FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Praying Big for Your Marriage

with Will and Susie Davis | January 4, 2010
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When was the last time you asked God for something BIG? Today pastor Will Davis and his wife Susie talk about praying big, hairy audacious prayers as a couple for your marriage. The Davises encourage believers not to shy away from asking God for big things, having faith that He’ll answer one way or another.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • When was the last time you asked God for something BIG? Today pastor Will Davis and his wife Susie talk about praying big, hairy audacious prayers as a couple for your marriage. The Davises encourage believers not to shy away from asking God for big things, having faith that He’ll answer one way or another.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

When was the last time you asked God for something BIG for your family?

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Praying Big for Your Marriage

With Will and Susie Davis
January 04, 2010
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Bob:  You may have made some New Year's resolutions this year. Is praying with your spouse or praying for your spouse one of those resolutions?  Here are Will and Susie Davis.

Will:  One percent of marriages fail that the people pray together in. Let me say that again, one percent of marriages fail where you pray together, which means that 99% make it.

Susie:  And it's not magic. It doesn't make the conflict go away. It's like a discipline; it's just like brushing your teeth, or whatever.

Will:  That's like so obvious to me it's scary. If we'll pray in our marriages, the marriage will survive and prevail.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday January 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about what is obvious but what is also rarely practiced, as a spiritual discipline by married couples praying together.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  Before we talk about praying together as a couple, we want to talk about reading the scriptures together as a couple. And, in fact this is one of our goals for this year. We want to do what we can to encourage husbands and wives to spend time together in God's word throughout 2010.

Dennis. That's right Bob. And I just have a burden really to encourage families and couples to get into the book, the bible, and allow that book to reside in your marriage, and in your family. I just think we're in an evil age today, and if we're not in the book, we're probably getting our cues from the culture.

Bob:  And in your daily devotional, Moments with You that you and your wife Barbara wrote, you begin each daily devotional with a verse of scripture. So, what's the verse on January 4th?

Dennis:  Well, it's First Thessalonians 5:11. "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another just as you also are doing." This is a great family wheel alignment verse. Encourage each other. There are so many things that happen in a marriage and in a family where we pick at each other, and discourage each other.

Just think about reading that verse maybe tonight at the dinner table, and talking about it as a family. What are some ways that we can build one another up. Maybe take the dinner time to focus on different members of your family and just say good things to them.  It might be amazing what would be accomplished at that point.

Bob:  Well, and again, our hope is that throughout the year, each one of us will be a little more intentional in our families about spending time together in God's Word, and being focused here during 2010, on the importance of the scriptures.

Dennis:  And I think moms and dads and husbands and wives need to set aside time to share the scriptures. It will realign your thinking and your attitude toward one another.

Bob:  I have one other quick announcement I need to make before we dive into what we're going to talk about today, and this has to do with our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®  Marriage Conferences. We're going to be kicking off the spring season next month, but I want to let our listeners know that this week and next week, if you go ahead and contact us and sign up for one of our upcoming conferences. We've got conferences happening in February and then through the spring.

If you sign up for one of the upcoming conferences, and if you do it this week and next week, and let our folks know that you're a FamilyLife Today listener, when you buy one registration you'll get a second registration. But, again you have to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener. And you do that by either calling 1-800-FL-TODAY saying I want to register, and Bob told me to call. Or, “I listen to FamilyLife Today,” that'll work.

If you're registering online, when you come to the key code box on the registration form, just type in "Bob" and they'll know that you listen to FamilyLife Today. Any registration you buy, you get a second one free. So you buy one for yourself, your spouse comes free. Now this is only for FamilyLife Today listeners, and it's only good this week and next week, so we want to give you the heads up on that. And encourage you to go ahead and contact us and get ready to attend one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences.

In fact, Valentine's weekend, Dennis is going to be in Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National, out on the waterfront, out on the Potomac, and I'm going to be in Hershey, Pennsylvania at the Hershey Lodge doing a Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conference there, and we've got conferences taking place Valentine's Weekend, in a lot of different locations. So, get more information online at, you can register online if you'd like, and again use my name, "Bob", in the key code box, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and register over the phone and mention that you're a FamilyLife Today listener.

