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Best of 2023: Praying For Your Marriage is Essential (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
December 15, 2023 2:00 am

Best of 2023: Praying For Your Marriage is Essential (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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December 15, 2023 2:00 am

In this best of 2023 broadcast, Jodie Berndt encourages couples to pray for their marriages! She explains how you are responsible for your own faith, how to pray with different personalities, praying through conflict over finances, and praying the scriptures through a season of difficulty. This is a discussion you won’t want to miss! (Part 2 of 2)


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When his wife became pregnant with their fourth child, Greg panicked, but a Focus on the Family counselor put everything into perspective. He said, the first thing you need to realize is kids are a blessing. They're all a blessing. They're gifts from God. The second thing he said was kids value relationships, not stuff.

I'm Jim Daly. Let's give more families hope. Any gift you send will be doubled at slash gift. So we might not be intentionally saying, OK, bow your head, we're going to pray. But as we're talking about ways we can grow in love, we can grow in support. We can reflect this covenant of love that God loved us first and we're only loving because he loved us. I think he can receive that as a prayer.

And I think God can work in our marriages. That's Jody Berndt with more insights about the powerful impact prayer can have on husbands and wives. Last time on Focus on the Family, we shared a Best of 2023 program with you featuring Jody. And we're coming back to part two of that conversation today. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly.

And I'm John Fuller. John, I think Jody made the case that prayer is vital to the success of our marriages. I often say this, but that stat that she gave us about how couples who pray together, and I would add read the word regularly, not every day, but regularly. There is a less than one percent chance of divorce in that couple's future.

That says it all. We also learned how to navigate those inevitable personality differences where a husband or wife may be less comfortable with prayer and how to push through that discomfort to experience greater spiritual intimacy, which is what that is. And connection as a couple. And of course, why you need that team mindset whenever you face conflict with your spouse. It's not me against her. It's us against those things that are impacting our marriage.

This is really practical stuff. So if you missed the conversation last time, get the download or CD from us, get the smartphone app, and then you have access to everything. Jody's got some great content for your marriage, and we don't want you to miss it. And we'd encourage you to get a copy of Jody's book as well. It's terrific. It's called Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage.

And we can tell you more when you call 800-AFAMILY or we've got all the details in the program notes. All right, Jim, here's how you began part two of this best of 2023 conversation with Jody Bernd. One of the big responses we receive here at Focus on the Family with marriage difficulty are the finances. You know, there's sometimes there's not enough and we get that. And sometimes it's mismanagement.

Somebody is medicating through buying a lot, whatever it might be. But let me just ask you. I think you had a friend that you mentioned in the book who I think saw her dream house and something went wrong. Yeah.

Yeah. They had moved to a new town and she was fine with moving. It was a job move for her husband. And she got there and she was really excited when she found what was, she thought, their dream house. And he looked at it and said, you know, we can't even consider that.

That is too showy. It wasn't even a budget thing. He just thought we shouldn't live in that fancy of a house that would look proud.

And she thought, wow, it's everything I ever dreamed of in a house. And that created real conflict for them. And she found herself taking it to the Lord, not in a humble, sweet prayer, but in an angry prayer.

And, you know, God can handle those prayers. Right. And she's saying, why is he being and she used the word ogre. She said, why is he being such an ogre?

Why is my husband not understanding how much his house means to me? And so the two of them had to really work through that. But what was so neat in their marriage was that they really valued unity, unity in their decision making. And she thought to herself, if we're not united on the purchase of this house, I don't want to press it through. That's never going to be a good outcome. Right.

The difficulty there, though, is not letting that bitterness build up. Whatever it might be, other couples, it may not be a house that one of you really wanted to buy and the other didn't. But it could be a car.

It could be other things. You know, Christmas presents. Jean and I, you know, we tend to spend a lot at Christmas. And, you know, it's something we'll talk about.

Typically, it's my pouty face. She gives it away. Yeah, I'm like, OK.

But, you know, she loves to bless the kids and friends and things like that. And there's nothing wrong with that. You know, you you probably know I used to write books for Ron Blue.

He was kind of Dave Ramsey before there was Dave Ramsey. And Robbie thinks that's just the greatest joke from the Lord in the world because I don't know a whole lot about money management. But thanks to that writing, I learned stuff. And one of the things I learned was that money is just money.

You know, it's it's a tool to be used for other things. And so the question we need to ask ourselves in our marriages as we're considering, all right, how much are we spending on Christmas gifts? What kind of house are we living in?

