Making Your Spouse Your Priority
About the Guest
You said, "I Do." Now what? David Delk, president of Man in the Mirror, encourages couples to get out of their ruts and change the way they think about their spouse by intentionally praying for them daily.
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
You said, “I Do.” Now what? David Delk encourages couples to get out of their ruts and change the way they think about their spouse by intentionally praying for them daily.
Making Your Spouse Your Priority
Bob: What would you say is the arrangement of your priorities in life? What’s number one?—number two?—number three? I guess the real question is: “Is there a difference between what you’d say your priorities are and how you’re fleshing that out?” Here’s David Delk.
David: It’s so easy in our culture today—with the emphasis on activity and busyness—it’s easy to forget that, after God but before all others, our spouse should be our top priority. I know for Ruthie and I—we’ve had to regularly kind of give a check and say: “Are we really keeping one another the top priority?” or “Have we let our children’s schedule become the top priority?” or “Have we let work become the top priority?” What we’re doing in this prayer is—we’re asking God to help us, in our hearts, to see clearly the priority that our spouse should be, above all these other demands and considera-tions that seem to come at us from all directions in our lives.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.
We’ll talk today about how praying together, as a couple, can help us make sure our priorities are what they ought to be. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Today is Day 8 in the FamilyLife 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Today, we are encouraging husbands and wives to pray together. In fact, many of you should have already received your prayer prompt that comes via email or text message to you each day and gives you some guidance on how you can be praying together today.
Our focus today is on how we guard, and preserve, and strengthen our marriage relationship. We’re encouraging husbands to take the initiative in praying with your wife—that you can be sensitive to her needs and available to her.
We’re asking wives to pray the same thing with their husbands—to be sensitive to your husband’s needs and available to him.
Again, if you’re not signed up to be part of the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge—and you’d like to have some prayer prompts sent your way over the next several weeks so you can be praying together, as a couple—isn’t that a good idea? You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Then look for the information about the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Sign up, and we’ll send you these prayer prompts each day.
I don’t know if there’s ever been any research done on this or not, Dennis; but I would imagine, if we could find out how many husbands are praying for their wives regularly and how many wives are praying for their husbands regularly, I would guess that the women probably have the lead on that one. Don’t you think?
Bob: Do you think it is 2:1?—3:1? What would you guess?
Dennis: I don’t know about that.
But I do know we actually did a survey, one time, of how couples pray for their kids. And it was like 70 percent of us pray for our kids. About 35 percent of us pray with our kids—which is different than praying for them.
Bob: Right; yes.
Dennis: Then less than 10 percent of all couples prayed together daily. In fact, it was down in the 1-2 percent of all families. By the way, we were doing the research in the church. So we are talking about a need that is, in my opinion, a base-level need—to have a revival of couples, who pray for one another and with one another.
[Previously Recorded Interview]
To help us do that, we have an author, David Delk, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. David, welcome back.
David: Thanks so much. It’s great to be here.
Dennis: David works in the Man in the Mirror ministry. He co-authored a book with Patrick Morley—it’s called, The Marriage Prayer: 68 words that could change the direction of your marriage. David lives on Orlando.
He and his wife have three children. I want you to get right to the prayer again, and I want us to kind of dissect the prayer. This time, why don’t you read the wife’s prayer?
Dennis: Again, what we’re talking about here is a husband and a wife who just take—what does it take to pray this prayer?
David: No more than two minutes.
Dennis: So we’re not talking about a long season of prayer like you may have heard at church, where someone gets up and prays their way from one end of the Milky Way Galaxy to the other.
Bob: And these 68 words really are a pattern for what couples need to be praying for one another. Read through the prayer for a wife to pray for her husband. And then let’s go back and just look at what’s behind each of the lines in this prayer; okay?
David: Fantastic! “Father, I said ‘til death do us part,’—I want to mean it. Help me love You more than him and him more than anyone or anything else. Help me bring him into Your presence today. Make us one like You are three-in-one.
