Hey there, David Robbins here, President of Family Life. Have you ever noticed that some of your favorite memories as a married couple are when you struggle together? Maybe it was in the early years, or maybe in the empty nest, or maybe it's in the phase Meg and I are in, right in the thick of teenagers and all the challenges that come, and it seems like there's hardly any time to process it.
You likely have endured some really tough times. They have occurred when we are sitting in the middle of a crucible, when the flames are rising, and the heat is turning up, and we just wanted to get out. But yet, oddly enough, God shapes us in those moments, and it's the memories we cherish the most.
But here's the thing. In those tough days, God was faithful, and we love Him for it. And make no mistake, He is faithful to you, even when the heat feels unbearable. You know, for countless people around the world, family life today has become a trusted ally in their effort to establish a God-fearing home. And I pray and hope that is your home included. As we approach the end of another year together, I'm asking you to empower us to continue with boldness in the new year of reaching and engaging more homes with the timeless truth of God's Word for marriages and families.
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And here's the best part. God will use your gift to speak into the life of someone who's simmering in the crucible right now, and they want to crawl out. Together, let's help families rise up with redemption stories to tell. Thanks for responding today at FamilyLifeToday.com. So we've shared here before, Dave, that you developed this great habit years ago that's still a part of your life, and you take every single Friday for the last 35 years, and you fast and pray for our family.
Talk about that a little bit. Like, how did that become your passion? Well, I actually heard it on a radio broadcast right before we were going to have our first son, CJ, who's 35, and this man was talking about a day of fasting and praying for his family, and I thought, I'm going to do that. And I actually thought I'd do it for a few years, and now 35 years later, there hasn't been a week that I don't think I've ever missed a week. Sometimes it's not Friday. Usually it's Friday, but sometimes it'd be a different day, and it's just, you know, don't eat.
And all day long, every time there's a hunger pang, I'm praying. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com. This is Family Life Today. I can remember when they were little boys, you know, praying for their wife who you didn't know yet and praying that she'd be a woman of God and making decisions about her life. Anyway, all I know is that when I married all three sons as their father and as their pastor in our chapel, looking at that bride on her wedding day, knowing that I'd been praying for her, was a tender moment. Just like, look at what God has done. And so now it's for our grandkids. And I think, too, as people talk to us and they'll say, oh, it's so cool what God has done. And we know that we've made so many mistakes.
We know that we have failed miserably, but we also know that there is power in prayer. And it's fun today because we have a friend in the studio with us, John Yates. Welcome to Family Life Today. It's great to be with you, Dave and Ann. It's been too long. It has been too long. Thanks for letting me be with you. Yeah, and John, you've spent, I mean, a large part of your life helping men especially, and I know women as well, but helping men embrace and understand this discipline of prayer, right?
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I don't know how many years ago you wrote a book called How a Man Prays for His Family. You probably know how many years ago it was.
It was a few years ago. But, you know, I, over the years, I wanted to be with men. I'm a pastor. I've been, just retired, been a pastor for 50 years, but I wanted to be with men. And it was great to be with the women and the children, and every Sunday I'd be preaching away, and I'd think, so much I'd like to say if it was just men here, but I just got to be careful, you know? And so finally, some men, we were talking one day, and they said, why don't some of us men just get together and let's talk about life and faith? And so that started something that went on for many years, and one year they said, teach us about prayer. And so for the whole year, I just reviewed, thought, tried to think through why prayer was so important in my life and shared it with the men. And that's how this book came into being. That's the basis of it, teaching those men that year. So, of course, many people know this, and some don't, that you were the pastor of Falls Church Anglican in... Falls Church, Virginia.
And you founded this church. Yeah. You were there a few years, right? I was there 40 years. Forty years. And they were exciting years, great, and it was great to step aside now, so following some new pathways. You've got nothing going on in your life now, right? You have a couple grandkids?
How many? Yeah, we got a bunch of grandkids. I married a wonderful woman 52 years ago. Susan Yates, I bet a lot of our listeners. Susan Yates.