What sort of vacations we take? All of that stuff is just are we using our money, our tool the way God wants us to, you know, who are we ultimately serving? Are we serving ourselves? Are we serving, you know, other people?

Are we serving the Lord? Because honestly, buying a new pair of sneakers can be a spiritual decision, just like give tithing because it's money. You know, we all live in a world, right, where there are limited resources to spend on unlimited needs and wants. So everything becomes a spending and a spiritual decision when we look at it that way. Some of these sneakers are ridiculous. That is true. That is a little mortgage payment, isn't it?

I'm not spending no $400,000 on sneakers. You're right. Maybe that's not the best example.

No kidding. The big thing is how can praying for our spouse help us with those financial decisions? I think that's a really good thing. Jean and I have been pretty good with that. There's a big, big thing.

Maybe not as strong on the smaller things, ironically, now that I think about it. But speak to the power of prayer when it comes to financial decision making. And backing up a little bit from that, too, is you do have different desires a lot of times.

And when Robbie and I were younger, we used an envelope system of, you know, what cash goes in where. And we also said to one another, and this was a million years ago, but that any decision under $50, we didn't have to be in unity for. We could just get what we wanted on that. And bigger than that, we should talk about it.

I'm sure today's couples might have a higher limit than that. But for us, that's what it was. But when there was time when there was tension where one of us thought, OK, we should buy this and the other one didn't, prayer really was a way for us to be humble, to say, you know, not my will, not even His will, but Thy will, Lord, and bring us into unity, bring us into understanding. And you never lose when you give time.

And sometimes stepping back and praying. And Robbie, I'm always the one that thinks we're never going to find a great deal as this. We've got to act now. And he says there will always be another deal. Let's step back and seek God. Let's get in unity with each other.

And that's been a real barometer for our decision making. I'm laughing because that sounds just like me. You and I purchased kind of the same way. You would be broke.

Why wait when you can have a super duper refrigerator right now? That's right. That's right.

Thanks be to God for Gene and Robbie. Anchors in decision making. Let's move to another topic now. This is really everybody's going to go, uh-huh, turn the radio or whatever up YouTube. And the issue is submission.

Ready for the organ music? The idea of submission is so touchy in our culture today. And I guess the question is, how have you wrestled with yielding your desires to Robbie when there's a tiebreaker kind of thing? And maybe, I don't know if there's a, you know, a deep theological way to manage that. But even saying that feels a little uncomfortable. Like you've got, if it's just a 50-50 thing, who's got the call?

And is it that simple? For us, and I agree with you, that is a lightning rod word. And a lot of times people read that Ephesians 5 passage, which you know is the classic New Testament passage on husbands and wives and how we are to live. And people will start with that verse 22 saying, wives, you know, submit to your husbands.

I think we need to back it way up to the beginning of that chapter. And this has been the thing that has come in working on this book. The thing that has come so alive to me is the gift that we have when we walk in love, Ephesians 5, 2, giving ourselves up for one another, just like Christ gave himself up for us.

That opens the door. And then Ephesians 5, 16 says, make the most of every opportunity. And in marriage, don't we have a hundred opportunities every day to submit to one another, to yield our rights. Whether it's I'm going to the movie I don't want to see because he really wants to see it.

He's coming to the office party or the family function that he might not want to go to because I've asked him to come. You know, we just have a hundred chances to make the most of every opportunity. Again, Ephesians 5, 16, to submit to one another, that's verse 21, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. So I think in all of these things over and over again, and I love Paul tucks in, Ephesians 5 verse 18 says, be filled with the Spirit. Because those times when we cannot do it, we can't give ourselves up for the other person. Our will is just too strong.

Our desires, our selfishness is too strong. But when we are filled with the Spirit, that makes it possible. The Holy Spirit can work in us the things we don't even want to do.

And it is just the coolest thing to me. Paul writes that, you know, marriage is a profound mystery. It's a reflection of Christ's love for the church. And as we do that, as we partner with the Lord, really, as we share in that fellowship of mutual submission, we get to see love grow, love flourish. That creates a climate where marriages can thrive through this mutual surrender and submission. This, again, looking not to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. And you know what's so cool? Secular research has supported this.