Now, we're going to talk about praying together as a couple.  I have to be honest. If I had to give myself a grade on the spiritual disciplines scale, when it comes to prayer, I would not get a very high grade. This is one of the harder spiritual disciplines for me. And I think that's true for a lot of people.

Dennis:  Well, we've done a lot of research at our Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences, and we've found that about 70% of us pray for our children, about 35% of us pray with our children, and a number of us--under 10% pray for our spouses, but less than 3% pray with our spouse. And we've got a couple in here who believe in praying. In fact they believe in praying big. And I've never heard of this concept before. "Praying big, hairy, audacious prayers." I have never thought of prayer being described quite in those terms. But since he's a pastor he can get away with it. Will Davis joins us along with his wife Susie on FamilyLife Today.

Will:  Hey guys, good to be here.

Dennis:  Glad you guys are here.

Susie:  Thank you.

Dennis:  You've written four books on this subject.

Will:  I'll get it right one of these days.

Dennis:  Praying Big, where did the concept of praying big come from?

Will:  It's a biblical concept. You may have not heard it expressed the way I'm expressing it. It is a biblical concept. Because, in prayer we're supposed to ask God to act like God in our world. Prayer is not something I can go manipulate the response to.  I pray and God moves. So, "Praying Big" is in scriptures. I'm just saying it more creatively perhaps.

Bob:  Alright so, it's in the scriptures, but where did it hit you? Where did it first come to Will Davis? "I need to be a big pray-er!"

Will:  I spent three hours in a prayer meeting at our church, and afterwards I was walking across the parking lot back to my office. And I felt the Holy Spirit say, "That was sweet. You did a lot of 'God bless Bill,' 'God be with Sue,' 'God give Joe a special blessing,' (Like there's ordinary blessing) kind of praying. But what did you ask of God that only God can do?" And I realized, we hadn't done a thing that was dramatic in our prayer.

We had a sweet prayer time, but we never said "God, you have to move here or we're going to be in serious trouble." And that bugged me. That I'd just invested three hours in prayer and hadn't really expressed any faith at all. And I think faith is one of my gifts. So, it didn't take long of revisiting scripture to realize there are no caps on prayer in scripture. I think there are boundaries around it, pray in Jesus name, pray according to his will, those kinds of things. But He never says, that's too much, I can't do that. That's too big for me.

And typically we play it safe in prayer. So that changed how I looked at prayer and how I started praying myself and the book is the result of that.

Bob:  The scary thing about what you're talking about is if you start praying big, you're going to be asking God for stuff that doesn't normally happen, and may not happen much even after you start asking for it. I mean, God is sovereign right? So you may ask Him to heal someone who is dying of cancer and that person dies and you go, "Well, this praying big stuff sounds good Will, but why?"

Dennis:  Yes, in fact that might be where the caps come from.

Will:  Yes, when we get Nos.

Dennis:  Yes, I like your concept that God doesn't want our prayer to have a cap on it, but when we get a "No".

Will:  We take it as a cap, that God can't or won't do that and the whole thing about praying big prayers is, it puts you out there in faith. Israel spent 40 years in the desert and they were fed by God's hand miraculously, every day, He can do this stuff. My fear is--we don't like to get out there in faith and wait on God. We want to control it so we don't pray big prayers.  When I pray a big, hairy, audacious prayer, I require God, I'm begging God to act like God in my world.

I often say--forgive me for this--"I don't believe in miracles." What I mean by that is, I don't believe there is anything supernatural in God's realm. It's just God acting like God. That's what He does; He does miraculous all the time. It's miraculous when it’s in my world. The kind of prayer we should be doing is, "God if you don't come through here, we're going to crash and burn." He expects us, I think in scripture, to live that way. It's walking by faith.

Dennis:  OK, give us an illustration, of a recent big, hairy audacious prayer that you've prayed, where God has entered your world, and He showed up.

Will:  My director of operations showed up at my office recently, and said "Will, we've got to lay off staff. The economy is crashing, our giving is down, and in the next three months we're out of money, and we've got to start laying off staff right now." We prayed about it, and we said, in faith, you always go for it on fourth down. We didn't feel like it was good stewardship to start laying off staff because God had said "Your eyes are on me, not on the economy. I am your source of strength not what the economy is doing."

