68 Words to Change Your Marriage
About the Guest
Are you regularly praying for your spouse? David Delk introduces the Marriage Prayer-68 powerful words that can change the direction of your marriage.
David DelkDavid Delk serves as President and Co-CEO of Man in the Mirror. He is the author or coauthor of five books, including The Marriage Prayer, Dad in the Mirror and No Man Left Behind. David has served as President of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men, and has served as a visiting lecturer in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from Furman University, and was selected to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn his Master of...more
Are you regularly praying for your spouse? David Delk introduces the Marriage Prayer-68 powerful words that can change the direction of your marriage.
68 Words to Change Your Marriage
Bob: The strongest marriages, according to David Delk, come when a husband and wife begin to see that ultimately their marriage is not about them.
David: Ruthie and I did a retreat, and we had the couples break up—men on one side / women on the other side—and we had them fill out some Post-it® flip chart paper that said, “If only she’d (blank), I’d be happy.” And then the women did, “If only he’d (blank), I’d be happy.” The point that we made afterwards was—we said: “Look at the answers that you came up with. Most of them are funny / some of them are serious, but they’re all me-focused.”
I think, even as Christian couples, we tend to buy into the idea that I need my partner to do some things to make me happy. To think that there might be a deeper purpose beyond that is something that I think needs to happen, where we can lift our eyes to see something even more important than our own needs.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I’m Bob Lepine.
Today, we’ll talk about how we can bring our thinking on the subject of marriage into alignment with what God thinks about marriage. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I should mention that today is Day 7 in our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. I hope everybody, who’s taking the challenge—throughout the weekend, as you got your text message or your email—I hope you continued the pattern of praying together each day. Here, on Day 7, we’re encouraging husbands and wives to take a few minutes to think back to why you fell in love with one another—then for a husband to pray, thanking God specifically for one special memory in your marriage—and for a wife to pray, thanking God that He does indeed work all things according to His purposes and that our confidence is in Him.
If you’re not signed up for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, you can still join in with us. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for the link there for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge.
And speaking of prayer—because we’re going to be talking about that today—I’m sure many of our listeners have heard you tell this story, but we ought to tell it again. It’s about, early in your relationship, when you and your wife Barbara sat down with Carl and—what was his wife’s name?—was it Betty Jean—Betty?
Dennis: No, no, no, no; Sarah Jo.
Bob: Sarah? Okay. So, I knew it had a kind of a Petticoat Junction name to it—so I was just trying to pull—
Dennis: I don’t think she’d appreciate that! [Laughing]
Our listeners have heard me tell this story many, many times—I asked, “What’s the greatest advice you can give me as I start out my marriage?” We had been married for about four months at the time. And he looked at me and he said, “Oh, that’s easy Denny!”—
—he called me Denny. He said, “Pray with your wife every day.” I kind of looked at him. I remembered thinking—and I don’t think I said it to him, “That’s it?”
Bob: You were looking for something a little more profound?
Dennis: “That’s all you got?—just praying together?” [Laughter] But you know what? As I have shared with audiences, all around the world, that advice was the single best spiritual discipline that Barbara and I have practiced over the years. It really was—I think the best advice you can give another couple—to either begin each day, or sometime during the day, or end each day together in prayer.
[Previously Recorded Interview]
We have gentleman with us who believes in a prayer in marriage. And it is 68 words that he says will change the course of your marriage. David Delk joins us on FamilyLife Today—David, welcome.
David: Thank you! It’s great to be with you today.
Dennis: David is the President of Man in the Mirror ministries. A number of our listeners know about that through Patrick Morley, who wrote the book, Man in the Mirror, a number of years ago.
You and your wife Ruthie live in Orlando and have three children. And you have written a book that is called The Marriage Prayer—and the 68 words that can change the direction of your marriage?
Bob: And this is not an obscure Old Testament prayer he found somewhere in—
Dennis: I was thinking it was the prayer of Jabez’s marriage.
