FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What Happens When Families Pray

with Dennis Rainey | August 2, 2006
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A prayerful parent is a power-filled parent. Today on the broadcast, best-selling author Dennis Rainey encourages parents to pray without ceasing if they want to see their family grow spiritually.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • A prayerful parent is a power-filled parent. Today on the broadcast, best-selling author Dennis Rainey encourages parents to pray without ceasing if they want to see their family grow spiritually.

  • 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.

Dennis Rainey encourages parents to pray without ceasing if they want to see their family grow spiritually.

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What Happens When Families Pray

With Dennis Rainey
August 02, 2006
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Oprah: We're talking today about love and romance and connecting with your mate soul-to-soul, and with us today is the expert on romance, Dr. Phil Right.  Thanks for joining us.

Phil: You're welcome, Oprah, always a pleasure to be here.

Oprah: Now, you claim to have discovered the key to romance.  Before I read your book, I would have thought the way to stir up romance was with something like giving gifts.  You know, bring on the diamonds or something.  By the way, I just want everyone to know that these rocks I'm wearing are the real thing, honey.

Audience member: That's right, sister.

Oprah: Gifts aren't the secret, are they?

Phil: No, gifts are nice, but there's more to it than just a bottle of perfume or a dozen roses, Oprah.

Oprah: Well, I might also have guessed communication.  I mean, everyone knows you've got to have communication before sparks can fly.

Phil: Well, then, actually, you're getting a lot warmer.  Now, communication is extremely important in any relationship.  What we discovered was that there is a specific type of communication.  It's more than just communicating with each other.  What I'm talking about, Oprah, is communication with God.

Audience member: Bring it on.

Phil: It's prayer, Oprah.  That's the key to love and romance in a marriage.

[cheers, applause]

Oprah: So that's it -- religion and romance, prayer and passion, the sacred and the sexy.  More when we come back, don't go away.


Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. 

Dennis: I'll bet that Oprah is probably going to …

Bob: She's going to book that guy, isn't she?

Dennis: No, I was thinking that my book is probably going to be on her book-of-the-month club.  Who was that?  That wasn't Oprah.  That was a good imitation, though, a good imitation.

Bob: We're talking about developing a spiritually strong family, and one aspect of building spiritual strength into your family revolves around how a family prays together -- how a husband and wife pray together as a couple and how a mom and dad involve children in prayer together on a regular basis.  And this is a key component to spiritual growth as a family, isn't it?

Dennis: It is.  In fact, Bob, we surveyed more than 20,000 people over the past five years in the Christian community, in churches, and asked them what are the top issues that you'd like help in in your marriage, in your family?  And I have to tell you, I was surprised at what people said they wanted help with.  Three out of the top four issues revolved around this subject of spiritual growth.  I think what it points out is that our nation really wants to somehow come back to God.  It just doesn't know how to do it, and I believe the place where it needs to be happening today is at home. 

Bob: When you move to the subject of prayer, here is part of the challenge you experience.  In general, who communicates more and more effectively, men or women -- generally?

Dennis: Bob, you know the answer to that question.

Bob: Yeah, who is it?

Dennis: It's men, of course.

Bob: Yeah, right.

Dennis: It's women. 

Bob: Women are the better communicators, right?

Dennis: They typically -- not in all cases -- but they typically do the best job of expressing themselves, and men are in need of learning how to express themselves.

Bob: We typically do a better job of grunting than they do, right?

Dennis: That's true.

Bob: All right.  Now, we are, as you've said earlier, we men are supposed to be the leaders in this area of spiritual growth, spiritual disciplines in our family.

Dennis: I think, ideally, a man should be the one who sets the pace in this area of the relationship.

Bob: So if a husband thinks to himself, "Okay, I'm going to lead my family in this area of prayer.  I'm going to start praying with my wife on a regular basis.  I'm going to lead my family in prayer."  He's automatically stepping into an area where, again, generally, she is going to be more skilled at communication and at conversation.  She is probably more articulate as a pray-er than he is.  It's a very threatening area, and it's a very revealing and personal area.  There are a lot of guys who go, "I just don't want to go there," Dennis.