She's written a lot of books that a lot of women have read. And we had five children. They got married.
They turned out to be pretty feral because we got 21 grandchildren now. And one of the great things is just being able to spend a little more time with them, being able to spend time with some of the young pastors that we've discipled over the years, and having more time to pray. Honestly, I don't just say that because we're talking about it, but life has slowed down just enough to give me a little more time to devote more time to prayer. Now, talk about men and prayer. I mean, often when you think about prayer, you think, oh, women pray and men don't seem to pray. Is that true?
Pretty much, I think. In a lot of cases, you know, it just seems that women have a more highly attuned spiritual nature than men, or men somehow turn it off when they're young. But over the years, I've found many men want to grow close to God. They want to know how to communicate with God. But they have a lot of mistaken ideas about what a prayer life is about, and they don't realize that, you know, prayer is just keeping company with God.
It's walking along with Him and turning to Him throughout the day and trying to listen to Him, and it's learning how to have a relationship with Him that is normal and natural and honest. Many men think that, well, they wonder, is prayer real? I mean, how do I know that God is listening to me? And it's a little difficult because prayer is not the most objective thing in the world. Prayer is pretty subjective, and you never really know exactly what's happening when you're praying.
But, you know, whether you're a man or a woman, if you can just get honest with God and share with Him what's on your heart and try to be real with Him, then He's real with you. John, there's such a depth to you because of it's apparent you've been spending time with God. And so when we're with you and even for our listeners, I wish they could pull up, and that's what they're basically doing today, is they're pulling up beside us. And we're going to review this book that you wrote years ago, but now you're passionate about why now? Why has this reignited your heart? And I was laughing about what you said of why you brought it back out. Oh, yeah. I was telling Anne before we started that Susan came to me not too long ago and she said, you need to do a re-edition of your book on prayer.
And I said, why? I mean, it was, you know, there's lots of good books out there on prayer, she said, but yours is really good. So I told Anne, I pulled it down off the shelf, the old one, and I read it, and I thought, well, it is pretty good. Maybe we should do this.
You know, it's better than I remembered. But I'm glad Susan and I have been able to just be friends to you all. You all, we have in turn always looked up to you. It's really helpful, isn't it, if you have a couple of folks along the way who are older, who are a little bit further along in life. And I think that's one reason why I have for so long wanted to pray, wanted to be a man of prayer because I had some models when I was younger. And, you know, Dave, I've never known a man who had a significant walk with God or was living a significant life of service to God who wasn't a man of prayer. And when I was a young man in my 20s, I met three or four men like this, and I thought, I want to be like them.
Tell us about them. Well, you know, when we were young, Mary lived in Pittsburgh and had one of these big old Pittsburgh houses. And right across the street from us was a couple who, they were in their 70s, and they had been missionaries in Africa for years.
They had retired, they came out of retirement and came to Pittsburgh to be with a bunch of us, and they started a new seminary for our little Anglican movement. As I would look out the window early in the morning across the way at Alf and Marjorie's house, there was a little room up in the top of the house that was Alf's study. And every morning when I got up and went back to my little study on the back corner of our house, the light was always on in Alf's room. It might be dark outside, but the light was always on, and I knew what he was doing. That old man was on his knees praying. And I knew that because I used to meet with him every Friday afternoon. We'd have a cup of tea and cookies sitting in the garden, and he told me stories about how God had answered prayers 40 years in Africa.
One story after another, after another, after another. And I thought, I just want to be like you. Well, are you that man now? I mean, as you think about, we respect you and Susan. One of the things I respect, obviously, is you're finishing well. I mean, I've seen so many of my colleagues, and I know you have as well, that started well, maybe even ran well in the middle, but not so well at the end. And you're finishing.
You're not done, but you're, we're both sort of on the last quarter. Well, it was a sobering thought a year or so ago when I was thinking about my mentor, Alf. And I thought, gee, now I'm older than he was then.