David: Right; right. It’s Jabez’s wife—what she said. [Laughter]
Bob: No; tell me where the idea for this came up.
David: Well, basically, Pat and I deal with guys, all around the country. We end up talking with them / we end up talking with their spouses. We hear where they are in their journey. If we were to take all of the problems that men suffer and struggle with—and put them in one hand—and then put marriage on the other side—the marriage side would go way, way down because we just see it consistently in men’s lives.
As we were working on: “How could we help these couples?” / “How could we help these men?”—this idea of getting men to pray for their wives / getting women to pray for their spouses—their husbands—every day would be a wonderful practical step that almost any person could take in their marriage.
That’s where this idea of encapsulating the biblical teaching on marriage in a 68-word prayer that you can pray every day for your spouse. Hopefully, not only will it bring change in your marriage, but it also will bring some change in you.
Dennis: You know, one of the things that I’ve had the privilege of doing, over my almost four decades of ministry, was speaking at Promise Keepers. There were moments that you just felt like were so powerful as images, during those gatherings of men in those stadiums, that you wish you could somehow capture and bottle it. But one of them was when Coach Mac / Coach Bill McCartney, who was the founder of Promise Keepers, asked his wife Lindy to come up on the stage; and he prayed for her. You just sensed in that audience of men a sense of hunger/thirst to go, “That’s what it looks like!”
Dennis: “I can do that!” There was nothing particularly profound about his words—he just spoke words, before God, in a prayer that expressed care, love, concern, some vision, and some hope for his wife.
Bob: And you’re not suggesting, with your 68 words in this prayer—and by the way, there’s a different prayer that you’ve got for men and a different prayer for women; right?
David: That’s right.
Bob: You’re not suggesting that, if you will simply chant these, mantra-like, it will make some huge difference in your marriage? [Laughter]
David: No; no magic formulas here!
Dennis: It really is the attitude of your heart. As I listened to Coach Mac pray those words over his wife, I think that’s what was communicated to those men—
Dennis: —here was a man who was passionate, before God, about his wife—God not only heard him, but his wife heard him. You know, I think that’s powerful.
Bob: At the same time, I like what you’ve done with your 68 words. I was thinking, actually, as I was reading through both of these prayers, I was thinking about Jesus’ pattern for prayer given to us in Matthew, Chapter 6, or in Luke, Chapter 11, where He lays out kind of a pattern that we should follow.
Bob: Your 68 words are designed to spur men and women around the right things to be focused on as we pray for one another.
David: Absolutely. I love that picture, Dennis—that you mentioned about Coach Mac—because so many men want to do the right things / so many women want to have a good marriage—but often, it’s just a struggle to know exactly, “What step do I take now?” They’ve gotten into habits / they’ve gotten in patterns—they feel stuck—they wonder: “How can I do something different?” “What will she think?” “Will he accept it?”
So to model for them and give them a next step—that’s believable / that they can actually take—that’s what this prayer is. It’s a simple prayer—anybody can pray this in two or three minutes. It can become a pattern for a way of thinking and praying for your spouse.
Dennis: You actually mention in the beginning of the book that a lot of marriages are in a kind of a stage called a “get-along marriage”?
Dennis: And then you illustrate it with a couple in a kind of a conflict that they had. Why don’t you share that with our audience because I think this captures where a lot of marriages are—but they get stuck there—and it’s why this prayer can move them out of the ditch and move them on to something greater.
David: Yes. Well, one of the great privileges of working on this book was interviewing couples—and got some case stories out of it. This is one of my favorites because the exact circumstances didn’t hit home but the reality of it did. A couple was trying to deal with busy schedules. The wife needed her husband to try and pick up the kids. He said: “No. I have an association dinner tomorrow night, and I can’t do it.” So, she made some other arrangements. Then, for some reason, she decided to get online—she checked. The dinner was actually the next week, but she didn’t say anything—she just let it go.
That night, after he got home, she said, “Honey, how was your association dinner?” He said, “Oh, it was fine.”
