“For many married couples, praying together is a real challenge. It is personal, intimate, and it feels private. Sometimes we don’t know what to do [in prayer], or how to engage with each other.”

My friend Randy recently wrote those words in an email, urging my fiancé and me to sign up for FamilyLife’s 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Struck by Randy’s words, Janet and I accepted his challenge and are now receiving a short devotional from FamilyLife along with a set of prayers to pray together.

You see, I know from experience that prayer is not optional if you want to have a successful relationship. I now recognize that a lack of spiritual intimacy is often the first indicator of an underlying problem in a relationship.

Through the ups and downs of my life, I’ve discovered four things men can do when initiating prayer:

1. Commit to pray regularly. Jesus was a leader and He prayed. Jesus was a success and He prayed. Whatever idea or model you may have of what makes a man “a man,” if it does not include prayer, it is, at best, incomplete. A marriage without prayer is like putting water in your gas tank—the car won’t go very far.

Husbands, do you want to be known as a success or a failure? Do you want to be seen as a follower or a leader? Then you need to commit to pray, and pray with passion!

2. Take a stand. You must decide within yourself that you will do what you know you must … even if no one else does. That’s why I pray in public when Janet and I go out to dinner. I also make it a point to kiss her after we pray. For me, doing this makes a statement that I am not afraid to be seen as a Christian man and that I love Janet. It also cements my path and commitment to both Christ and her.

I have received many positive reactions from people when they see me get up from my table, step around to Janet, bend over and kiss her. And it has no small effect upon her, and her respect for me when I do so.

3. Be vulnerable. As men, we can stand naked before our wives on our wedding night but we can’t seem to stand emotionally “naked” before her and God in prayer. I totally understand the timidity of many men, who see public prayer as invading their personal, private, and generally intimate space and time with God.

I urge men to set a spiritual path early in a relationship that may start small and grow in time as we become more comfortable with being “naked.” For me, this happened when I would call Janet on the phone when we were dating. I made it a point to never hang up without praying first. I would pray for whatever we had talked about—simple short prayers—and then say goodnight.

In the beginning, she never prayed. But later, she started joining in. Prayer had the effect of showing her that I was authentic, first in my commitment to Christ and second to her. And in her words, “There is nothing sexier than a man who prays.”

But the fact that we prayed over the phone and not face to face took much of that initial uncomfortable feeling away. Then, when we were together, prayer began to feel more natural, even to the point that not having her with me to pray seemed strange.

I still have my own private and personal prayer time. But when I see how much Janet respects me for praying with her, and know how this pleases Jesus, prayer becomes almost intoxicating.

4. Start simple. The word “simple” is the key when it comes to prayer. Just start with something very easy. For example, I would begin an evening with, “Lord watch over and protect us, and may everything we do and everything we say bring honor and glory to Your name.”  Or, I would end of a date with, “Thank you, Jesus, for the good time we had tonight and watching over us.”

Husbands, when you see something that concerns you about your relationship with your spouse, just stop for a moment and say, “Let me pray for that right now.” Say a short prayer of one or two sentences, and then move on. Doing this recognizes that Jesus is the third Person in your marriage, and you are just including Him in your conversation.

The making of a godly man

Nothing builds up a man more than having the respect of the people he cares about. And nothing seems to be more attractive to a woman than a man who is a tender leader. What accomplishes both? Prayer.

Prayer is what makes a man a godly man, a godly leader … and a godly success.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Loizeaux. Used with permission. All rights reserved.