Dennis: Well, not only do they not want to go there, they don't know how to go there.  We surveyed people at our Weekend to Remember marriage conferences and determined that less than 8 percent of all couples pray together regularly, and I would personally estimate that less than 3 percent of all Christian couples have daily prayer together.  So you're talking about in the church not only are we threatened by praying together, not only do we have men who don't know how to communicate with God and to lead their wives in prayer, we have a number of people, even within the Christian community, who have never considered praying daily with their spouses.

Bob: Do you think that's what's at the heart of this?  That men don't know how or that they just haven't even considered praying together?

Dennis: Well, I think there's one other issue that's not just for men, but it's also for women -- I think one or both in a marriage may not want to pray.  Spiritually speaking, they don't want to submit to God in prayer, and prayer actually strikes at the very core of what I believe is our real problem in life, Bob -- pride.  We want to be in control.  We don't want to admit that someone else is in control, and that we're submitting to Him and His plan.  And so it's been a part, Bob, of what has really motivated me over the past 25 years to make this a core message of our ministry and say, "You know what?  For the rest of my life, I'm going to challenge men to stand up at meetings, to give me their business card" …

Bob: I've heard you do this.  You get passionate on this subject as you call men and say, "If you'll start praying with your wife on a regular basis, give me your business card, tell me that you'll do that, and I'll hold you accountable," and I know that, over time, you've sent out some e-mails to some guys and said, "How are you doing," right?

Dennis: Yeah, they've given me their business card, and they write on the business card, "I will pray daily."  And I said, "Underneath that, write your e-mail address, and I'm not going to write you all the time, but I will send you an e-mail sometime in the next quarter century asking you how are you doing in praying with your wife?"  And I just did it, Bob, to several hundred men who had given me their business card.  And the e-mails that I received back from these men answering the questionnaire on how they are doing praying with their wives were really interesting.

Bob: So what did you hear?  How are they doing?

Dennis: Well, one guy wrote me back, and this is the chairman of the board and CEO of a company.  He said, "Dear Dennis, I was dreading your follow-up phone call or e-mail.  I boldly promised to pray daily with my wife but failed to deliver -- pretty embarrassing.  I just listened to a CD you did about stepping up to manhood and praying with your wife.  I think it's time I did it again.  We pray weekly as a family and after dinner on Sundays but have not prayed regularly as a couple.  Don't worry, I don't feel defeated just ashamed."

 Now, truthfully, Bob, I think that's an important thing.  A man can get defeated because he's tried it, and then he quits.  And the definition of someone who runs the race well is someone who knows how to get up after he falls.  It's not someone who never falls.  The Bible is written about people who made mistakes, I think, to give us hope that we can make mistakes and still know God and be used by Him.

Bob: It is interesting, as men, though, that we often will do something, and if it doesn't go well the first or second time, we go, "Well, I'm just not good at that.  I'll go do something I'm good at, like switching the channels on the TV.  I'm good at that."

Dennis: Right, right.  I think some men forget the benefits of praying with their wives and what it can mean personally to their spouse.  Here is one, and I have permission to give their names -- Ed and Wendy Bergstrom.  Ed writes about his relationship with Wendy.  He says, "We are much closer in our marriage.  Our communication with each other is much better.  When either of us are facing a trial, we seek God's guidance and assistance together.  As a family, we've grown closer.  Our children were turned off to church, but now, through God's guidance, we have found a healthy church that is able to provide spiritual support to our children.  We prayed a lot about where God wanted us to attend."

 Here is another e-mail from Jim and Jill Agan [sp], and the Agans live in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and they speak of three benefits.  Number one, "We feel a deeper connection with one another."  Number two, Jim writes, "As a husband I feel I am fulfilling my responsibility as the servant leader of our family.  I really feel like I am leading when I pray for us as a couple."  Number three, he says, "When we pray together, we feel like we are continuing to battle and to keep evil away from our family."  And then his wife commented on the e-mail, she said, "It thrills me that I know I can count on my husband to be the spiritual leader for our family.  It makes me trust Jim.  I know that Jim is relying on God's leading and not his ability."

Bob: You know, I think she brought up an important point that we sometimes fail to recognize as men, and that is our wives feel very secure, and they feel more confident about what we're doing as a family when we take the initiative as men to lead in prayer.

Dennis: And, Bob, where is the real security in this world?  I mean, if you can't find it in God, where are you going to find it?  And when two people bow in prayer, yield their wills and their hearts to one another, two strong-willed people can find peace individually and peace with one another.