So we kept going. We passed the point of financial no return, and we had in the next two months, the largest months in our church's history in a failing economy, and we didn't lay off anybody. We were moving ahead in faith. That was a direct prayer response we didn't expect or see coming. But we postured ourselves in such a way that God had to come through, and He did. 

Bob:  Now wait, somebody would say, "Will, if I'd have prayed like that, in this economy and the two months hadn't come in, we'd be out of business."

Will:  Bottom line, we felt led to. That's a great point. We felt God say, if you will stay out here, I'll come through for you. And I think if He had said, "In wisdom, in stewardship, you've got to start laying off staff," we'd have obeyed that.  We felt like God said, "If you'll honor me here, I'll come through for you." And listening to God and obeying his voice, makes a difference.

Dennis:  To apply this close to home, here at FamilyLife, we faced the same economic challenges; I would say we prayed about it. There's a proverb that says "A prudent man sees danger and takes action." And so in the midst of all this one of the, I think one of the tensions in the Christian faith is, it's not a one-size-fits-all. You can't say automatically that everybody needs to sail into the eye of the storm.  For some, like what we had to do, we had to go ahead and do a prudent thing, which was have a layoff.

Now, I don't feel like, God convicted me of having a lack of faith. I appreciate your story, I'm glad God brought the money in so that you didn't have to have the layoff, but for other people as Bob has said, they're not going to be led to do the very same thing you did.

Bob:  And that's where I'm thinking about the whole "Pray big" concept. I'm thinking, I want to step out in faith, but I don't want to be presumptuous.

Will:  Or irresponsible.

Bob:  That's right. And so, discerning where that "pray and exercise faith and belief and go forward" versus "Be prudent and be wise," where that line is, that's a hard thing to do sometimes.

Dennis:  You know, the thing that we constantly are trying to do as human beings is put God in a box, and reduce him to a formula. And, praying big, as a concept, I agree with that 100%. I think the Christian community needs to be more captured with a little bit of faith in a great God. I'm in 100% agreement. But, there are those factors in life, that aren't going to be reduced to a formula.


Will:  Well, it’s praying for someone to get well and they die, that happens more often than not in my world. I mean, I've seen God heal, but more often than not He heals in Heaven.

Dennis:  You're a pastor.

Will:  I've got to be OK with that.

Bob:  So, you pray big for God to heal them, and when He doesn't you go, "God said 'no'."

Will:  The great thing about praying big is, it's up to God to make the results happen. He just wants me to ask, and have the faith to go for it, and say "God come through here." But I've got to be OK with him saying "no", or something else.

Susie:  I think part of this too is, many times we don't ask big because we're afraid. We're afraid that God's not going to come through with the answer that we want, and one of the things, that is outlined in Pray Big for your Child, and Pray Big For Your Marriage is that, all of the prayers that we need to pray are directed by scripture. And as in the case of your deal, you prayed, and there was a verse that landed you, that directed your prayer.

And so, I think that's an important point to bring out is that, it's not just getting over fear and praying for a new car. That's not what Pray Big is about. It's more about directing your prayers into something that is biblically based, that you need in a practical way. And maybe you talk about that.

Will:  No, it's right on. You take your cues from scripture.

Dennis:  Let's talk about how you apply this in your marriage because it sounds like you all are very similar to Barbara and me. We have made prayer a part of our daily ritual together as a couple. In fact, last night, I dozed off before we prayed. I don't remember the last time we went to bed and didn't pray together. I forgot last night. I was tired, OK.

Will:  It happens.

Dennis:  But, you guys pray together every day right?


Will:  We try to. We pray together every day. It's not particularly profound, necessarily. It's not long and theological. Sometimes I'll sense Susie twitching and dozing off while I'm praying for her occasionally.

Susie:  It still counts! It still counts.

Will:  With a "Hurry-it-up" kind of thing. One percent of marriages fail that people pray together in. Let me say that again, one percent of marriages fail where you pray together. Which means 99% make it. That's so obvious to me, it's scary. If we'll pray in our marriages, your marriage will survive and prevail.

