United in Prayer
About the Guest
Sam Ingrassia and his wife had hit a rough patch in their 37-year marriage. But it wasn't until his wife's startling comment that he began to wake up to the reality of their spiritual state. Sam tells Dennis Rainey how he and his wife began infusing new life into their marriage by praying together daily.
Sam Ingrassia and his wife had hit a rough patch in their 37-year marriage. Sam tells how he and his wife began infusing new life into their marriage by praying together daily.
United in Prayer
Bob: Hi! It’s Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today. Before we start our program today, I want to remind you that this is Day 10 in FamilyLife®’s 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, where we are encouraging husbands and wives to pray together every day for 30 days. We’re not just encouraging you to do that—we’re helping to make it happen by sending you a daily prayer prompt via text message or email. You can sign up to receive these prayer prompts when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and then sign up from there to receive your daily prayer prompt.
Today, our focus is on how we can address the spiritual issues in our marriage—our relationship with God—and how that affects our relationship with one another. We’re encouraging husbands to pray that God would help you to give attention to the spiritual side of your marriage and asking wives to pray that God would give you wisdom and courage to walk in obedience to Him each day.
Find out more about the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Now, today, we’re going to introduce you to a guy named Sam Ingrassia. Sam is a seminary graduate who has gone on to pastor a local church and who now plants churches in third world countries. As committed as he was to the things of God, there was still one area in his life where that commitment was waning—that area was daily praying with his wife.
Sam: The fact of the matter is that I was really dropping the ball in that area of our spiritual intimacy together. We really were not praying together with much intentionality or even much regularity at all. It’s not that we didn’t have any spiritual connection, but I would describe it as a haphazard connectivity—sort of bumping along. We’re in life and ministry—it’s busy / we’re moving fast—it was just kind of hit and miss.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Sam Ingrassia about the wake-up call that came in his marriage and about the change that took place as well. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
[Previously Recorded Interview]
Dennis: Bob, I know you don’t like to hunt.
Dennis: I know you don’t like to hunt, but what about fishing? Have you ever fished in your life?
Bob: Fishing is—you’ve taken me fishing! We’ve been fishing together.
Dennis: Oh yes; that’s right!—but beyond that, Bob?
Bob: Yes. Fishing is just hunting for fish—is all it is. [Laughter] So, it’s the same thing.
Dennis: Do you know what a backlash is?—when it comes to fishing?
Bob: When it comes to fishing—
Dennis: Do you know what a backlash is?
Bob: I do not know what a backlash is.
Dennis: Well, it’s not as bad as it used to be; but they used to have these open-faced reels that line in them, where you would cast, and the spool would spin faster—
Dennis:—than the lure going out. So, when the lure hit the water, the spool would still be spinning. There would just be—
Bob: —line everywhere.
Dennis: —a rat’s nest of line—
Bob: I get the picture.
Dennis: —in the reel.
Dennis: Our guest on today’s broadcast had a backlash moment, with his wife, in their marriage.
Bob: Yes. The bait hit the water but the reel kept spinning.
Dennis: Yes, the reel kept spinning. By his own confession, it was a backlash moment.
Bob: Okay. We’re going to have to get some explanation on this one, just to bring it all home for me.
Dennis: We’ll do that in a few moments. Sam Ingrassia joins us on FamilyLife Today. Sam, welcome to the broadcast.
Sam: Great to be with you guys. Thank you for having me.
Dennis: You did have a backlash moment; didn’t you?
Sam: We did have a backlash moment—maybe, more than one.
Dennis: Yes, I think that’s true. Let me just tell you a little bit about who Sam is. He and his wife Vicki have been married for 39 years. They have three adult children. He is a graduate of The Dallas Theological Seminary.
Bob: [Laughter] Now, it’s The Dallas Theological Seminary?
Dennis: It’s The—that’s right; that’s right.