 Here is another man who writes about praying with his wife -- "We have a relationship that has a fair amount of conflict resulting from two very strong-willed people trying to reach a consensus."  I can identify with that.  I'm married to a pretty strong-willed woman.  He continues -- "We are experiencing moving to a level of increasing desire to seek God's direction and plan for our lives, and this has reduced the pressure that results from trying to direct our own lives from our own individual perspectives."  So in praying together, here is a couple who are finally being set free from having to control their own lives, their own circumstances, and, most likely, one another, and allowing God to be the ruler of their lives.

 And, finally, one more speaking about the benefits of praying daily with your spouse -- "We've always been close but praying together provides a chance to communicate about issues that we're dealing with in a more specific way, especially since it's easy to go days without having a real conversation."  Well, isn't that where people live?  We can just rock along, busy with life, and not really communicate with our spouse, but there is something about bowing before the Lord God Almighty as a couple that brings you back to what's most important, and that time of prayer together can really knit your hearts together with one another and with God.

Bob: You know, I know there are women who are listening at this point who are thinking, "I'd love to have a husband who would initiate prayer with me."  In a lot of cases, these are women who are not married to believers or are married to men who have made a profession of faith, but you're just not seeing a lot of spiritual activity in their lives.

Dennis: Maybe churchgoers.

Bob: Yeah.  In other cases, there are guys who are showing signs of spiritual life in other areas, but they just can't seem to pull the trigger in this area and initiate prayer.

Dennis: They can't apply it.  I have another e-mail from a gentleman who writes, he said, "Your e-mail had good timing.  I had started the routine of praying with my wife but had fallen off the wagon as of late.  This could be just the nudge that I need.  Many thanks.  By the way, I have printed on a piece of paper a very simple document on an 8.5x 11 piece of paper and put it in a frame that cost me $4 from Wal-Mart, I'm a big spender," he said.  "And in the mornings when I roll out of bed, I put the frame on my pillow and start my day."  Now, you may wonder why is he doing that and what was on the piece of paper that he printed?  Well, in big capital letters he shows me what he has on there -- "HAVE YOU PRAYED WITH JANET TODAY? (IT'S NOT TOO LATE)."  And then on Monday it has one child, Tuesday another, Wednesday yet another child, Thursday he has four children, so that's the fourth one.  Friday he prays for the church, Saturday for the country, and Sunday for their community.  And that's his reminder so that when he goes to bed at night, that is there providing, he says, "the structure to make it easier and less daunting of a task."

 I think a lot of men make this out to be much bigger, and they simply don't know where to start.  Well, start by praying for a child each day of the week.  And then also pray for your spouse and then pray about what's troubling you, and pray about what's going on at work and how you all can reach out to your neighbors.

 Now, you know, if you're asking for things like that in prayer, that's going to make you, as a couple, much more spiritually receptive, and you will be able to avoid growing spiritually together as a couple as a result of praying daily together as a couple.

Bob: Do you think it's important for couples to also be involved in regular prayer time with the children to extend it to the family?

Dennis: No doubt about it.  One of the things Barbara and I would try to do is make the rounds with each of our six children.  Sometimes we'd do it as a group, sometimes we'd do it individually.  But I think children need to be taught how to pray by their parents, and one of the e-mails came back from a man who said, "One of the benefits that we've seen in our family is that our children are learning to pray about what concerns them, and they are beginning to build the spiritual discipline of daily prayer into their lives."

 I think we forget that we are the trainers of the next generation of spiritual disciples and followers of Jesus Christ, and that really begins at home as we pray together with our children.

Bob: I think the thing we have to remember as men is that for most of us to initiate in prayer, we're doing something that our wife is longing for us to do.

Dennis: There are women listening to our broadcast right now who would melt if their husband would take their hand and would say, "Sweetheart, let's pray."  And he doesn't even have to be really great at it.  He just needs to express his heart.

 I received an e-mail from a man named Dan, and Dan said this -- he said, "Prior to us praying together at night, I would always find an excuse not to.  I guess I was just nervous about making myself to vulnerable to her."  That's interesting.  "However, I knew our prayer time together would be one of the most honoring and glorifying acts we could perform before God.  So one day God really convicted me that I needed to step up as a husband and the spiritual leader of our house and commit to pray with my wife nightly.  I came home that day and told her of my conviction, and she said, teary-eyed, 'I've been praying about this for months and want nothing more than to pray with my husband.  I didn't want to tell you this and pressure you into it, but wanted God to do the work in you.'"

