Last Sunday as part of our Married People series I posed this question, “If the me from last week could go back to the me on my wedding day and give myself advice, what would I tell myself?” The video below is what I came up with:
originally posted as Step One: Pray Together on August 27, 2012
I don’t know where you are in your marriage. You may be just starting out or rounding out twenty years together. Your fire may still be burning bright or may have died out a long time ago, leaving only lukewarm embers.
As I’ve counseled with couples about their marriages, I’ve found that every situation is unique. Every marriage has its own baggage and history. But there are a few things that will help any marriage. Here’s one I want to share with you today.
Your marriage may be on the ropes or going strong. You may need serious intervention or just a minor tune-up. But wherever you are, step one to making your marriage stronger is to pray together everyday. The good news about this step is that it’s free. It won’t fix all your problems, but it’s a good first step. Here’s what you’ll discover when you pray together:
1. It’s hard to hate someone you pray with. As you pray for and with your spouse, you’ll find your heart softening up for them. You’ll begin to see them not through your eyes (as a selfish or controlling spouse) but through God’s eyes (a messed up sinner in need of grace). Try this. It works. If you have hard feelings towards your spouse, pray for them and with them. See how God sees.
2. Praying invites God into your marriage. By praying, you’re acknowledging that you need a greater power in your marriage. If you’ve been married long enough, you realize that you can change your spouse only up to a certain point. If you really want to see life change in your partner, then God’s got to be the one to do it. Praying invites God to do what only He can do.
3. Praying humbles you. Prayer is a great reminder that we can’t do it all on our own. Prayer asks God to do what we can’t. It doesn’t seem like much, but humility goes a long way in God’s economy. Pride and arrogance, on the other hand, are the surest ways to derail anything God wants to do in you. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10
4. Praying unites you with your spouse at a foundational level. This is why praying together is so much more beneficial than simply praying alone for your spouse. It’s hard to explain. It’s something you need to experience. When you pray with your spouse, you’re engaging in a deeply spiritual activity with another person. The spiritual is the deepest part of you, so you’re connecting with someone at their deepest level. Praying with my wife unites us in a way that almost nothing else can.
Try it for a week. It will only take five minutes. Whether it’s at the breakfast table or by the side of your bed, carve out time everyday to pray authentic prayers together to God, and see what happens to your marriage.
QUESTION: How has praying together with your spouse benefitted your marriage?
Recently I had to make a phone call that broke my heart. It’s a phone call that I hope I never have to make again. A few years ago a couple came to me for marriage counseling. They had been struggling with issues for years but hadn’t talked to anyone about them. We met several times and made a little bit of progress but no breakthroughs. They couldn’t meet in the middle. Counseling kind of petered out and they eventually moved to a different state.
As life goes we lost track of each other until I received a letter from a lady I’ve never met. She told me she was the guardian ad litem for this couple. They’re getting a divorce. It’s getting messy. Accusations are flying back and forth. And worst of all, there are kids involved. The relationship had deteriorated to such a point that the government had to step in to help decide where the kids went.
That’s where my phone call came in. The guardian ad litem received permission from both parties to talk to me and get my take on the situation. It was a depressing phone call to say the least. I believed and still believe that it was a marriage that could have been saved. The greatest casualties are the children, pawns with no say in the matter.
I hope I never have to make a phone call like that again. If your marriage needs help, get help. Don’t stick your kids in the middle. Don’t make the government decide where they go. Talk to someone this week.
Is There a Pause Button for Parenting? – My thoughts exactly!
Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Marriage – Always helpful words from Perry Noble.
An Acts 17 Moment: What Burger King Has Right About LGBT People – Great perspective for those with ears to hear.
10 Keys to Being a Great Employee – We could all benefit from this!
Why We Won’t Live In Heaven Forever – Just to blow your mind a little.
Bonus Video – the new trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings is out, starring Christian Bale. Looks epic!
A Different Kind of Millennial Problem – Wouldn’t it be great to have this problem in all our churches?
How to Speak Your Spouse’s Love Language (And What to Avoid) – Great help for any marriage!
10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup – Great tool! Worth the read!
A Letter to Married Couples Who Are Struggling With Infertility – Great encouragement!
Where Do Millennials Attend Church? – More good insight into this pivotal generation for the church.