Dennis: He works as a church planter with e3 Partners Ministry and has a great outreach to Colombia, taking groups of people down there to show them how to plant churches and evangelize neighborhoods in a foreign country.
Sam: Exactly right—e3 Partners stands for three key “e” words: equip, evangelize, and establish. We’re all about helping establish the church, internationally, in terms of both strengthening the church and starting new churches. Our ministry is all about mobilizing teams to about 40 different countries, actually. I serve as the Strategy Coordinator for the work in Colombia in South America. I’ve been working there for 20 years, in fact.
Dennis: About how many adults a year will you take on one of these trips?
Sam: Well, on any one of these trips, it could be anywhere from 20 to 40—even 50 people—but over the course of this year, we’ll probably take almost 200 people to Colombia.
Dennis: Wow. Wow. Well, you’ve written a book called Just Say the Word. We’ll find out more about what that’s all about after you explain the backlash in your marriage.
Sam: Yes, the backlash happened a couple of years ago, now. What I call it is—Vicki and I had come into, I guess, what I would call kind of—a rough patch. It was a time of some tension, where some things just weren’t quite feeling right the way they normally would feel. After a little bit of a season of that, it was like, finally, we needed to sit down and find out, “What’s going on here?”
I remember very well that fateful day—sitting in our living room, to say: “Okay, Honey, what’s up? What’s really going on?” As we began to think about that and talk, I guess I’d say a realization arose from Vicki’s heart.
I’ll tell you—she looked at me and said four words that about blew me out of the water. She said: “You know what? I think part of the problem that I’m struggling with, Sam, is I’ve just sort of realized that you have failed me. You have failed me.”
Can you imagine? Here I’m married 39 years, almost. At that time, it was about 37 years; but I’ve adored Vicki since we were juniors in high school.
Dennis: You’re theologically-trained by The Dallas Seminary.
Sam: Of course—The Dallas Seminary. [Laughter]
When she hit me with those words, it just really blew me away. I’ll tell you the back story—what happened was—a couple of our adult daughters were going through a season of difficult time. The pressures of life were squeezing on them. My wife really knew that we needed to be praying for those girls more consistently than we were. The fact of the matter is that I was really dropping the ball in that area of our spiritual intimacy together.
We really were not praying together—it was just kind of hit and miss.
Dennis: Yes; your wife kind of put it in a graphic term about: “If we had sex together as often as we prayed together…”
Sam: That’s exactly what she said. In the scope of that conversation, she said, “You know, if we were intimate as often as we prayed together, you’d be pretty disappointed.” And so, what happened was—as we got into that conversation, I just put my hands up and I said: “Vicki—guilty/guilty. And this has got to stop.”
God just shined a light on my heart, at that moment—and not only gave me a repentance about it—but where Just Say the Word was born—was because God really, by His grace, gave me a revelation about how to solve this backlash. Right there, on the spot, God spoke to my heart.
Bob: Let me back you up, though, because I want to know about the pattern in your marriage. Were you believers when you got married—both of you?
Sam: We were believers when we got married. We were both the first Christians in our homes.
We came together. In 1975—we were married—brand-new Christians. We started out going to Bible college. We knew the Lord—bumping along in our life / finding our way.
Bob: You told us—in 1984, you guys were at a Weekend to Remember®marriage getaway; right?
Sam: That’s exactly right. By that time, I was pastoring in New Jersey, at a church called Jacksonville Chapel. I told Dennis, earlier, that was the last time I had seen him. I was there at the Parsippany Hilton Hotel at a Weekend to Remember there / a FamilyLife weekend. Vicki and I were there. We had just started our pastorate in New Jersey. Right before I came over here, I dug that old notebook out of the closet—sure enough, it was still there.
Bob: So, did you have any sense, as a husband, of what role prayer ought to play in your relationship with Vicki?