It creates, researchers at the National Marriage Project, that is something out of UVA, which of course I love being a UVA alum, but they have found that when we intentionally do things for our spouse, whether it's something small like bringing a cup of coffee in the morning or something larger, when we do that consistently over time, it creates what they call an upward spiral of generosity, a climate in which love can flourish. And isn't that a cool thought? I mean, because that's research that's not biblically based. It's biblically mandated. But you don't have to be reading your Bible to realize what doing something for someone else over time can create for them the desire to bless you in return. Well, and I so appreciate the preface that you gave there, that if you look up in Ephesians, there's a lot more about what both of you have to do.

But, you know, there are the ogres and you just go to a verse that fits your temperament and this is what it is. That's why I think it's such a, you know, inflammatory area. Yeah, it's definitely inflammatory. Because if it's done well, it's not a matchstick. Right.

It's not going to light gasoline on fire. Right. And that's where we got to get to. Yeah. Yeah.

And, you know, you and I both know we're not talking about the wife submitting to the emotionally or physically abusive husband. You know, none of that. That is not what Paul's talking about here. Not at all. Not at all.

So hopefully the church can get healthier and healthier in that area. In fact, one exercise that you and Robbie came up with was to do a little competition where you can out serve each other. Oh, yeah. Being competitive, I like this idea.

Yes. Well, he's competitive too. I mean, score, you know, what's the score?

Like 1,680 to what? If we had to point to one, like, nugget that we would say was so formative in our newlywed years, we heard Dr. Tony Evans speak and he said that he and his wife had made this commitment to try to serve one another and it became kind of a game. And then it escalated to a competition. And Tony got frustrated because he said his wife was so much better and so much more creative at coming up with things that she could do for him that he said she was out serving me.

And he had to, like, think of ways to catch up. And Robbie and I really took that to heart and he would even say for him, which I am such a beneficiary of, that those acts of service, those choices, created in him a cherishing. Like, he actually began to – it moved from just being kind or serving to really cherishing me. And, you know, as the recipient of that, you just can't even imagine what it feels like to know that your partner is cherishing you.

But that's what those little acts of service can lead to. Let's move into suffering and grief and cover – this is a heavier topic, not as jovial, but it's important that we talk about it. When you first married Robbie, how did you view storms that would come into your life? Well, we didn't think there was going to be storms when we first got married, you know.

And then how prayer was incorporated into that later. Yeah, well, you know, when Robbie and I got married, you sit there, right, and you're standing at the altar and you're reciting those vows to love and to cherish, till death do you part, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, all these, you know, opposite sides of the same marriage coin. And you think to yourself, what about, you know, better or worse?

There's nothing worse, we're in love, we're all dressed up, the sun is shining, our friends are here, marriage is going to be awesome. And then life happens and you hit some hard things. And I'll tell you, a couple chapters in the book really were hard to write. I interviewed people who, in one case, her husband had started cheating on her during their honeymoon.

Oh my goodness. And then, you know, it continued through their marriage and she felt like, as a good Christian woman, she needed to stick it out. And I don't want to blow the whole story, but that is a story where the presence of the Lord walking with her and equipping her to forgive, they did wind up getting divorced. And he actually wound up getting sick and she was able to care for him in that time of sickness, which was just amazing. But then another couple went through a season where they lost a child. And as you know, that can derail a marriage, even the strongest marriages can begin to crumple under the pressure of that.

So there are storms that we don't see coming. And I think the only way we get through that is with prayer and with inviting God's presence into the mix, because there's not an easy answer. You can't say, why did he cheat? Why did our child have to die?

Why did we have three years of separation and hatred? We don't have easy answers for that. But when we have, over and over again, as I interviewed people, the thing that got them through those storms, those rocky times, was the comfort of God's presence. Jody, in that regard, we haven't touched on this last time or this time, but just, you know, the exercise of praying. For some people, they feel it has to be a formal kind of thing. You know, people that lean toward more liturgy in their church, more formality in their church.

That can be kind of intimidating. I'm not a priest. I'm not a pastor.

I'm not sure that I could do that. Jim, I hear that all the time. And then, you know, the real thing is he reminds us that he's our Abba Father. He's our daddy.

Right. And that he wants us to talk to him like you would your earthly father, in a good way. He absolutely wants us to talk to him. The Bible says he bends down to listen. You know, he delights in hearing our prayers. He commands us to pray. I do talk to people, though, when, you know, 70, 80-year-old women who come up to me and they say, I've been in church my whole life, but nobody's ever taught me to pray. It has felt like what the minister does.