So anyway—about three in the morning—she rolled over, and punched him in the shoulder, and said: “You dummy! I know you didn’t go to the association dinner. It’s next week!”
Dennis: And what did he say?
David: They began to talk about it. He said: “I was embarrassed because I messed up, and I thought you’d never know. I was busy and I was working late.” And she was like: “Well, I should’ve told you earlier. I’m sorry I checked up and all this.”
Dennis: So he wasn’t off doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing?
David: No, he wasn’t doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.
Dennis: But he did lie to his wife.
David: Yes, he did. And the interesting thing about it was—both of them were stuffing it because they were insecure about where it was going to go. They did not know how to deal with that conflict that was coming. So they both were putting it off until, finally, she couldn’t put it off anymore.
Bob: So, the get-along marriage is a marriage where we don’t deal with some of these relational tensions that come up? Is that what you’re saying?
David: Exactly: “We’re getting along. It’s good enough. It’s okay,”—so we sort of stay there, thinking that—especially, I think men have a tendency to do this—we say, “I don’t really want to rock the boat because this is working pretty well.”
David: What we don’t realize is—if we leave it there, then eventually, all those little things that are festering and boiling beneath the surface eventually break through. Then we often have a problem on our hands that’s a lot bigger than the one that we could’ve dealt with months or years earlier.
Dennis: You mentioned a word that I think is, maybe not the root cause of why these things fester, but it can be a huge reason. You mentioned the word, “security.” When two people are in a relationship—and I’m talking about marriage—where they’ve said, “I do,” and “I will,” and “…till death do us part,” there should be security in that relationship.
Unfortunately, because of the culture we’re in—a culture of divorce and because many couples threaten one another with divorce—some couples don’t feel secure enough to be able to share maybe those small things that bother them or their mis-communications. So, they’re hiding / they’re stuffing, as you said.
Dennis: This prayer really does help build the walls around a marriage relationship; right?
Bob: That’s what I want to ask about—“Sixty-eight words that I pray every day is somehow going to take me from a get-along marriage to something that is thriving?” Is that your promise here?
David: Well, obviously, it’s a lot more than just that because God begins to work in our heart. Let me tell you a little story. This is a very minor story, but I think it’s illustrative. I’m getting ready to go out of town on a trip. I’m packing up my computer bag. I’m grabbing my power supply from the outlet, which happens to be tucked away behind the love seat near the sofa. As I’m reaching down to get it, I see a little wrapper under there that is from some kind of a granola bar or something.
I’m late for the airport. I need to get out the door, and I’m trying to get all of my stuff together. I say, “Somebody else will pick it up,”—you have to move the sofa to get to it—“Forget it.” I start to pack my stuff up. Then I said: “Wait a minute. Help me to serve her,”—part of the 68 words. I know who’s going to get it—my kids are not going to get it/ my wife’s going to have to get it! [Laughter]
So, I put my stuff down—I pick up the sofa / move it over, grab the granola bar wrapper, put the sofa back—throw it in the trash, get my stuff, and go to the airport. Now, that’s a tiny little example; but it is illustrative of the way that God was working in my heart, as I began to pray this prayer.
Dennis: Okay, I think we’ve kept our listeners in suspense long enough. Since we’ve been talking about men—and since I think men ought to be the spiritual leaders of their families—let’s start with them. What I’d like you to do is just read all the way through the prayer—except, here’s what I’d like you to do—rather than read the prayer, I’d like you to pray the prayer the way you prayed it over Ruthie before you came here to be on the broadcast.
David: Awesome; awesome. “Father, I said, ‘Til death do us part.’ I want to mean it. Help me love You more than her and her more than anyone or anything else. Help me bring her into Your presence today.
“Make us one like you are three-in-one. I want to hear her, cherish her, and serve her—so she would love You more and we can bring You glory. Amen.”
Dennis: And what did Ruthie’s face look like? Was it this morning or yesterday?