Sam: Oh, I think most all of us—Christian husbands—have a sense of what role it ought to be playing in our lives. But I’ll tell you what—as God has called me out, based on my own failure, to speak out to other men about this issue, I’ll tell you what I’ve been finding is—almost, almost unanimously, across the board, men are struggling with this.
Most Christian men are struggling with some level of burden that they’re not quite cutting it in spiritual leadership at home and in their marriage. They’re just kind of nursing this burden along.
Dennis: Over the years, we have surveyed well over a thousand churches—and I don’t know how many tens of thousands of people—asking questions about spiritual life, especially, as it shows up in a marriage relationship. These are not the exact numbers, but they are generally true. About 75 percent of us pray for our kids. About 35 percent of us pray with our kids. About 10 percent of married couples pray together occasionally, but less than 5 percent pray with their spouse every day, as a couple.
I think what you described there is that there are a lot of wives, right now, moving near the radio, going: “Oh, yes! You’re talking about the longing of my soul.” It really is what wives want from their husband. They want to be connected to God, but they want to be connected to Him with their husband. They want the journey to be together. You talked about walking side-by-side. What would you say to that wife, who is listening to us right now, who is losing heart in well-doing? She says: “You’re describing my husband. He doesn’t get it.”
Sam: You know, I’ve talked to a lot of women after speaking in different churches and different venues. A lot of the main messaging has gone to the men, but I’ve been finding venues to speak where it’s couples.
What I would say to you is: “Can you have the opportunity / find the opportunity to speak the truth in love, at the right time, to your husband—to share your heart with him? The need you really have in your heart—he already knows it. Bring it to bear—not in a way of bashing him or guilting him out. He’s already dealing with a lot of that, probably;—
Sam: —“but to call him out, in a loving way, and to express your need.
“In terms of the resource of this little book called Just Say the Word—is there a way to put this in his hands?”—a short read / an easy read, challenging men to look at this compelling story—a simple, doable path—to step toward your wife for more regular and intentional spiritual connectedness.
Dennis: Okay; your wife did that with you.
Sam: She sure did.
Dennis: She had a backlash. She said: “This is a mess. This is a rat’s nest here in our marriage. I need you to step up.” You said you raised your hands and said, “Guilty as charged.” What did you do then?
Sam: Exactly. When God gave me that revelation, I said: “Vicki, honey, look—I get it, and I commit to you.” I raised my hand, like a vow—almost like being back at the wedding altar again—I said: “Vicki, we are going to pray together, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to pray the Word of God. Let’s let the Word of God show us what to pray about rather than trying to make up prayers off the top of our head like we do extemporaneously.”
Dennis: Yes; yes.
Sam: That’s fine, but you know what? I guess I’m either not creative enough or not spiritual enough to pray with her on a really regular basis—like sweeping the heavens with all kinds of impressive Thee’s, and Thou’s, and creative intercessions—but now, we allow the Word of God to show us what to pray about. That was the path that we began on.
The model is just very simple. It goes something like this—there are three key words—read, observe, and pray. For us, we started in the book of Hebrews; but I really recommend, oftentimes, men start with the book of Philippians. What you do is—you sit down with your wife. You begin to read the Word of God. You read just a few verses—not very many—not a paragraph. We sit quietly to listen for the Holy Spirit—to listen to how He speaks to our hearts:
“Lord, what is in this passage?”—not as a Bible study—but, “What do You want us to pray about from this text?”
Oftentimes, I ask my wife one of these profound theological questions—something like this: “Honey, what jumps out at you?” It’s just that simple: “What jumps out at you?” So, we’re looking for a key word, an idea, a topic, a doctrine, a command, a blessing, praise—whatever it might be—then we use those prayer points as prayer points. We pray those things. We pray them, in particular, over our marriage and our lives.
But what’s really exciting about Just Say the Word is—I’m calling men out to pray the Word, with their wife, over their kids—to be a spiritual umbrella, as it were—to call the Word of God and pray the Word over our children.