Bob:  Do you pray together when you're angry with each other?

Will:  Absolutely.

Susie:  Yes.

Will:  We believe in "Don't let the sun set on your anger," and so we do.

Bob:  Well OK, but do you fix it and then pray?

Susie:  No not always at all.

Will:  It's not pretty. She has prayed, remember "Karah" (??) God opened up the ground and swallowed him whole. She prayed that for me on several occasions.

Susie:  I did not!

Will:  She has.

Susie:  Well, it is a biblical prayer.

Dennis:  We're laughing about this, but I want to hear a sample of what a prayer might sound like from you Will, when you're angry with her.  And, again, we don't have time for a five-minute sermon prayer.

Will:  It wouldn't be one.

Dennis:  I want to hear what it sounds like. Do it as though you were praying right now.

Bob:  Would you say first, "You know, we need to talk about this later, but let's pray."

Will:  No, I just start praying.

Bob:  In the middle of the conflict?

Will:  Yes. "OK God, here we are you see this situation, we know we're probably being oppressed, we're not treating each other very well.  We're not communicating, in Jesus’ name, give us wisdom and heal the situation." That's what I would do.

Dennis:  And then, what do you do Susie?

Susie:  You know, this has been such a habit in our marriage that it's just like breathing. That's what happens. And so, it's not abnormal to me or strangely spiritual or weird it's...

Will:  It's part of how we function.

Bob:  Does it make you madder at him when he does it?

Susie:  No.

Bob:  Does it make you any happier with him when he does that?

Susie:  Not necessarily, honestly. It's just there. It is what it is. It's like a discipline.  It's just like brushing your teeth or whatever. And it's not magic; it doesn't make the conflict go away. But later I'm glad that our conflict didn't get to great that Will couldn't pray. You know what I'm saying?  And later, I'm glad in the morning when I wake up.

There's nothing worse than having a fight and feeling like you go to bed mad, and waking up and feeling embarrassed and angry again. But when we've prayed together, or he's prayed at night over us, it feels like a covering almost.

Dennis:  This is going to be a tough one. You're a pastor, but have you ever yelled a prayer over your wife?

Will:  Probably. I can't think of one.

Susie:  I don't know if I've heard it. (Laughing) Maybe when I'm not in the house he's yelled prayers on my behalf.

Will:  I have a friend whose pinpoint prayer asks "God please help my wife to want sex." That's the prayer her prays all the time.

Bob:  The "pinpoint prayer"? You're talking about praying very specifically.

Will:  Pinpoint prayers are the type of prayers modeled in the Lord's Prayer.  When Jesus did two things, He prayed those petitions, Lord give us our daily bread, deliver us from evil, etcetera. They're specific and they're biblical. They're rooted in Old Testament imagery, so He wasn't making stuff up. He was saying stuff that He knew God wanted to do. And there was nothing vague; they were very focused and specific. And, too often, we say "God bless Joe." What does that mean? God has already blessed Joe, he's a Christ follower.

So, you try to find biblical points you can pray to God and they're very focused and very specific, and right to His heart.  Susie has been on the show before and mentioned witnessing a murder in eighth grade that really rocked her world. My role in helping her through that was praying for her. Because I noticed my wife had a fierce stronghold, big time. She was terrified of things.

Susie:  I was anxious.

Will:  I started praying Proverbs 31:25 for her. That she'd smile at the future, and be clothed with strength and dignity. One translation says, "She laughs at the days to come". Well, that was the opposite of Susie. And, I just started praying that pinpoint prayer for her. Rather than thinking up "God help Susie get over being afraid," I used His words and prayed them back to him.

I am married to a courageous, brave, bold woman today. And that's the role of pinpoint praying in marriage.

Susie:  It wasn't magic, it didn't happen the first time he prayed it.

Will:  No, it didn't.

Susie:  He prayed it for years and, by the way, for your information, he didn't tell me he was praying it. "I'm praying for you to smile at the future what's wrong with you, you anxious fearful woman!" He never told me until I was on the right side of that promise. Does that make sense?