David: Well, it would have been, actually, the day before yesterday—because of our schedules—when we prayed together. She has been praying this for me—just to know that we are bonded together in that and the connection that we have with one another because we’re both trying to pursue the same thing in our relationship—provides that security that you were talking about because I have a sense and she has a sense that we really are in this thing together.
Bob: The prayer that you prayed is the same as the one you suggest for wives to pray for their husbands, with the exception of one line. Differentiate between what you direct husbands toward and what you direct wives toward.
David: Well, in the one line, we ask the men to hear, cherish, and serve their spouse.
For the wives, we switch that just a little to kind of nuance the reality of some of the differences between men and women—to say, “I want to hear him, support [emphasis added] him, and serve him,”—rather than “cherish” to “support him,”—because we know that that is such a vital thing for so many men—to feel like their wives really do respect and value them, as men.
Bob: Have you had anybody push back and say, “Well, how come you’re making women pray this and men pray that?” Do people get ruffled about that?
David: Well, we really haven’t had too much of that. It’s really been a pretty well-received idea because I think most people understand that some of those generalities are generalities because they’re basically true.
Bob: Everything you’ve got / every line in here may not have a verse cited by it—but when you sat down to say, “Okay, what would be a concise get-to-the-heart of what marriage ought to be about prayer?” you went to pages of Scripture; didn’t you?
David: Absolutely. A couple of things we did that are pretty interesting—is that we went to some of the bedrocks of where marriage comes from that maybe you don’t normally think about.
The book does the same thing because we talk about—for example, “Make us one like you are three-in-one.” Well, the Trinity is not usually brought up in a marriage conversation that often; but I believe the relational aspect of who we are, we see in Genesis 1 and 2: “It was good,” “It was good,” “It was good,”—six times—then “It was very good,” one time. All of a sudden, in Genesis 2:18: “It was not good.” Well, how could something that a perfect God made be “not good”?—it was not good for a man to be alone. There’s something about existing in isolation that doesn’t allow us to fully represent the image of God.
Then this idea, at the end, of bringing God glory—just trying to lift a couple’s eyes to something more than: “Are our kids going to turn out alright? Are we going to be a good church family? Are we going to be secure in retirement?” but “How can we actually, together in our marriage, bring glory to God?”
Dennis: I’m smiling because I’m just reflecting back on the content of our Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences. You mentioned some key words that we teach throughout the weekend. One of them is we talk about how marriage is a reflection of the unity of the Trinity. We talk about how marriage is not to be reduced to such a human level that we lose the distinctives that it was Almighty God creating marriage, as His personal model, that displays His glory.
All of a sudden, marriage is not just these two imperfect people trying to get their needs met from one another / all of a sudden, this husband and wife—they’re together—there’s something at stake in their marriage.
Bob: There is a companionship need that God’s meeting in marriage, and there is the procreative aspect of marriage as well. But I think what you’re saying is—before you even get to those things, you got to recognize—well, the way I heard one guy say it was—the words of Psalm 34:3—
—he proposed, saying, “O, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.” There is something about being united in purpose / one-minded intent that reflects something of the character and unity of God.
Dennis: When you take a spouse and say, “I want to be your husband / I want you to be my wife,” you’re saying, “Out of all the six billion people on the planet, I choose you to reflect the glory of God.” I think this is one of the reasons why your prayer is effective—is because it does turn a couple’s heart upward and maybe a bit outward from being self-focused because this culture is all about “Me, me, me, and me!”
David: Yes. Ruthie and I did a retreat—and we had the couples break up—men on one side / women on the other side. We had them fill out some Post-it flip chart paper that said, “If only she’d (blank), I’d be happy.”
And then the women did it: “If only he’d (blank), I’d be happy.” They were having fun with it—they were laughing and giggling. You can imagine all of the different things that came out on those sheets of paper. The point that we made afterwards was—we said: “Look at the answers that you came up with. Most of them are funny / some of them are serious, but they’re all me-focused,”—even the premise, “I’d be happy.”