“I want to hear him, support him, and serve him so he would love You more and we can bring You glory. Amen.”
Dennis: Okay, I’ve got a question, here on this first line. I understand why you started out with a reminder of “’til death do us part,’”—but why the phrase, “I want to mean it”?
David: Well, you know, there’s just so much uncertainty in relationships today. Our culture has accepted divorce as a standard practice—certainly, from those who don’t have a relationship with God. Even in the church, there’s this idea that “Well, if it happens,”—there’s this idea that it may not be the worst thing in the world if we needed to settle our relationship, or get out of this marriage, or whatever the case may be.
Yet, the Scriptures clearly indicate that marriage is “until death do us part,”—what God has joined together, let no man put asunder [Matthew 19:6]. We’re trying to start off, saying: “We need to get back to this idea of faithfulness in our marriage. This is something that cannot be violated. It needs to be lived out every day—that I want to live out ‘til death do us part,’ today, in the way that I treat my spouse.”
Dennis: Okay, I got that; but why wouldn’t you say, “’til death do us part,’—help me to make good on that promise,” rather than “I want to mean it.”
David: That’s called authorial license / [Laughter] poetic license. [Laughter]
Dennis: But the attitude here is that you really want two people to make good on their promises.
David: Absolutely. That’s the idea—I want to live up to what I said I was going to do.
Bob: —but not just grit my teeth and get to the finish line—kind of enduring. The “I want to mean it,” means “Til death do us part,”—I mean, when I said ‘til death do us part,’—I was looking at it, going, “This is the greatest thing—that we’re going to be together, all the way to the finish line—just the two of us.” It is a few years, later in marriage, when you go, “I don’t know that I still have that perspective I had at the altar.” That’s what you’re trying to bring people back to; aren’t you?
David: Yes, exactly—
—just a reminder that: “Listen, this is about the commitment that you made before God and to your spouse,” and “That commitment is lived out every day.” Again, it’s not going to be some kind of grudging thing; but the Scriptures clearly indicate that, when we sacrificially love our spouse, that there’s blessing, and joy, and hope, that comes through that because of the gospel and what Christ does in our lives.
Dennis: This promise creates something for a marriage relationship that can only be established by two people making a covenant.
Bob: You mean the “death do us part” promise?
Dennis: Right. Explain what it delivers because I think, in this culture of divorce, we’ve forgotten what happens when we do threaten our spouse with a divorce. We scream at them and say: “Well, if we just don’t work this through, we can just get a divorce. We’ll just split the assets. We don’t have any children,” —or maybe we do—“We’ll just go our own separate ways.”
David: Yes—or “I’m leaving,” or “You know, if you keep acting like that, I’m going to go ahead and leave.” All those kinds of threats—what they do is break the security that God would want us to have in our marriage relationship because that marriage relationship is supposed to be one flesh.
It is a bedrock where / it should be a bedrock where: “Even though all these other things in my life may not be going the way I want,” or if “Things may be breaking apart at the seams, I know that this is the person that God has united me with—‘til death do us part.’”
Bob: Well, you’ve already talked, this week, about how marriage is designed by God to be a picture of His relationship with us. Christ is the Bridegroom / we’re the bride. It’s a picture of unity among different members of the Trinity or different members of a marriage relationship.
We know that there is this promise we have from God that He will never leave us nor forsake us [Deuteronomy 31:6]. Now, think about what that promise means to us, as believers, as we go through our lives—to know that God will never leave us or forsake us gives us such a sense of security in that relationship. To know that about one another does the same thing in a marriage relationship.
David: Absolutely. It frees us, then, to go beyond that because, if we don’t have that security, we’re going to want that constantly and consistently from our spouse. We’re not able to think about the areas that we need to grow or new steps or new opportunities that we have, as a man or woman, to glorify God and to be the person that He wants us to be. We’re going to be trying to get the security we don’t feel like we have from our spouse.