It has felt like what we read out of the book. I know the Lord's Prayer. But how do you go beyond that? And again, I go back to that John 15, Jesus saying, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish. He's like, yeah, use the words that I've given you first in Scripture and use them to shape your prayers. Talk to me. And the other thing, I talk to people, they say, yeah, but, you know, Jody, you're just talking about somebody losing a child, somebody whose husband cheated. I just, I'm just frustrated that my husband, you know, leaves his shirt on the floor, whatever. I don't want to pray about that. That's just petty.

That's too trivial. I had one lady say to me, I don't want to be clogging the lines when somebody with something really big is trying to get through to God. And I think God, we can't look at God as though he has this limited bandwidth that he can only hit three, you know, ten topics a day or ten people a day. He delights in the details of our lives. He's the God who knows the hairs of our head, right?

The number. So we can come to him with anything. And he tells us to.

He loves that. I'm thinking of that like a simple definition of prayer is simply to talk to God. Absolutely.

That's what it is. Prayer is not complicated. And it shouldn't be complicated because God wants to commune with us throughout the day.

Yeah. Just like we do with our own children, right? We love it when they talk to us.

It's a great analogy. Before we move off of this suffering and grief, because that can come in so many ways, powerful ways that you just talked about loss of a child, infidelity in marriage. Unbelieving spouse. Sometimes, you know, on the broadcast here, we're not including that person. And I've, you know, we have had a couple of women that joined us on the broadcast.

You can go through the library and look at that and listen on your smartphone. But they spoke about being married to unbelieving spouses. And there can be grief with that.

There's always hope. But especially in this area of praying together, it's a very different thing when you're married to an unbelieving spouse, maybe a delightful person. Right.

Yeah. They just don't believe in Jesus. And I actually talked to a woman about that very thing for the book. It's a chapter called trusting God with your differences, with your faith differences, because, you know, believing spouse or not, we will have faith differences. But if your spouse isn't a believer, and again, I mean, it can move into the almost funny sometimes and it's not funny. But I interviewed one gal who was like, I bought my husband a Bible with his monogram on it. I got him a devotional that had a golfer on the cover because he likes to golf. And I left the email addresses, you know, for all the men in our church that I thought he should be friends with around these wives. And we wives do this.

We want to create the greenhouse environment in which we think our husband's faith can flourish. And then, you know, finally, this lady, you know, she didn't drink. Her husband loved to have a bourbon at night. Everything she looked at in his faith seemed to be like he was on the JV and she was the varsity and she didn't like that. And finally, one day he looked at her and he said, why do you think your relationship with God is so much better than mine? And she said, you know, that really stopped her in her tracks because she thought to herself, it's kind of arrogant of me to assume that my way of worship, my way of knowing the Lord, my way of praying is right and my husband's is wrong. Now, in her case, he was a believer.

He just wasn't a believer of her exact stripe and maybe not as spiritually mature. But I think whether your spouse is a believer and isn't praying the way you want or they're an unbeliever, over and over again we see in scripture verses like in Romans where it says that God's kindness leads us to repentance. And so often we can look at our spouse and we can be saying, Holy Spirit, convict him, or I want to argue him into it. We're not going to win our spouse with conviction and argument.

We're going to win with love and with kindness, you know, and with winning love in that way. It's so true. And the same application is there for parenting. I mean, so often if you're fearful and in your high control mode, you have the potential, especially with your teenagers, to kind of push them in the very direction you don't want them to go. Because you're, and it's similar to what you were just saying. If you're going to argue him or her into something, well, try that with a 14, 15 year old. You're going to argue them into doing their things.

Absolutely. You know, we know that Proverbs 18, I think it's verse 21, words kill, words give life, they're poison or fruit, you choose. And as we want to speak these life giving words in our marriages, just like as you're saying with a teenager, with a child, you know, when you're saying, Hey, I love the way you did this, that you watch a child blossom in that. Whereas when you criticize it, they kind of shrink up and it's the same with our marriages. We want to affirm the good things we see in our spouses.

So what is prayer, again, with your spouse? How does that affect your kids? And how do you include your kids in praying? You know, at a little age, it's pretty obvious.

But as they get older, they may have less interest and they're on their own journey now. How did you and Robbie work in the kids to prayer time? Well, you know, I'd love to say we had these fabulous family devotions where everyone came with their Bible and we sat for half an hour. And there was angelic music playing.

