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A Spiritual Battle-Plan For Marriage

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.


Chris Grace: Well, hey, welcome back to another podcast for the Art of Relationships. It's really good to be with you. One of the cool things, Tim, that we've been talking about is what does it mean to be in a relationship or in a marriage and recognize that there's more to it, in fact, there's a spiritual side to this, and that spiritual component of any marriage, any relationship is one that a lot of people, maybe, don't pay that much attention to. And so, one of the things that you did was put together some amazing resources, great book on Defending Your Marriage. And really the idea is are we as familiar, aware, and prayerful in our marriages and in our relationships because, guess what, we have an enemy? And so, we've been talking about that. Today, might be good for us to talk about coming up with a battle plan and the role prayer plays.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. One of the reasons I wrote the book, Chris, Defending Your Marriage: The Reality of Spiritual Battle, is there are books that have a chapter on spiritual battle, but there were very few marriage books, family books that were specifically on the family and spiritual battle, marriage and spiritual battle, which I think Jesus would be shocked at. I mean, 25% of everything Jesus talked about had to do with spiritual battle.

Tim Muehlhoff: Every New Testament writer talks about the reality of spiritual battle. John says the whole world lies in the hand of the evil one. My goodness. As Christian couples and anybody interested in fostering God-honoring relationships, man, we need to be aware of this. Not to go crazy, right? But to be balanced.

Tim Muehlhoff: My experience has been people aren't overreacting to spiritual battle. I think they're underreacting to it. That's why we've been doing this series on spiritual battle.

Chris Grace: Yeah, so. One of the things that I think would be really helpful is suppose we've convinced listeners to some of our previous podcasts on this that, yep, this is a neglected area for me or for my marriage or my spouse, and I really want some practical tips. What can I do next? What are some ways then that I can begin to defend my marriage? I guess, maybe, use another word. Defending almost feels defensive. That's not what is implied there, but there's also an offensive. A way to take prayer and begin to pray for things. So what do you think? Let's talk about that side of it.

Tim Muehlhoff: I think that'd be great. Before we jump into the tips, the practicalities, let's establish one thing about the authority that a believer in Christ has.

Chris Grace: Right.

Tim Muehlhoff: So you and I both have read a very interesting individual. His name is Charles Kraft. He's an anthropologist. He spent a lifetime observing diverse people groups. Over time, he became convinced of two realities. First, the struggle against dark powers transcends borders and ethnicity. It's shocking, Chris, when anthropologically you take a look at different people groups, culture, societies, there's a constant theme that there is an evil presence. There's an evil power that has to be somehow counteracted. He wrote over 20 books on the subject. He taught at leading seminaries, and he's seen as an expert in the area of spiritual battle.

Tim Muehlhoff: He talks about two different types of authority that I think we kind of need to be aware of. The first one is what we would call position authority or status authority. That's attached to us in our roles of power, such as married partners, parents, aunts, uncles, bosses, teachers, pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, right? If you are in a position of authority, then you can use that authority to protect the people that are under us.

Tim Muehlhoff: You told a great story that when we were with a property here at Biola, when we were doing some building things, you and a bunch of leaders did something really interesting. Why don't you tell that what you did?

Chris Grace: Yeah. It's a different type of, I guess, authority and that is this idea that we, as those who have been put into a leadership role, need to take that seriously. So whatever that leadership role might be, maybe it's over your office space, or maybe you happen to be a leader and there's a building dedicated to that, or a whole campus, or maybe just even your home office, to realize that that has been given to you, and if we believe that all good things come from the Father of lights, right? Every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, says -

Tim Muehlhoff: James.

Chris Grace: James. Right. With whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In so doing, well, think about that, we have a gift here. In fact, Tim, right now, where you and I are sitting in this podcast room is in the School of Intercultural Studies where Charles Kraft's wife Meg Kraft would have been a long time professor here, right? Charles is a professor at Fuller, well-known American anthropologist and Christian speaker, but his notion and others' has been this. Sometimes we do not realize the authority that we have even over space issues.