Yesterday was ministry in a nutshell, a microcosm of what many pastors face week in and week out. The first half of the day was idyllic. I cocooned myself inside my office, spread out my Bible, commentaries, online tools and a pen and paper, and went to town. I brainstormed, researched, read, prayed, and planned. I created sermon series ideas for the next school year, dug into some of my favorite biblical texts, and imagined how successful all these upcoming sermons were sure to be. It was a carefree, clean, tidy, optimistic morning.
But then I did something I knew better than to do: I stepped out of my office. Inside my office, there are no problems. Outside my office, outside the church walls, there’s the mess. I ran into two recovering addicts who’ve come on and off to my church. They’ve been more ‘off’ than ‘on’ when it comes to church attendance. They’re clean and sober, but they’ve still got an uphill climb in life from years of mistakes. Victory in their life will never be quick or easy.
Then I found out about two marriages on the verge of divorce. One divorce will be final in the next few months. One is on its last legs. Both are couples recently in our church. One actually sat in my office for counseling (that’s the one that’s already calling it quits). Kids are involved in both marriage. No one is winning there.
Now you know why some pastors like to stay indoors. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s clean and tidy. We can sit at our desks and wax eloquent about deep biblical truths that only other seminary students care about. But that’s not where we’re needed. Pastors are needed outdoors, offering hope to addicts and hopeless marriages.
Every time I get out of my comfort zone, every time I step outside, I’m reminded why I’m a pastor.
Here are a few things to read this weekend. Enjoy!
What if Your Child is Gay? Very insightful words from Russell Moore.
Why I Gave Up Alcohol – A very reasoned, non-judgmental word to all the social drinkers out there.
Lessons from 18 Years of Marriage – Great words!
7 Things You Should Know About Temptation – Don’t read this if you struggle with temptation! (Aha! I just tempted you!)
Yesterday my gorgeous wife and I celebrated twelve years of marriage. I’ve blogged about marriage many times, but my anniversary is another opportunity to share what I’m learning along the way. Here are 12 things you’ll learn after twelve years of marriage:
1. You’ll look back at your wedding photos and say, “Who are those kids?”
2. Being knee deep in parenting, you’ll think back and wonder, “What did we do with all that free time we had before we had kids?”
3. You’ll learn which fights are worth fighting, and more importantly, which one’s aren’t.
4. You’ll laugh at the false narratives of marriage being portrayed in the media (movies, sitcoms, etc).
5. You’ll find beauty in the mundane; you’ll find richness in the quiet moments with your spouse.
6. If you’ve made it twelve years, then you and your spouse will have already gone through the fire and come out stronger on the other side. You’ll have realized a new strength forged in your marriage.
7. You’ll learn that marriage doesn’t get easy after twelve years. It might get a little easier, but it never gets easy.
8. You’ll acknowledge that one of the greatest competitors to maintaining romance with your spouse is your own children.
9. To be successfully married for twelve years, you’ll have surmised that marriage is the most humbling, the most sacrificing, and most transformative thing you can ever do in life. It forever changes you.
10. You’ll have discovered a level of intimacy with another human being that you’ve never experienced before.
11. You’ll get this sense that your spouse truly does complete you. You’ll acknowledge that marriage really is God’s beautiful design.
12. You’ll learn that even though you spend every day with your spouse, you still have so much more to learn.
QUESTION: What have you learned after your years of marriage?
Here are five links to help you keep learning today!
Leadership and the San Antonio Spurs – great leadership lessons for the sports fans out there
How to Engage the Demonic – insightful follow up if you’ve been keeping up with our War of the Worlds sermon series
The Irony of the New Tolerance: It Doesn’t Tolerate Christians – beautifully written
The VA’s Socialist Paradise – great opinion piece about the ongoing scandal about the VA.
How to Speak Your Spouse’s Love Language (And What to Avoid) – must read for all married couples!
Kirsten Powers: Liberal’s Dark Ages - Must Read! Great article that captures the hypocrisy of the ‘tolerance’ movement.
Author Debunks Myths About Divorce Rates, Including of Churchgoers – Great news for married people!
What is the Link Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking? – Insightful article from my buddy Tony Merida.
Do We Do Discipleship Wrong? – Derwin Gray asks a critical question for churches today.
Southern Baptists Struggling to Attract Younger Generation, Says New Report – Research to back up what we’ve known for years.