Dennis: Okay. Let’s take this next phrase in the prayer, “Help me love You more,”— speaking to God—“than him and him more than anyone or anything else.”
David: Yes. This is where we get to the idea of priority because it’s so easy, in our culture today—with the emphasis on activity, and busyness, and schedules, and children and all the demands that they bring—it’s easy to forget that, after God but before all others, our spouse should be our top priority.
So, what we’re doing in this prayer is—we’re asking God to help us, in our hearts, to see clearly the priority that our spouse should be above all these other demands and considerations that seem to come at us from all directions in our lives.
Dennis: How has this worked out in your marriage?
David: Well, you know, it’s interesting—three children—busy musicians / athletes, school—all those things—traveling for my work—Ruthie’s engaged in lots of things at our church—all the general pressures that everybody listening to this radio show have. It’s funny because what’ll happen is—you might go for a week or two—you might have a special project or you might have a particularly busy season in your life—but then it might become two months, and then it might become six months.
I know, for Ruthie and I—we’ve had to regularly kind of give a check and say, “Are we really keeping one another the top priority?” or “Have we let our children’s schedule become the top priority?” or “Have we let work become the top priority?” or even “…church involvement become the top priority?” It’s something that we definitely have to stay on top of because there are so many opportunities out there for each one of us.
Bob: I’ve got to be honest here. I think a lot of us know that our husband and wife, as the top priority, is the right answer and—at least, for me—because I know it’s the right answer, I think, “If I know the right answer, then I’m doing it right.” You know what I mean?
David: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: It’s kind of like if somebody came up to you and said, “Let’s talk about priorities.” I’d go: “Alright, God needs to be my first priority. Then my wife is my second priority, my kids; and then, you know, work or church, and then it all comes in behind that.” I’ll feel good about myself because I know the right answer.
Now, am I living it? That’s a whole different deal. So, we do have to pull back. The good thing about this prayer is—it provides a little regular conviction for your soul. You can’t pray this very long without going: “Okay, is that real? Or have I just said it in vain for the 14th day in a row?”
David: Right. One of the things we encourage couples to do is: “Ask your spouse,” —say to them, “Look, if you had to grade me in the last two weeks, where would you think you fell on my priority list?”
We have a story in the book about a man who proudly was going to do that with his wife. He asked her and said, “Honey do you agree that, after God, you’re my top priority?” She looked at him and she said: “I’m not your top priority. Work is your top priority.” He said: “No, Honey, it’s not work. What are you talking about? It’s you.” And she looked at him and she said, “Work is your top priority, and the only person you’re fooling is yourself.” Now, that is a wake-up call. He took it as a wake-up call, and he began to make some changes in his marriage.
Dennis: It’s difficult for men—and for that matter, working wives as well—it’s easy to get caught up in climbing the ladder / allowing the pursuit of accomplishment—especially in this economy, where you’ve got to work harder and you’ve got to put in long hours. Work can be a tough taskmaster, and it can bring a great toll on a marriage relationship.
Bob: I think a lot of times people will feel guilty.
They’ll go, “How can my marriage ever be top priority because work takes 40-50 hours a week?”—you know, depending on what kind of job you’re in—it’s taking a bunch of time.
Bob: And “Let’s see—sleep takes some time. Work takes this time. I don’t have enough hours left over to make marriage my top priority, in terms of hours devoted to it.” But you’re not just talking about hours devoted to it; are you?
David: No, absolutely not. What we’re talking about really is your attention and your focus. If you think about a business person running a business, he may not make all the sales calls or do whatever; but he sure is making sure the stuff is getting sold.
In the same way, in a marriage relationship, we may not be obviously spending as much time with our spouses as we spend at the office; but we need to take time / emotional energy—we need to take attention and focus to make sure that our spouse is learning, and growing, and feeling loved, and that our relationship is on the right track. However much time that takes, we need to preserve the energy to be able to demonstrate that priority to our spouse.
