You probably know someone on the verge of divorce. Perhaps you are struggling in your own marriage. Here are my top four secrets for having a successful marriage.

#1 Settle the issue of ownership.

Who is going to be Lord of your individual lives and family?

The first Christmas Barbara and I were married, we decided that before we would give anything to one another as a Christmas gift, we would give everything to God. We didn’t even have a couch or a kitchen table in our tiny apartment in Boulder, Colorado, but we each sat alone and penciled out a contract with God — a title deed to our lives. In it we signed over our lives, everything we had, ever hoped to have, or ever hoped to be and gave it all to God.

Those contracts stayed in an envelope for 17 years. In 1989 when we ripped open that envelope and reviewed what we had given to God, we were embarrassed and ashamed. The things we had given God were so minor, so petty compared to what God had given us — He had established us exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.

#2 Pray with your spouse every day.

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I received this secret 26 years ago — it has been the cement of our marriage! Many nights Barbara and I would go to bed, and due to an unresolved conflict, one spiritual discipline of praying together forced us to resolve the issue.

#3 Maintain a teachable heart that seeks out and grants forgiveness.

All communication is the result of trust. If you’re hiding bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness in your heart you can’t communicate on an intimate level. When you became a Christian you admitted your sins to God, He forgave you, and that established your relationship with God. In your marriage you must also be willing to ask forgiveness, and be willing to grant forgiveness, to have an intimate relationship and good communication.

#4 Follow a biblical blueprint for marriage.

I see Christian couples getting married today who have no plan for building a marriage and building a family. They come with a different set of expectations, ideas about roles and goals — sometimes with no thread of Christianity in them. One of the reasons our conferences are so helpful to couples, whether they’re engaged or have been married for years, is that both the husband and the wife leave having heard the same set of biblical principles together — blueprints that allow God to be the builder and maker of that marriage and family.

Taken from by Dennis Rainey. Copyright © 2005 FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Used by permission.