I think, even as Christian couples, we tend to buy into the idea that: “I need my partner to do some things to make me happy,” and “That’s kind of what marriage is about. That’s why I’m not single. That’s why I’m not living by myself.” To think that there might be a deeper purpose, beyond that, is something that I think needs to happen, where we can lift our eyes to see something even more important than our own needs.
Bob: You shared many times about how the discipline of regular prayer for one another in your marriage has pressed you back together and away from the isolation that can happen without that discipline in place.
Dennis: Yes. I’ve also said: “You can’t have a couple, who are inviting Almighty God into their presence, or them going into His presence on a daily basis, without your life being changed because, where God shows up, He changes things. You can’t be the same person.” So, when I saw your book and this prayer, I thought, “There really can be a few words that can change the direction of your marriage if the words are expressed to the right person.”
David: There you go!
Bob: —“and from the right heart.”
Dennis: —“and from the right heart, where the words are expressed to Almighty God and say: ‘Lord God, we’re broken. I’m selfish. I need help! I need You to help me fulfill my vows.’” That really is what the prayer does—is it just, I think, walks you through the basics of what you’ve promised when you stood before the pastor or the justice of the peace and words that, more than likely, you haven’t said since. [Laughter]
Bob: Aren’t sure what it is exactly you’re getting yourself into! [Laughter]
Dennis: Exactly! You didn’t even know what you were saying because you were so numb from all the preparation around the ceremony. I think what it does is—it re-cements commitment to create the safety and the security that every marriage needs if it’s going to truly reflect the character of God and be used by Him to impact, not only their own children, but also succeeding generations.
Bob: Well, the discipline that you’re suggesting here is—I mean, we’ve seen the studies over the years that say couples who’ve prayed together, regularly as a couple, marital satisfaction is higher and the divorce rate is lower. Now, I know that correlation isn’t always causation and, yet, these kinds of patterns do indicate that God is at work in a special way in the lives of couples who pray together each day.
And again, let me remind our listeners about the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge we have going on, right now, where you can sign up to receive a text message each day and be praying with one another, regularly, in your marriage. We’ll send you the prayer prompts each day. I’ll also mention David Delk’s book—which is called The Marriage Prayer: A Prescription to Change the Direction of Your Marriage. We have that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. When you go to our website—FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen / the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge when you go there. You can order copies of the book, The Marriage Prayer, from our website as well.
And then let me also remind you that you can sign up to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this fall. This is the last week you can take advantage of the special offer we’re making to pay the regular rate for yourself, and your spouse comes free.
That offer expires at the end of this week. So, this is a good time to visit FamilyLifeToday.com. Sign up for the prayer challenge, get David Delk’s book, and get more information or get signed up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. If you have any questions, call us, toll-free, at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”; or again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, our conviction, here at FamilyLife, is that the health of a marriage is really connected to the health of our relationship with the One who created marriage in the first place and the One who brought us together. Our relationship with God affects our relationship with one another. When we’re not getting along in marriage, often, there’s a link to what’s going on or what’s not going on in our relationship with God.
I want to take just a minute here, Dennis, and thank the listeners who agree with us that this spiritual foundation of marriage is essential—those of you who help support this ministry, either as Legacy Partners, who give a monthly gift, or those of you who will, from time to time, contact us and make a gift in support of this ministry. We’re grateful for your partnership with us and appreciate your involvement in the mission and ministry of FamilyLife Today.
If you’re able to help with a gift, right now, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a FamilyLife calendar. This is our 2016 prayer calendar; and I know some of you are thinking, “It’s not even near 2016.” Well, this calendar actually begins in October. It will give you suggestions on how you can continue to make prayer a discipline in your marriage and in your family throughout the year. Again, it’s our gift to you when you support the ministry with a donation. You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone.
Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the connection between our prayers and our priorities and how our prayers can help us make sure our priorities are what they ought to be—focused on the right stuff. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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