Dennis: Okay, this next phrase in the prayer: “Help me bring him into Your presence today.” Tell me how Ruthie has done that, practically.
David: Well, that’s a great question. You know, in our relationship, Ruthie is a very capable person. She’s a wonderful church member—she works in the church / she does all kinds of leadership roles. One of the things she’s done for me is—she’s really helped me grow in my relationship with Christ. The last few years, we’ve been learning more about the gospel, we’ve been learning about grace, we’ve been learning about the idols that sometimes invade our hearts. And she’s sharing with me things that she’s read / she’s sharing with me things that she’s learned.
She’s helping me see Christ more clearly in the way that we’re interacting, but not only that, she also—sometimes gently and sometimes not so gently—helps me see where I’m not maybe living that out—whether it might be in relationships outside the home, or perhaps even with our children, or with her in a very gracious way—but she’s willing to go ahead and help me understand that I need a clearer picture of Christ so that I might be able to then live the way that I would want to live.
Bob: I know, for me, it’s just simply a matter of the kinds of conversations Mary Ann and I wind up having, if we’d been reading something or if we’d been listening to a particular message, and to have that dialogue. I think we sometimes look at a phrase like, “Help me bring her into Your presence” and we think, “Well okay, that sounds kind of ethereal and mystical.” But we’re really talking about getting our minds aligned together on God, and His ways, and His purposes and growing in our mutual understanding of who He is and how we relate to Him.
I think one way we’ve done it—and it’s been awhile—but when our kids were little, we’d go on long trips together. We’d be in the car, and when the kids would start to fuss—I’m talking car-seat fussy—they’d cry / they’d want out—Mary Ann and I would just start to sing hymns together. We would do it, oftentimes, to sing very loudly to try to out-sing their squawking in the back. It would take them by surprise, and they would sometimes quiet and listen, and oftentimes fall asleep.
Even after they fell asleep, we’d just keep singing hymns together. And those were sweet times where—the motive may not have been to bring one another before the presence of God—but by the time it was all over, our hearts and minds were meditating on: “My chains fell off; my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?”—you know?
Dennis: And there’s other ways we can do it as well. If you like books and you find great stories, read a story to your spouse. That’s a way of bringing your spouse—your wife or your husband—into the presence of God. The last couple of nights, Barbara has been doing this with me. Last night, she read me the story of William Borden, the heir to the family that had the empire around milk, I believe out of Chicago.
He was a mega-millionaire as an 18 year old because of the family he’d been born into. She read the story about how he gave his life for the gospel and died at the age of 25. It was just a great reminder, as we went to sleep last night, that there have been a lot of people go before us who have paid enormous sacrifices and demonstrated great faith. It’s a reminder, to us, just to keep on keeping on. Of course, what they found in William Borden’s Bible were six words: “No reserve. No retreat. No regrets.”
Dennis: Well, who doesn’t want to live a life like that?
David: Absolutely. That’s great. And the reality is that the world is throwing so many lies at us. You think about it—and I use that terminology—but you’re being lied to all day long. You’re being lied to by billboards. You’re being lied to by commercials. You’re being lied to by advertisers / by logos on clothes. The world is out there, throwing all of this information at us. “Where’s the truth?” Well, the truth comes when we see God for who He really is.
It’s kind of like with Ruthie—she’s legally blind. When she takes her contacts out at night, if she doesn’t have her glasses at hand, then she stumbles through our bedroom, like a zombie, you know: “Are they on our end table? Where are they?” Invariably, I’ve got to get out of bed; and I get her those glasses. When I find those glasses and give them to her, she puts them on. All of a sudden, she can see perfectly. That’s what coming into the presence of God does for us. It cuts through all that clutter. It helps us see, not only our marriage the way we should see it, but also the world the way we should see it.