Yeah, I would love to say that. No, it was more like we would hear the bus coming up the street to the cul-de-sac and you could hear the rrrr up the hill. And somebody would yell, bus, and we'd gather at the front door and, you know, have a quick... Normal chaos. Yeah, we'd have, you know, somebody's looking for their permission, slip their shoe, whatever. And we would just take a moment there to just speak a prayer over them as they walked out the door. You know, maybe it might be let your presence go with them today, Lord, or fill them with joy, any of those things.

Let them be a blessing. And it might be something as short as that. Then as they got older and could be a little more responsible, we might say, hey, come to the breakfast table.

You know, we're going to have five minutes. We're going to consider this passage or this verse or this little, you know, devotional book, whatever it is. But in terms of our own marriage, I think it really created for our children a sense of security and a sense of stability to see us prioritizing prayer again, even if it was just for a few minutes. And that might mean that the kids' needs had to wait.

And I think there is something kind of magical in parenting. When you put your kids on hold for a time so that you can focus on one another, so that you can have that spiritual intimacy with the Lord, we might worry that, oh, no, they're going to feel ignored. They're going to feel left out.

They're going to feel neglected. And what science is showing is that that actually creates a stable and secure family environment because the kids feel secure saying, wow, mom and dad love each other. And not only that, but they may be fallible because they're human and our kids know we're fallible, but they have a higher power and authority that they can tap into. So they see that, that we are, you know, we know we don't have all the answers. And when they see us looking to the Lord for those answers, that creates a framework and a structure in which their own spiritual lives can flourish.

Right. In that context, leaving that lasting legacy, the broad paintbrush stroke of that, when you and Robbie look back now, your kids are older. What kind of legacy does praying with your spouse leave for your family? Well, you know, God's word never comes back empty. Isaiah 55 says it always accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent.

And I think that there will be answers that we don't even see unfold as they continue to unfold over time. And another thing, Jim, we didn't really talk about, but I want our kids to know God is fun. I want them to know prayer is fun. You know, we can put it in this box like it's our holy side. And in the book, we start each chapter with a joke instead of with a prayer verse, just because I want to lighten up. You started yesterday's show saying, you know, prayer is work and marriage is work and things work. And yeah, we all know we have to work at marriage, all that, but it's also fun. And I just want to let everyone know who's listening, you know, this is a joy and a delight. It's meant to be that. That was such a great conversation with Jodi Berndt, and I am so glad it was one of our most popular programs this year.

She is a good friend and she is the real deal behind the microphone and in person. We want you to know that it doesn't matter when you start praying as a couple. Just pray, whether you're newlyweds or have been married for decades. The time to start praying together is now. Make that decision today and see how the Lord will bless your relationship. You will feel closer, I guarantee it. One tool that can help is Jodi's terrific book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage.

And let's make it easy. Send a gift of any amount and we'll send you a copy of that book as our way of saying thanks for being involved in the ministry and being a partner in this ministry. Here's a bonus we'll throw your way as well. We'll also include the prayer cards that Jodi mentioned in the program today. These are bite-sized portions of Scripture that you can take with you wherever you go. Yeah, they're really wonderful little cards. And so donate today and get the book and the cards when you call 800 the letter A in the word family.

800-232-6459 or donate and get those resources. We've got all the details in the show notes. And let me speak to the folks that have not contributed before. It sometimes can feel a little uncomfortable, but really we're doing this together.

I think God's economy, when you donate to focus a little bit or a lot, that accrues to your account in heaven. And what I'm so excited about is that the challenge, let's just say today, go ahead and get the latte. We often talk about swapping out a latte, but get the latte.

Don't deprive yourself. But if you could send $5 to focus on the family and if we have thousands of people who have not donated before doing that, we can impact more couples in 2024. The research shows that about 1% of the listeners listening right now will support the ministry. That gives us a lot of room for growth.

Let's double it, 2%, 3%. Think how many people we could help together if we could do that. And again, our number is 800-AFAMILY or you can donate by clicking the link in the show notes. Well, we hope you have a good weekend. And coming up on Monday, we have an inspirational message from Joe Dallas about how God rescued him from homosexuality. I had been born again. I had been filled with the Spirit. I loved the Lord, but I had temptations. And I thought the presence of those temptations meant there was something foundationally wrong with me. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Focus on the Family dot com slash get help. That's Focus on the Family dot com slash get help.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 06:04:33 / 2023-12-15 06:16:42 / 12

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