularity of The Hite Report on Male and Female Sexuality and by the rising concerns about promiscuity and the spread of AIDS. As a result, the prestigious magazine Psychology Today decided to commission its own study on marriage to see if there had been a major shift in martial fidelity.
Called "Love and Marriage," the study was carried out by Gallup Poll, one of the nation's most prominent research firms. The results were then published in a 1991 book by Andrew Greeley called Faithful Attraction.
Greeley wrote, "I can only say at the end of this research I am pleasantly surprised at how much resilience and vitality there is in American marriage."
Although that may have been an outcome that was unanticipated by Gallup and Psychology Today editors, the most astonishing aspect of the Love and Marriage study was buried within-the revelation about couples who pray: "Whether they pray often together is a very powerful correlate of marital happiness," said Greeley, "the most powerful we have yet discovered."
For the purposes of writing this book, we asked Byron Johnson, who heads up Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, to reevaluate the Gallup study's findings on couples who pray. His report with Jerry Park, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor, was indeed astonishing.
Byron Johnson advises readers to "please keep in mind that the comparisons in this study are among respondents who said they pray together with their spouses 'a lot' versus those who pray 'sometimes.' Considering that the following data between those two groups is so distinct, imagine what the results would be if we were able to compare the pray-a-lot respondents with the vast segment of the general population which 'never' pray together."
According to Jerry Park, "People who pray with their spouses a lot, compared to people who pray with their spouses sometimes, find that their lives and marriages improve, often with astonishing results."
The following data provides the evidence-couples who pray sometimes versus those who pray a lot:
60% vs. 78% are likely to say their "marriage is happy" -a difference of 18%.
73% vs. 92% who are "satisfied with sex a great deal" report they are "very happy with their marriage." That's a 19% distinction.
59% vs. 72% say they are "very happy" in general.
74% vs. 91% say, "My spouse is my best friend."
Family and Children
64% vs. 75% say they "agree on how children should be raised."
38% vs. 54% are satisfied with their family life "a very great deal."
58% vs. 69% rate their agreement on financial matters as "very good."
72% vs. 83% say agreement with their spouse on basic values is "very good."
66% vs. 75% have a "very good" ability to disagree with their partner without threatening their relationship-an elevation of 9%.
35% vs. 57% say, "My spouse is a good compromiser."
65% vs. 86% "try to make their marriage better"-a significant 21% distinction.
42% vs. 53% of these couples say they "try to talk together without interruption."
59% vs. 77% say, "My spouse makes me feel important."
56% vs. 75% conversely report that "my spouse would say I make him/her feel important."
39% vs. 69%-a huge 30% difference-agree that "my spouse delights in me."
67% vs. 82%-an elevation of 15%-say they are "satisfied with their sex life" a "very great deal" or a "great deal."
52% vs. 72%-20% more-say the "quantity and quality of lovemaking is very good."
69% vs. 78% apply the term "ecstasy" to lovemaking.
42% vs. 63% say, "My spouse is romantic."
48% vs. 65% contend "my spouse is a skillful lover."
49% vs. 68% say they "feel spiritual joy after lovemaking." That's an increase of 19% as a direct correlation to praying together.
Stability of Marriage
76% vs. 92% rate their confidence in the stability of their marriage as "very good."
81% vs. 93% agree if they had to do it all over again, they "would marry the same person."
0% vs. 0% is the fear of divorce-virtually eliminated in both groups-among couples who are "satisfied with sex a great deal."
4% vs. 2% is the fear of divorce among people who are "satisfied less than a very great deal with their sex lives."
The Gallup data uncovered by Baylor University's analysis is nothing short of extraordinary in our view.
Virtually every one of the categories measuring marital bliss escalated significantly when couples simply prayed together a lot versus sometimes. In some cases the swing was 15 to 30 percent.