Chris Grace: So we would walk around this campus and pray once at the beginning of the year, different leaders including the president, we would walk around the building, let's say, of a dorm, and then we'd walk around a classroom setting, and then we'd walk around a staff office, the whole time praying that God would be the glorifying person that each of these places and buildings would lift him up, and that there would be no evil presence on this campus. We'd even walk around places where we were proposed building a new building, and take that under authority because we literally had that kind of authority biblically given to us in order to pray about it. And so to say, "This building, this property, this location, this setting, this university, and these students, we give to you, God, and we take authority over them."

Chris Grace: That's pretty cool.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's awesome. Now, take that and apply it to a couple in their household who feel like, man, something's weird going on. So how would you do what you guys did it as vice-presidents do it in a house?

Chris Grace: It was so challenging and so cool to do this, Tim, that one of the first things that we did was, at my home, I realized, wait. I own this home. This is where I live. So right now, I've been given this gift, and I have authority over it. And in that line in which there's even a very clear demarcation of authority and what's been given to you, and so, therefore, I knew that we needed to pray over our house. So we would walk around our own property and pray over it, and just say, "God, what everything that happens here in this property is for your glory. No evil shall be allowed here because you've given me that authority." And so, Tim, we do that and then we would do that over our car, over our kids.

Chris Grace: I do that over my classroom. I will pray and walk around and say, "Lord, only your angels, only your spirit is welcome here. In the hour that I have this classroom, I'm the professor. I take your authority, now, and use that like a credit card and say I have your, now, ability to use this and to claim authority over this, and so nothing that can be said here can the evil impenetrate."

Chris Grace: That's kind of the idea. And so, in your marriage, Tim, I think it's a great insight that you had, which is we need to begin to do that over our marriages, over our families, over our spouses, over our bedrooms, over our living rooms, over the TV, over the computer, and then walk around and take authority and praying for that.

Tim Muehlhoff: Let me give you an example of that, the space issue I think is fascinating, then I'll kind of apply it to something between me and my wife, Noreen.

Tim Muehlhoff: So, Chris, I don't know if you've ever felt this before, but I speak at marriage conferences like you do, and I'm in a hotel room, and I'm laying in bed, the lights are off, and this has only happened to me a handful of times ever since I've been a Christian. Chris, I'm laying there and I absolutely feel something's over me. I mean, it is freaking me out. Almost like you can hear something breathing, and I flip on that light. Of course, there's nothing there. That was the first warfare prayer I've ever prayed. I called our good friend, John, and had him pray for us. I literally walked around that. Especially the TV. Think about what's been watched on a hotel TV with all the pay-per-view porn and all that stuff. I just went around and I made it up as I went.

Tim Muehlhoff: I mean, we'll give some ideas, but I just said, "In Jesus' holy name, his special holy name." And I went around and prayed, and the next morning, the only way I could explain it, Chris, it was like I had been transferred in my sleep from a smoking room to a non-smoking room. I woke up-

Chris Grace: That's great.

Tim Muehlhoff: ... and the presence was gone. That's only happened to me a handful of times, but that's what we're talking about is I had authority as a speaker at that conference to challenge what was happening in that hotel room.

Chris Grace: Tim, not only did you, I believe you are, obviously, we believe this, on clear biblical grounds for doing that, that this is something that you have been given as a child of God. God gives you these gifts. He says, "You pray in my name," right? And he's given us, which we'll talk about.

Chris Grace: But, Tim, I not only believe that, but I also believe as you prayed for that conference, and I've heard you talk about praying over the ballroom where people sit.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes.

Chris Grace: Elisa and I, when we travel, we'll do the same thing that you guys do is we will try and get there early and pray over the room where we're sitting, over the technology. You know, it could be a silent prayer. We've prayed at a campus, a secular university campus, and we prayed over it. I'm telling you, that next day, there's noises and people, it was at a university, and there was a group that was very loud next door, and their music was playing, and in the middle of our talk, you would get interrupted, and that sound, and so we just kept praying. "Lord, there must be something going on here because there feels like, you know, there's too many interruptions, and the audience people or the people in the audience are maybe not able to concentrate and to hear well."

Chris Grace: Well, Tim, we did realize it, and the fascinating thing that happened was, at the end of this conference, there were non-Christians in the audience, and a non-Christian couple came up, and she was actually a believer and he was not, but he kept saying this to us. He goes, "You know, something has just happened this weekend. I don't know what it is, but you're describing how do you have a Christ-centered marriage, and I don't, I'm not a Christian, but that really means something to me. I really want that. Can you tell me what that means?"