Dennis: Okay, let’s do that right here. I want you to illustrate. Obviously, your wife’s not here to tell you what jumps out at her, but let’s take one of Bob’s favorite passages:
Philippians, Chapter 2—the first four verses—is that good enough, Bob?
Bob: Yes. I like those verses.
Dennis: Let’s just illustrate how that would work with your wife, Vicki, in your marriage; and then I want you to illustrate how you’d pray for her; okay? Bob, I’ll let you pretend that you’re Vicki. [Laughter]
Sam: Well, so let’s read this text, then. It is Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 1 through 4:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” What a rich, full text this is.
Dennis: You think that applies to marriage?
Sam: Oh, man. This is right on the mark—but here’s the point—there’s so much there. We’re not trying to do a Bible study. So, I would say to: “Vicki/Bob, what jumps out at you? What hits you from this passage?”
Bob: “Well, I think the priority of unity that’s talked about in verse 2, where it talks about being like-minded and having the same heart / the same interests.”
Dennis: I could hear a wife saying something like that, “Like for us to be more unified, as a couple.”
Bob: “And then, just the issue of selfishness in verse 3—that jumped out—just because I’m so aware of how often that’s what’s driving my own heart is my selfishness. So, probably, those two things are what jumped out at me.”
Sam: Yes, so Paul is calling us to a unity—a like-mindedness in spirit and purpose. What jumps out at me is in verse 4: “Each of you should look not only [emphasis added]to your own interests, but also the interests of others.”
We would note those things; and we would say, “Now, let’s pray together.” By the way, I would try to encourage husband and wife to both pray, of course. We might pray something like this:
Father, we thank You for what we see today from the book of Philippians, in these first four verses of Chapter 2. Father, we pray that You would give Vicki and me, in our marriage, a united love in Jesus Christ; that this fellowship of the Spirit that you’ve given to us—this tenderness and compassion—would become real. Lord, make our joy complete.
Lord, fulfill like-mindedness in us with the same love that we, Lord, would be one in spirit and purpose, together and in our marriage. Lord, help us not to be so selfish. We are so given to that in our flesh—to be selfish and have our own ambition / our own needs met as the focus—vain conceit. Lord, fill us up for humility.
Lord, help me to consider Vicki better than myself. Help Vicki to consider me better than her. Lord, help us not to look for our own interests, as we confess we are apt to do, but help us to look for the interests of others.
And Father, today, we pray over Christina, Nicole, and Stephanie. We pray over our son-in-law Brian and even our little granddaughter, Lila. We pray that this spirit of love and unity would cover their lives as well. I pray that this giving spirit—this looking-out spirit—would fill them to look out for the interests of other people that are around their lives—that they not be selfish and have this vain conceit. Father—call on us and our family—to this unity, to this love, to this humility. We pray this today in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bob: Now, you would lead and, then, Vicki would typically pray after you?
Sam: Oh, we take turns—it just depends. Sometimes, I only pray. Sometimes, she only prays. Sometimes, we pray together.
I would pray a little bit / stay quiet—she would pray a few words—whatever God leads us.
I tell guys: “Do what’s comfortable in your marriage,”—there are all kinds of different situations that people are dealing with, especially when it comes to prayer and the Word—but: “Can you get to the Word of God together?—because, sir, this is the Sword of the Spirit / this is the Word of God.”
Dennis: You’re praying His will—He wants to accomplish this in our lives.
Sam: Exactly; exactly.
Dennis: I want to comment on a statement you made because I think a lot of guys think this way—that you, somehow, have to scrape the Milky Way galaxy with theological terms and noble and lofty words. That’s not what prayer is all about. Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes, you speak; and sometimes, you listen—He speaks through His Word. He also speaks by His Spirit to us and convicts us of things that need to be confessed. I’m sure, many times, with your wife—you’ve found yourself confessing selfishness after you’ve read a passage like that.