That really shook me up. You know, I don't think anybody can guarantee that he's going to finish well. You just don't know what's going to happen. But you pray that you will, and you try to maintain relationships with friends who will tell you if they think you're veering off. You know, one of the things we did as we were getting ready to retire was we asked five or six other couples who were all in their 60s, 70s, if they'd like to begin meeting together. How can we encourage each other to stay effective in our lives for God as long as we live?
And we call it the Oaks group because we want to be like the tree of righteousness. You know, anyway, I don't know how I'm doing to tell you the truth, but I'm I'm very grateful for this time in life when I am able to be with grandchildren, more able to be with our daughter, churches, more able to be with family and able to study, able to pray more. Hmm. I think every woman listening is hoping and wishing that their husband will listen to this, because I think as women, we long for our husbands to be passionate about this area. But there's barriers. What do you feel like the barriers are for men? Well, I think men are that they don't often feel equipped. When a man opens his mouth to pray aloud, he's stepping into a vulnerable place and he's afraid he's going to be judged or he's going to say something stupid.
And he doesn't mind talking about sports. But if he has to say something about God or to pray, God forbid. Yeah, that's a really risky thing. You know, the only people that hear pray are the pastors on Sunday and the pastors pray these long, great prayers that they've written out in advance.
I can't do that. I think mainly they just don't feel capable. Maybe they don't feel worthy. Maybe they feel like, who am I to try to lead my family in prayer? And they don't quite realize how much the wife, she doesn't care if he stumbles. She doesn't care if he doesn't really know what he's doing. All she wants is to hear him say, you know, honey, life's kind of challenging these days.
And raising this family is not all that easy. And I'm realizing more and more that we need God's help. And I don't know, we haven't done this much, but I'm thinking maybe we should pray together as a couple sometimes. Just couldn't hurt, could it?
But I don't quite know how to do it. I don't know a woman in the world who would say, oh, that's a bad idea. I have to tell you that in our book, we talk about that too. In Vertical Marriage, we talk about this could be one of the greatest gifts that you give your wife, but to your marriage and your family. So I get this text from this friend. She said, my husband said to me, let's pray together. She said, we got on our knees and she said, I couldn't stop crying. And she said it was just simple.
We just, it was a few sentences. But it was the most intimate act that we could have had together of this praying together. She said, it filled me up for a year. And my husband's like, why are you crying? And she said, because this has meant so much to me. Like, I feel so connected and bonded to you and to God with us doing that together.
But I think you're right. Dave, have you felt that, like that? Well, I was just going to ask, you're the only woman in the room. What is it a wife feels? Why is it so intimate to a woman? I think going together before the Father, I think spiritually we can feel alone or isolated from one another. And when we join our hearts spiritually together, it's a mysterious thing that we're doing and a vulnerability that connects our souls together. I mean, like physical intimacy connects our bodies together, but spiritual intimacy through prayer connects our soul. It's one of the most beautiful but vulnerable things. And as a woman, it makes me feel like I'm not in it alone. Like, you're my partner. We're battling together for our children, for our family, for the world, for the church. It's a unifier, isn't it?
Yes, that's what it is. Every time you and Dave pray together, every time it's like it adds another little layer of bonding between the two of you. This probably was your experience, too. Somebody told us before we were married, you should pray together every night with each other. And on our honeymoon, you know, before we went to bed for the first time, we got down on our knees and prayed.
We did, too. And Susan said the next day, she said, you know, I really like that. I think we should do that every night. And boy, you talk about something that forces you to stay together. If you promise God you're going to pray together with your wife every night before you go to bed, there's some nights when that's the last thing in the world you want to do. Isn't it hard? The last thing you feel like doing.
Yes. But it requires that you come back together and you understand each other as best you can. And you reaffirm your love for one another and your love for God.
But there have been many nights when, you know, you talk and you still don't have things really worked out. You're still upset with each other. But if you can then just say, well, we're still upset, but we need to go to sleep, so let's pray. And, you know, Lord, you know what's going on here. You know what a mess we are. You know that we need your help.
We're sorry, Lord. We ask your help and guide us through this time. I think if we could see the spiritual dimension, I imagine the enemy, Satan, is trembling when we're praying together because there's so much power in that. I think it's easy just to stay divided in the midst of our conflict, to not come together, and I feel like the enemy could think, I'm winning. There is something powerful.