Chris Grace: And so, Tim, I fully believed what happened next is simply because we had just been praying for protection and I think the Evil One was trying to get in there. This kid, this person who was engaged, asked some very deep questions. He asked about the Gospel. What does it mean to become a Christian? We shared it, and, Tim, this guy accepted Christ in the middle of a ballroom at a secular university in spite of a lot of this going on, and maybe, in fact, that was why it was there. It was so awesome to realize that there is something about prayers that are powerful and effective, and that maybe we just don't think about it as much, especially, not just when we travel, not just when we speak, not just when we go, but in our day to day world. Praying over our children, praying over our marriages, and taking that authority that we have.

Tim Muehlhoff: I like that, not just praying over spaces. But when Noreen first started speaking at marriage conferences, it was kind of a wild deal. I was a theater major, right? I had done plays in front of live audiences. Noreen was a business major. She was like accounting and calculus. When we first started speaking, you know, it's a terrifying thing to get up in front of a ballroom full of people. I remember the first year she was doing that, we get evaluated at these conferences. 80 random people are asked, even though it could be a thousand people in the audience, and you know, and this is personality-driven, but Noreen could get 79 positive comments and one negative, and would focus, maybe, on the negative.

Tim Muehlhoff: And so, I remember one time, there was just this snarky comment, and it really shook Noreen's confidence. So as her husband, using my status authority, I just prayed over her, and said, "I reject any attack that's happening on her confidence, thinking less of herself, that she doesn't have anything to offer." So literally praying her and saying, as her husband, with all the authority attached to that, I am rejecting any demonic influence that would play upon her insecurities.

Chris Grace: Yeah. Tim, I think that is so valuable for people to just understand what that means, this idea of the status that we hold in somebody's like whether as parent, whether as spouse. And, Tim, I think the interesting thing that you've done there, I know you've continued to do and I do the same, is you don't always have to be praying with Noreen, holding hands and praying over her.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's right.

Chris Grace: You could be alone and just lifting her up. You can be walking around her car, right? You could be sitting here thinking about her and praying, and I think maybe some spouses need to realize to pray that specifically over your spouse can really be an amazing effective way to have a battle plan against any attack, and how to best defend your marriage starts right there. Doesn't it?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah, and we just have to be honest. This doesn't always work. The prayers don't always work. As a lifelong fan of the Detroit Lions, I have prayed against the darkness that has surrounded that football team, Chris. I have prayed for the quarterback's arm, and it doesn't work.

Chris Grace: No, it doesn't.

Tim Muehlhoff: It doesn't.

Chris Grace: Nope.

Tim Muehlhoff: These are powerful forces, Chris.

Chris Grace: Yeah, we might want to theologically have a conversation about some of this first, and the role the Detroit Lions plays in the history [crosstalk 00:14:19].

Tim Muehlhoff: Why as a lifelong fan, born in Detroit, can I not use my status authority and pray for the Detroit Lions football team?

Chris Grace: You can. You can pray. I'm not quite ... Well, okay. Let's just move on.

Tim Muehlhoff: Hey, there's a second type of authority, and it's what Kraft labels personal intimacy authority.

Chris Grace: Right.

Tim Muehlhoff: This type of authority comes not from a position, but an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Chris Grace: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: This is what Kraft says. "As we stay connected to the Lord, we gain the authority that personal intimacy brings, and we learn to use that authority in the right way." Jesus talks about this. He said, "I'm the vine." He tells his disciples, "You're the branches. If you remain in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit."

Tim Muehlhoff: So this is an interesting one. It doesn't mean that I can only pray for people that I have status authority over. I can pray for my next door neighbor-

Chris Grace: That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff: ... because of the love that Jesus has for my next door neighbor, and because I'm rooted in that love, I now use that personal intimacy to then intercede for my neighbor.

Chris Grace: Yeah, and, Tim, I think this is also something that's really insightful and important that we pay attention to, and it's our ability to therefore have a posture of prayer towards those things, those people that we come in contact with every day. I think it's amazing. I think about the old woman before the judge, who sat there and prayed for deliverance from this accuser of hers, and the judge kept saying, "Why do you keep coming to me and wearing me out?" And she says, "Well, okay. I still. Give me protection. Give me protection." Okay, just because you're starting to ... But imagine that. What she did there, she persisted, and it was about something that was, you know, important to her in her day to day being.