Sam: Sure. You come to the Word of God, and it is convicting. It’s the Sword of the Spirit—the double-edged sword that pierces, dividing asunder of soul and spirit, joints and marrow—a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Let’s let the Word of God do the work in our marriage and going before our marriage.
Bob: We should just point out, too, that you call this expository prayer.
Sam: Yes—the book—we know what expository preaching is. Expository preaching is when the preacher takes us through the Word, line by line / word by word: “What is the text saying?” Well, expository praying is the same thing.
Dennis: I like it.
Sam: Very powerful stuff.
Dennis: Yes; and what I want to ask you is—what every fisherman knows: “If you have a backlash on your reel,”—and Bob, you wouldn’t know this because you’ve not had a backlash.
Dennis: It takes some work to undo all the mess you’ve got in your reel after you get a backlash. I just want to know: “What did this do for your backlash, Sam?
“What about what your wife, Vicki, was feeling about, ‘You have failed me’?”
Sam: To say it, in brief, I guess I’d say it truly has been a game-changer. We’re approaching 40 years of marriage. In the last two years, I thank God that He has restored the years the locusts have eaten. As I’ve shared this messaging over and over again with men, there have been many times when I’ve actually just come to tears again, feeling like I’ve lost so much time, for we’d not prayed, regularly, for so many years, and, certainly, not prayed the Word.
Sam: But I tell guys, “God can restore the years the locusts have eaten.” He’s done that for us. It’s just been a game-changer. Quite frankly, we’ve always had a good marriage. It wasn’t a struggle or a battle. We’ve always had a good, loving marriage; but this dimension of a more—again, spiritual connectedness / an enhanced walk with Christ, together—it’s just been a game-changer.
Dennis: I know what I’m going to do tonight. We always pray together before we go to bed at night. I’m going to pray the Word—pray expository.
Sam: Pray the Word—pray the Word.
Dennis: And frankly, this is good for somebody who feels like they may be in a rut in their prayer life, which we can all get into from time to time.
Bob: And you said that your book is a simple read / an easy read for guys. It’s about 70 pages long—it’s not going to take you a long time. It is going to lay out for you, practically, how you can begin to cultivate this pattern in your marriage of praying together on a more regular basis.
I think there a lot of guys who are just under the pile on this—they’re thinking: “I don’t know. It’s too late. We should have done this years ago.” Well, there’s no time like the present. We’ve got this 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge going on right now. We’re trying to equip husbands and wives to make it easier for you to be praying together in marriage. If our listeners want to sign up, they can get the daily prayer prompt that we’re sending out via text message or via email so that you’ve got some directions each day on how to pray for one another.
Then, get a copy of Sam’s book and start this discipline of praying God’s Word together every day. Sam’s book is called Just Say the Word. If you want to sign up for the 30-Day Prayer Challenge, or if you want to order a copy of Sam’s book, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” The information you need is available right there to either sign up for the prayer prompts each day or to order a copy of Sam Ingrassia’s book, Just Say the Word. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also quickly mention that this is the last week for those of you who want to sign up to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this fall. We’ve got a lot of great locations / great weekends set aside. If you sign up this week, you pay the regular rate for yourself; and your spouse comes at no additional cost.
So, it’s a buy one/get one free opportunity that expires this weekend. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for the information about the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and the special offer that’s available right now.
One last thing before we’re done—and that is a word of thanks to those of you who partner with us to make the ministry of FamilyLife possible. We’re listener-supported. In fact, if you can help with a donation right now, we’d like to send you our 2016 FamilyLife calendar. This calendar actually begins in October—so it will give you a jumpstart on the year. The focus each month on this calendar is praying together, as a family.
Again, it’s our gift to you when you make a donation either, 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-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone—1-800-358-6329.
Or you can mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how using God’s Word as the template for your prayers can have a huge impact on your praying together in marriage. Sam Ingrassia is going to be back with us. I hope you can be back as well.
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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