But I want to get back to some of those barriers. I've had this thought. Anne and I have talked about this, you know, as a man, and I'm sure women have this same thought. There's times when I'm like, okay, does prayer really do anything? Because here I am talking to God, and there's a billion people talking to God right now. And you go into the, you know, the intellectual thing, like, how does this work?
Can he really be intimately involved in my life here in Orlando? And, you know, so that's the kind of thing you go through. But talk about that. I know men struggle with that. I don't know if women struggle with it or not, but I know we do. I have.
I'll tell you what I do. When I start doubting like that and questioning, I just always think back to Jesus Christ and what I know to be true about Him. In the New Testament, we have what was written by the apostles, and they're telling us what they believe to be true about Christ.
They were with Him, and they had no reason to lie, and we know that what we have today is what they wrote. So I remember, one, that He prayed almost incessantly, and secondly, He taught the men and women around Him to pray, and He talked about this over and over again. He said, men ought always to be praying. And I think about that, and then I think back over the years when I've seen prayers answered. You know, if you just pray general, Lord bless the world kind of prayers, you're not going to really see God answer prayers.
But if you learn to pray specifically, God may not always say yes, but many times He does. So I think back to those times, the unexpected or unusual ways in which we have seen God work and answer to prayer. You know, because you've read the book that I've often written down specific things that I've prayed for, and as you were talking about your son's wedding, thinking about how God had answered prayers for your children, when I pull out one of these old prayer notebooks and I begin to look at things- Oh, John's pulling out his notebook.
It had pictures in it. Are these prayer requests and prayers to God? This is a little prayer notebook that I kept like in the mid-'80s, I think. And so it's full of photos and it's full of things I prayed. And I was looking a little earlier at some of the things that I was praying for my children back when they were in elementary school or high school. When you realize how faithful God has been over the years, then it encourages you to keep believing. But Dave, I don't know if that little element of doubt ever goes away.
There was a pastor in England who lived in the 1700s named William Grimshaw, and he was an amazing man, close friend of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and he had a wonderful impact up in Yorkshire Hills. But he said, every once in a while, Mr. Doubt would walk into the room and he would have to rebuke Mr. Doubt and run him out of the room or else he couldn't pray.
And it still happens, I think. I love that he shared the little prayer notebook from when his kids were little. That just makes me so happy to see how God's faithfulness lasts from generation to generation. And the proof was right there in that prayer journal.
So cool to hear stories like that. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with John Yates on Family Life Today. John's written a book called How a Man Prays for His Family. Now, this book is more than just a placebo to kind of make you feel better about your prayer life. John is going to show you through his words some tools to develop a powerful, consistent prayer life. You can pick up a copy of John's book, How a Man Prays for His Family.
Just head over to familylifetoday.com and click on today's resources. You know, every now and then, Dave and Anne get these unexpected run-ins with real people on the street, and Anne's going to share one of those stories right now. Last week I talked to this beautiful 35-year-old mom with two little kids married, and she came up to me crying and said, I just have to thank you for family life today. I listen to it every single day, and I feel like I can't get through a day without it, and you've brought me life and hope. I mean, you're getting teary talking about her. I know, because it means so much.
We're behind the microphones, but to hear how we are meeting the needs of people, that gets me excited. Yeah, and we get emotional because we've been there. I mean, you've got little kids running around the house. You're exhausted. You're screaming back and forth with your husband. I mean, the stress that's on young families, we know.
And maybe you're at a point where you're shaking your head thinking, I remember those days. And now you're in a different phase, and you have margin, and you can take a breath, and wouldn't it be a great Christmas present to give back to this ministry that's giving life to these young families? Yeah, we want to encourage you and invite you. Join us.
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Now, it takes a lot of intentionality and discipline, but becoming aware of your family's needs can help you be intentional about praying for them. John Yates is going to be back tomorrow with David A. Wilson to talk about just that. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David A. Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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