Chris Grace: I think, Tim, in our lives, there are just people that we see that come to mind, we might pass them on the street, maybe we kind of know them, maybe they're work colleagues. Because of our personal intimacy with Jesus, that we are a child of God, he has said, "You give those prayers, you pray, and lift them to me," and that's what's amazing about this is he's allowed us, and he says, "I will hear. I listen to this. This is an amazing love language is that you talk with me about what's going on in your life." That's pretty powerful.

Tim Muehlhoff: But to me, this type of authority brings up something interesting questions. Right? Personal intimacy authority.

Tim Muehlhoff: Let's say there's a dad who, obviously, has authority over his family. There's a mom who has authority. But let's say that they become abusive parents, or let's say that they become neglectful parents. Well, I think in some ways their authority has been compromised, right, in the life of the kids. So I wonder, Chris, if when Kraft is talking about personal intimacy authority if that might not be true of us as well. In other words, yeah, we're children of God, but we've allowed sin to take root in our lives, that intimacy with Jesus isn't as strong as it used to be, right? I mean we were much more on fire with the Lord when we were in college, and now, that's kind of subsided.

Tim Muehlhoff: So, now, I do wonder if that intimacy authority has been compromised because we are not in the vine. We are not connected to Jesus like we once were.

Chris Grace: Yeah. I think that's probably an important moment for us that's kind of humble as well because he says that those who are in the vine, those that are connected, those that are part of my life, who Jesus was in his status in his relationship with Jesus, and we're a part of that. He says, "Come to me." Right? And, Tim, I think that's very insightful. I always think a little bit Matthew about this passage, 11:20 that talks about "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart."

Chris Grace: Tim, I think sometimes we forget that we are yoked with Jesus. Sometimes when we unyoke ourselves or pull ourselves out from that, out from under the vine, then we can begin to lose effectiveness, and our prayers-

Tim Muehlhoff: That's right. That's right.

Chris Grace: ... can also then, maybe, begin to be shallow, and we start to pray, maybe, for the wrong things as well.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. I would say to men listening, listen, when you got married, you gave up some of your freedom to be in lax with your relationship with Christ. Right? It's not just about you anymore. You now have another person, a spouse, and of course, with wives to their husbands.

Tim Muehlhoff: But I'll never forget, Chris, when my youngest son was born, our firstborn. Man, that's a moment that changes your life, when you suddenly become a father. Our producer, right now, is smiling because he just became a brand new dad, and it changes your life. I remember being in the hospital room and Noreen telling me, it was really late at night, and she said, "Honey, just go home, get a good night's sleep. I'm going to be sleeping. The baby's sleeping." I remember driving home, Chris, and the Holy Spirit saying to me, "Hey, things have changed. Your responsibility just took a significant turn, and you need to rise up to it."

Tim Muehlhoff: So I think we're saying to listeners, yeah, don't be naïve to think that my relationship with God is in the toilet, and yet, I'm going to evoke my status to fight warfare. I think we've already compromised our effectiveness.

Chris Grace: You know, Tim, I think that's great. I think for our listeners, too, you're kind of getting into something else about when we are using the word prayer, there's a whole lot to that word, too, besides just prayer. It's being obedient in different ways. It could involve things like when I confess my sins. Right? When I am remaining obedient to Christ, when I intercede for others, but event his idea of fasting, right? Other ways in which I can begin to prayer. But I love that idea, Tim, of intimacy prayer, and how Jesus practiced this himself.

Chris Grace: Remember, he went off into that desert to be alone. This is God himself, God as Son, needing time to be intimated with God, in order to spend time there to show, man, this comes because I want to be in fellowship with God, and my conversations with him are so important, and to listen to him because God, oftentimes whispers.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's right.

Chris Grace: He doesn't necessarily yell out very much.

Tim Muehlhoff: It occurred to me when you were talking about, you know, that status we have with God, and that could affect our prayers. Remember what James says. He says an interesting thing. "The prayers of a righteous man accomplishes much." Interesting qualifier. Now, we have to be careful here, okay. We are people of grace. All of us mess up. All of us stumble. All of us have an idea what it means to be a good Christian husband, wife, parent, and we all fall short of that.