And I think there is some merit to that too, that prayer is between me and God--that covenant and that relationship is what then, makes Will and I come together and be able to pray together too.  My first husband is Jesus, and when I lean into him, then I can be vulnerable with Will, I can accept his help and have him pray for me in my weakness. 

Will:  And I pray that by the way. I pray that she loves Christ more than she loves me. She'll be a great wife. And she prays that for me, that I'll love Jesus more than I love her.

Dennis:  I want to go back to where we started this broadcast. You spoke of how we tend to cap our prayers. And we made the statement here that we feel like one of the things that caps our prayers are those prayers that either go unanswered seemingly, or where there's a no. What's been the biggest disappointment in prayer that you've faced? And then share with us how did you get over that? How did you move through it so on the other end of it, you didn't fall into unbelief and fail to trust God moving forward.

Will:  My biggest disappointments have been with praying for people that don't love God. That I'll start in fourth or fifth grade or in college and I'm still praying twenty or thirty years later. And they look farther from God than they were twenty years ago. That breaks my heart. But what I've learned Dennis is that God's answers and God's news is always better than I think. And what appears to be a "no" may often be an "I'm not done yet. I'm working and you can't see it."

God doesn't work in an Excel spreadsheet, He doesn't have a calendar, and He works in His time. Our job is to pray and be faithful in that. And His job is to come through when He chooses to.

Dennis:  Bob, I think you mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast as well that this is one of the areas where you said you wouldn't feel like you'd score very high...

Bob:  It's a hard spiritual discipline.

Dennis:  I think that's true for most people. I think prayer is, as a spiritual discipline, one of the most difficult. It's exactly what we've been talking about here. It's mysterious, it involves the will of Almighty God, which we don't control, but still He commands us to engage Him in a relational, component called prayer; to step out in faith and keep praying. Like the widow in the New Testament who over and over and over went to an unrighteous judge. The difference is, we're going to a righteous judge who really- wants to hear our prayers.

Bob:  I know when you ad Barbara sat down to put together the book Moments with You, one of the goals was to encourage couples to talk together each day and to pray together each day. This is a spiritual discipline that you feel passionately about.

And I'll just mention, for our listeners. If you want to go to there's information about Dennis and Barbara's daily devotional Moments With You. You can find that online at There's also information about Will and Susie's book Pray Big for Your Marriage, which we've got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well.

You can find information about both books at and order from us online if you'd like. Again the website is, you can also contact us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and we can make arrangement to have either of these books sent to you.  We hope that maybe this is a pattern that you'll get going with the New Year--something that will stick with you and carry you through the year.

We're also hoping that our FamilyLife Today listeners will decide to join us this year at one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences, and I just want to mention again that Dennis is going to be speaking Valentine's weekend. Actually Dennis and Barbara together at the Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conference in Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National Hotel, right there on the Potomac. That same weekend I'll be speaking in Hershey, Pennsylvania in the Hershey Lodge. We're going to have other conferences going on all around the country, not only that weekend, but throughout the spring.

If you sign up this week, to attend one of these conferences and you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, you will buy one registration, get the second one free. So you attend at the regular price, your spouse attends with you for free. You can get more information, or you can register online at, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.

You've got to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener. So if you're calling, just say "I listen to FamilyLife Today," or "I heard Bob talking about the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners." Or if you're registering online, just type my name, "Bob" in the key code box in the online form. And when you check out it'll take care of the buy-one-get-one free automatically for you.

And we do hope that you'll plan to attend one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences. Get more information online at, or call us at 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.

Really quickly, a word of thanks to those of you who over the last several weeks contacted us, either by phone or in writing, or online to make a year-end donation to FamilyLife Today. In the next few days we hope to be able to give you a final update on how we did toward our largest ever matching gift challenge.

But I just want to take a minute and say, thanks so much for whatever you were able to do, and for your financial support, it means a lot to us, and we do appreciate those of you who regularly, faithfully help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Thanks for getting in touch with us, and thanks for your support.

Now, tomorrow we're going to be back with Will and Susie Davis. We're going to talk more about praying together as a couple. Tomorrow we want to zero in on praying together for your kids. And I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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