Evangelist Billy Graham has said that in order for couples to have a healthy and lasting marriage, they must make prayer and the Bible part of their daily lives and respect one another.
In a nationally syndicated column published in the Bowling Green Daily News, the 98-year-old founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association warns that far too many couples enter marriage casually or thoughtlessly -- even though God designed marriage to be a serious, lasting commitment.
"And that's why the most important step you can take is to commit your relationship - and your whole lives - to Jesus Christ," he asserts. "God loves you, and He knows what is best for you...God is more concerned about your future than you are, and He wants your marriage to be a lifelong source of joy and security and peace."
How, then, does one build a strong marriage?
First, make prayer and the Bible part of your daily lives, says Graham "When problems arise, pray about them and seek God's will," he advises.
Second, respect your spouse, and make it your goal to serve each other and not just yourselves: "Never forget: the greatest enemy of love is selfishness," cautions Graham. "The Bible says, 'Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her' (Ephesians 5:25)."
Finally, he reminds readers that many churches today have excellent premarital counseling programs that could help you avoid some of the problems that often arise in marriage.
According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. However, research shows that couples who are active in their faith are less likely to divorce than non-Christians: Those who attend church regularly are actually 35% less likely to divorce than those who have no religious preferences.
Graham and his wife, Ruth, wed in 1943 and remained married until her death in June of 2007. He previously shared his thoughts on adultery, marriage and divorce in a "My Answers" column earlier this year. The evangelist suggested that God's highest goal for married couples is that they remain faithful to one another throughout their lives.
"How can you have a strong marriage? First, see it as a solemn vow of commitment-a commitment not only to each other, but also to God. In other words, realize that God has brought you together, and just as He was with you in the past, so He will be with you in the future. If you have never done so, commit your lives to Jesus Christ, and then ask him to be the center of your marriage," he wrote.
"Then ask God to help you love each other and help each other-even when it's not easy. Remember: the opposite of love is selfishness-and selfishness is the enemy of every relationship. In addition, pray and read God's Word together every day, and seek out a church where you'll be strengthened as a couple."