Tim Muehlhoff: But I think we're talking about habitual sin. I think we're allowing stumbling blocks to now come into our relationship, and I think it's good to step back and take an assessment. In the book, Defending Your Marriage, we have these assessments of saying are you dressed in the armor of God? As a couple, do you have unity or are there footholds of bitterness, unforgiveness, cold-heartedness towards each other? Well just know, just like any army, that your supply line has been compromised or your gun has gotten rusty, it's going to affect you. So, again, I think it's wise that James says, hey, are you righteous? Are you following God, then you can lay hold of this power.

Chris Grace: That's good.

Chris Grace: Tim, there's another thing that you and I talked about earlier, and that is this idea that when Jesus was here, he taught his disciples how to pray.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Chris Grace: Right? He used, you know, now, it's a fairly common understanding of prayer that he taught his followers. Is that a way, is there a certain thing that you could use. Our Father who art in Heaven and hallowed by thy name. And he said, "Pray like this."

Chris Grace: What do you think about that when it comes to, for some people, it's that quick first thing that comes to mind. Maybe it's a lot of our listeners, you know, have fallen out of the habit of praying on a regular basis, but that prayer will come to mind on a regular, you know, or it will come to mind when they think about this. And Jesus said, "Then when you do pray, pray this way." It's a great tool because, I believe, it brings a clarity and a way to focus our thoughts on God, and then to do this.

Chris Grace: So what do you think about that?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. Interesting that in the Lord's Prayer he says, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliverance from the Evil One." So when you listen to that context, then you realize the Lord's Prayer is also a spiritual warfare type prayer. As we walk through it with that kind of, right, "Our Father who are in Heaven and hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." But "deliver us from the Evil One" is the culmination of that kind of a prayer, then we realize it's a warfare prayer.

Tim Muehlhoff: And so, let's go through it real quick-

Chris Grace: Sure, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: ... and apply it to this idea of praying against dark forces. So it starts off, and I'm sure all of our listeners can do it with us, but "Our Father who art in Heaven." Now, how can that be warfare?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, many people who write on spiritual warfare say the first thing Satan loves to do is to separate you from your relationship with God. So we were just talking about the prayers of a righteous man, well, let's say you're not a righteous man. Let's say I've gone through a tough time in my walk with God, Jesus is saying, but when you pray, pray "My Father who art in Heaven." So this relationship between you and God, nothing can assail it. Paul says in Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Tim Muehlhoff: So if you're a follower of Jesus, you've accepted Christ as your savior, and yet you're getting these thoughts that, hey, God's given up on you, man. You've sinned one too many times. Man, that's when you stop and say, "No, no, no. My Father who art in Heaven. Nothing can separate me from God, my loving father in Heaven, which is a place of authority and power."

Chris Grace: That's great, Tim. It's a good insight to this positional authority that we have because of our Heavenly Father, because he says ... John, I love the way John talks about this, that we have been adopted as children, and then he says an amazing thing that God has, the love that he's lavished upon us that we should be called sons of God. And that is a pretty powerful thing.

Chris Grace: So, Tim, I would love to take this. Why don't we do this? Why don't we take the rest of that prayer-

Tim Muehlhoff: That was a preview. We just gave them a preview.

Chris Grace: ... and let's do that on our next podcast because, you know what, I think it's a great way to have a plan for your marriage. It's a simple way. It's easy to remember. If all of the other things out there seem overwhelming and intimidating and having to pray about this and authority and all of that, that at least this is something that seems pretty tangible that we could do.

Chris Grace: Okay. Well, it's good to have everybody here. Let me just, Tim, recommend that listeners, if you want more information, to come to our website and there's so much out there just in general for relationships and marriages, and we want to be able to provide some of these services to you.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's one of the reasons our center exists is to be a clearinghouse of trusted resources. We have blogs. We have videos. We have ask the expert columns where we take listeners' and readers' questions, so feel free to jump into our website. It's there for your use. As well as this podcast, there's a multitude of other things, upcoming events that we're doing, so please, check it out.

Chris Grace: Yeah. And like us on-

Tim Muehlhoff: Please, like us. Yes.

Chris Grace: And send it out and repost these kinds of things. It's really good for us to be able to see that we're having an impact. So if you tweet it out, if you put it on Facebook, we would love that.

Tim Muehlhoff: It would be great.