 Haha, there you go.  You know what?  A woman can nag at her husband in hopes he'll do this.  The best form of nagging is to go before God and to bow in prayer and say, "Lord, would you do a work in my husband's heart?"  And we've received e-mails from women who have prayed for more than 20 years -- more than 20 years for their husband to step up and pray with them as a spouse.

Bob: And be like the persistent woman who went to the judge every day and kept asking and kept asking and kept asking, and Jesus commends the woman in that parable and teaches us all to be persistent and be faithful in making our requests known before God.

Dennis: And I would say right here, if you have a business card, you can mail me your business card with a statement on it that says, "I will pray with my wife."  And put your e-mail address on there, or you can go online and just write me …

Bob: You can go to, and, actually, there's a button there that says, "I will pray."  It's for those of you who will pray daily with your spouse.  You click on that button, and it's got the information you can fill out so that Dennis can hold you accountable, right?

Dennis: Yeah, well, I think that word, "hold accountable" is loosely defined today, but I may send you some reminders from time to time encouraging you along the way in case you, like the one guy we quoted, falls off the wagon and needs a reminder to keep praying with your spouse.

 And I would also invite those listeners who do pray daily with their spouses.  Maybe you've been to one of our Weekend to Remember or I Still Do events or you've heard us talk about it here on FamilyLife Today, and you've been doing it for years.  I'd like you to go online and answer a few questions on a questionnaire just about how you do it.  I'd like to hear some of the things that have worked for you so that maybe at some point in the future we could share those with a few of our listeners.

Bob: You know, it's interesting -- it could be that a couple agrees that they want to pray together on a daily basis.  They're going to make that a discipline.  Maybe they've just not been praying together at all, and they say, "We need to do this.  We're going to pray together on a daily basis."

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And they get to the end of the first month, and they go, "Gee, we messed up.  We only prayed four times a week.  We didn't pray on a daily basis."

Dennis: Man, but think about that.  That's four more times than you were praying the week before.

Bob: That's the point.  You're not failures at that point because you didn't go seven days.  Think of how God is going to use that time that you spend together in prayer in your relationship with Him and in your relationship with one another.  In fact, one of the things you could do together as a couple as part of your prayer time is get a copy of the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," and that will give you some things to pray about.

 We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go to our website for more information about that book, and you and Barbara have also written a book on prayer as a couple called "Two Hearts Praying as One," and that's another book that's in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  So couples who want to make this commitment to prayer a regular spiritual discipline, these are two great tools to help make that happen.

 Go to the website,, click the button in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you right to a page where you can get more information about both of these books by Dennis and Barbara Rainey -- "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," and "Two Hearts Praying as One," and if you're interested in getting copies of both of these books, we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week and next week on the subject of spiritual growth as a family.

 Again, all the information is on the Web at  Click that "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you'll find the information on these resources.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team can get you information about how to have these resources sent out to you -- 1-800-FLTODAY or, again, online at

 You know, if I remember right, when we had a conversation a number of months ago with Beth Moore, who many of our listeners know because of the Bible study materials that she has written, we talked with her about her relationship with her husband, Keith, and they've been married for more than 25 years, and I remember you asking her about prayer and how that fit into her marriage, and how that had been an awkward spiritual discipline for them to start.  I think that's not uncommon for a lot of couples.

 During the month of August we wanted to make available for our listeners a CD of that conversation we had with Beth Moore, and we would be happy to send that out to you this month if you are able to help us with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You see, this ministry is listener-supported, and it's folks just like you who help make it possible through regular donations to FamilyLife Today.

 So if you can make a donation of any amount this month, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the CD with Beth Moore.  You can ask for it when you make your donation online at  As you fill out the donation form there online, you'll come to a keycode box and just write the word "free" in there, and that will let us know that you'd like a copy of the CD sent out to you, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and ask for the CD with Beth Moore and, again, we're happy to send it out as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 Tomorrow we want to talk about couples being on the same page when it comes to your priorities and your values as a family.  It is entirely possible for you to both be Christians and yet have different priorities when it comes to what you value for your family.  We'll talk about how you get on the same page as a couple.  That's on tomorrow's edition of our program.  I hope you can be back with 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'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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