Here's another astonishing factor to consider: this study is the only one we've been able to locate in which the merits of couples praying together have been measured. Our friends at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion have not researched this before nor have those at Barna Research or any other firm insofar as we've been able to determine.
Small Act-Huge Change
As Byron Johnson mentioned earlier, imagine if this study had compared couples who pray a lot with those who never pray together. The fact is most couples do not pray together. Even most Christian couples do not pray together often-only 4 percent, by one informal account. More surprising, many pastors and their wives fail to practice the habit of daily prayer.
"Most couples tell me that they very rarely pray together, with the exception of meal-time," says Steve Carr, marital advisor with the Covenant Keepers.
Yet we can see from the results of the foregoing studies that a very small investment-as little as five minutes a day-can deliver huge dividends for your marriage, drastically improving its course and, as a result, changing your life.
Greeley's analysis of the Gallup study concluded: "Prayer ... is a much more powerful predictor of marital satisfaction than frequency of sexual intercourse-though the combination of sex and prayer correlates with very, very high levels of marital fulfillment."
A Personal Postscript on Lovemaking
The only time you will find the three-letter word s-e-x in this book is when it is quoted from other sources. Our perception is that sex is a physical act that may or may not involve love. Lovemaking, on the other hand, is a total experience, which is exquisite because love is what it's all about.
Lovemaking and Marriage
In his "Ten Tips for Making Marriage Fun," Dr. Robert Schuller says lovemaking "was meant by God, our Creator, to be life's greatest pleasure. Nobody has ever enjoyed sex more than those who have kept it within the confines of the marriage commitment."
While research on the outcome of couples praying together is very rare, there is ample discussion on the connection between marital satisfaction and a couple's commitment before God to be faithful to each other.
This boils down to the value that the two of you have placed on the covenant of marriage into which you have entered.
Covenant Versus Marriage Certificate
What's the difference between a covenant and a marriage certificate? The latter can be acquired from town hall. It's an impersonal series of words and signatures on a piece of paper, as routine as getting a driver's license. But a marriage covenant is an agreement between you and your partner and God. The town clerk may forget all about you the next day. God won't.
Famed Hollywood pastor Jack Hayford emphasizes the seriousness of the expression of promises between two people by making this big statement: "The covenant of marriage is the single most important human bond that holds all of God's work on the planet together." He goes on to say, "No wonder the Lord is passionate about the sanctity of marriage and the stability of the home. This covenant of marriage is based on the covenant God has made with us."
The Expression of Love
"The first time we had a real long prayer together we made love and it was really different ... and it has been ever since," says Tiffany as she and her husband, Matt, approach their second anniversary.
"When we give ourselves to each other as husband and wife, it's as if God rewards us," she concludes.
Matt agrees, adding that their overall communication was aided by their daily prayer together ... that they discovered things about each other that they had not clearly comprehended before.
"I knew she wanted a baby," says Matt, "but as I heard her pouring her heart out to God ... and how serious she was ... it became real to me."
Tiffany, in turn, notes that things she had not known Matt was concerned about emerged in their prayer time. "Matt came from a background where feelings were not expressed openly. But when he is speaking directly to the Lord, I feel that he's deeply sincere. It's nice to see that side of him ... and that contributes to our expressions to each other during lovemaking."
Prayer and Contentment
"Do I think there's a connection between lovemaking and prayer? Of course I do," says Robin earnestly. "Dave is more selfless in his whole demeanor-there's an authenticity in his manner; he wants to make me happy and I find that very sexy."
With a modest rejoinder, Dave says, "Unfortunately I had surgery during our forty days, but, no question, prayer definitely made a difference. We'll keep it going."
Dave's surgical procedure to remove a cyst unfortunately injured a nerve, thereby protracting his recovery.
"We're still not as physical because he's still in pain, but I'm very content," affirms Robin.
Excerpted from COUPLES WHO PRAY by Squire Rushnell Louise DuArt Copyright © 2007 by Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt. Excerpted by permission.
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