Bob: Again, we can do that through prayer; we can do that through time together in God’s Word; we can do it through singing together. There are lots of ways to enter--I think again of the Psalms [paraphrase of Psalm 100]: “Come into His presence with thanksgiving. Enter His gates with rejoicing / with song.” So, there are ways, together, we can—as a couple—bring one another into the presence of God. And just remind one another, in the middle of a very difficult, hard—what you used to call the “no good, very bad...”—what was it?
Dennis: “No good, very bad, terrible, horrible things; and I am going to move to Australia.” [Laughter]
Bob: Right. In the middle of one of those days, you just remind one another: “Look, this is what’s true. This is what we banked our life on, and let’s go before the throne together.”
Dennis: The big idea is—if you’re married, your spouse is going to incite you toward evil or toward good.
Dennis: You’re extremely powerful in your husband’s life, ladies. And men, I promise you—your wife is like a sponge, wanting you to pray over her / pray with her. Bring her into the presence of God—help her pursue Him. Encourage her in life because life is discouraging—life is tough / it’s hard. We all need someone, alongside us, who doesn’t give up.
I think—as I look at my wife, Barbara’s life, and we’ve been married since 1972—I think the thing I’ve just gone to the bank on, over and over, is—when I come home / when she’s there, it’s the same—I mean, she’s predictable. I know she’s committed to Jesus Christ and to doing what’s right. I don’t have to wonder about that. What’s that worth?
Dennis: That’s an incredible gift to my life.
Bob: I think, when you’re praying on a daily basis, “Help me bring her into Your presence today,” that does put you in a position where you’ve got to pull back and say, “Okay, now, how am I going to do that?”
Dennis: Especially if I just yelled at her. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right. [Laughter]
Dennis: I think it could cause you to maybe watch your words, a little bit, in the heat of the moment.
Bob: It could be a corrective measure; or it can just be a proactive way of stopping and saying, “Okay, what’s one thing I could do today that would take my wife before the throne?”—maybe it’s praying with her / maybe it’s reading the Scriptures together.
We’ve talked about different ways it could happen. If you’re daily praying, “Help me bring her into Your presence today,” then you’ve got to stop and go, “Okay, now, how do I do that?”
Dennis: Now, some of our listeners have been writing fiercely, trying to grab all these words—the wife’s prayer and the husband’s prayer. We’re going to put these on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. They can just pull them down and make a copy of them, and then maybe also take a look at the book that we feature there as well.
Bob: Of course, we have copies of David’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—it’s called The Marriage Prayer. It will help you with this discipline of praying together and with what the focus of your praying together ought to look like. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about the book, The Marriage Prayer, there. You can order if from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And of course, in addition to having the prayer that we’ve talked about today—as a framework for your praying together, as a couple—we’re in the middle of our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. We’re sending out prayer prompts each day. If listeners would like to sign up to receive those prayer prompts, they can sign up at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll send you the prayer prompts each day.
Let me also mention, while we’re talking about marriage, this is the last week we’re making available this special offer for those who would like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We’re going to be hosting about 30 of these events this fall in cities all across the country. If you would go ahead and sign up now, you can pay the regular registration rate for yourself; and your spouse comes at no additional cost. So it’s a great way to save money on attending an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for information about the Weekend To Remember marriage getaway, about our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, and about David Delk’s book, The Marriage Prayer. If you have any questions, call us. Our toll-free number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Finally, thanks to those of you who made today’s program possible—that would be those of you who help support this ministry with your contributions / your financial support for what we’re doing, here at FamilyLife Today. We appreciate you. We always look forward to hearing from you.
In fact, right now, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you the FamilyLife 2016 calendar. This is a calendar that has prayer as its focus. So, throughout the year in 2016, we’ll be offering you help and encouragement to be praying together, as a family, throughout the year. You can receive the prayer calendar as our thank-you gift when you make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how prayer can help us deal with our biggest problem. And our biggest problem is us—it’s our pride / our self-focus. We’ll talk about how prayer helps to drain 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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