FamilyLife Today®

Praying Men: A Gift To Families: John Yates

with John Yates | December 8, 2023
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Men want to do things they feel they can do well. On FamilyLife Today, retired pastor and long-time speaker for FamilyLife, John Yates, breaks down the simple nature of prayer and how a man's prayer life blesses his family.

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Men want to do things they feel they can do well. John Yates breaks down the simple nature of prayer and how a man’s prayer life blesses his family.

Praying Men: A Gift To Families: John Yates

With John Yates
December 08, 2023
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Ann: I don’t know about you, but I am glad I’m not parenting kids today. [Laughter] I mean, we have kids, but they are not younger.

Dave: I have said that many times; it’s scary. We thought it was scary 40 years ago. I think it is ten times harder today. We have a generation walking away from their faith. We raised them in the church; we raised them to believe. And then, they hit teenage years and beyond, and they walk away in numbers. You talk about scary! Parents are petrified right now. “How do we help our kids?”

Ann: Are you feeling this as I am today? The urgency to get biblical principles and help to our families? Because this is what we are about. We have faithful givers who gave.

40 years ago, because [they] thought, “This is so important.” Well, it’s even more important now.

Dave: I’ve got to tell you: we cannot lose this battle.

Ann: Yes!

Dave: Every day we get to speak life and the Word of God. Actually, we get to bring Jesus to your family and bring hope to give you practical tools to help your kids and our kids be strong adults for Jesus. That doesn’t happen without you joining us in prayer and joining us as a financial partner.

I know everybody is asking for money at this time of year. We are saying, “Help us not lose this battle. Let’s win!” And help us keep bringing life and the Word of God to your family so that you can win, and your family can win. Join us today. Your dollar will be doubled. This is a battle we will not lose, and you can help us win it. You can go to right now and make a gift.

Ann: Join us in this battle. It matters.

Dave: I know this about myself and men—and I can’t speak for women, so Ann, you’ll have to do this—but I know for me and every guy I know: we hate to do things we’re not good at.

Ann: Oh, yes! I think that’s true for women, too, but is it especially true, you think, for men?

Dave: Oh, I think—I mean, two or three weeks ago, I played the worst round of golf. I got in the car and said, “I’m done! I’m never playing this stupid game again! Why do I keep trying to do this, 30 years in? I just quit! I just quit!” I literally threw the clubs into the back of the car, and I’m like, “I’m just going to burn these things! Why do this again?”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!


Dave: Ten days later, I’m out again. My front nine, I shot par. I’ve never—I mean, I shot par. I had the best round of my life. Of course, I didn’t shoot par on the back nine, but I had the best round.

Ann: It gave you hope!

Dave: There I was again! But I thought, as men—and I’m sure women are the same way—it’s like we don’t like doing things we’re not good at, so we just sort of quit, or we give up, or we move onto something else.

I thought, “Okay, when it comes to prayer, I think a lot of men feel the same way I did about my golf game.” It’s like, “I don’t understand it. I’m not good at it. My wife’s a lot better at it than I am. I’ll just let her be the prayer warrior in our family, and I’ll just sort of not do it.”

Ann: From what I’ve heard from women (I hear from a lot of women), they struggle because their husbands aren’t necessarily leading in that area. You’ve just given them an answer. This could be one of the reasons why they struggle.

Dave: Yes, and I think for a golf game, or for anything else, what do I need to do? I need to get a coach. I need to learn how to hit a ball, which I did; and it helped. I want to train. Prayer is something we haven’t trained much in. We have a guest in the studio today—

Ann: —a trainer!

Dave: Yes, we’ve got a prayer trainer. I mean, John Yates is with us today. Welcome back, John.

John: It is great to be with you all again today. Thanks.

Dave: We’re glad to have you here! I mean, you are one of our mentors; you may not know this, but you and Susan, for years—

You joined the FamilyLife team of speakers, a team of us that do the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® all around the country, how long ago?

John: Yes.

Dave: And how many years were you on that team?

John: Well, just 20 years.

Dave: “Just 20.”

Ann: “Just 20.”

Dave: “Just 20!”

John: It didn’t seem like very long, but they were great years for us. We encourage people to go to the marriage Weekend to Remember. We know how much impact it has on them, but what they don’t realize is how great it is for the speakers! [Laughter]

Dave: Exactly!

Ann: Yes! Speaking changed our lives!

John: Speaking changed our marriage, too. Absolutely!

Dave: Yes, that was one part of your life—

John: —yes.

Dave: —but for most of your life, you’re a pastor of Falls Church—

John: —right.

Dave: —in Falls Church, Virginia.

John: Right.

Dave: How many years? 40 years?

John: Forty years.

Dave: And then you revised the book you wrote over 20 years ago called—

John:How a Man Prays for His Family.


Dave: Yes, How a Man Prays for His Family. Why did you rewrite it? I know Susan told you to do it, but I mean, do you feel like men today need to learn how to pray just like they did 20 years ago?

John: Yes, I just felt like this might prompt some more men, a little bit later on in life, to rekindle an interest in prayer. I had heard so many stories from people who love this simple little book. It’s just a guide to prayer. That’s all it is! But I’d heard so many people say what it had meant to them. Men study it in small groups, and they talk about it. There weren’t any copies of it around, you know? They were all gone; so, we decided, “Well, let’s redo this.”

Dave: Many of us, as men—I know it’s true for women and wives as well—need a trainer; somebody to help train us. What would you say? It’s the title of your book: “How does a man pray for his family?”

John: As a parent, you do everything you can for your kids.

Dave: Right.

John: But there are a lot of things you can’t do.

Ann: Yes.

John: And those are the things that you have to turn to God for and ask Him to help you with. I can’t change my teenage grandson’s attitude about whatever it is. You know, I can talk to him, but I can’t change his attitude; only God can do that.

And so, I think if a man wants to pray for his family, first of all, he needs to know what’s going on in their lives. For instance, I’m praying a lot for grandchildren now. One of my daughters-in-law, whenever one of the children has a birthday, she will write us a letter, and she will say, “Here are the things that you need to know about this girl’s life so that you can pray for her.” She helps me know how to pray, because I’m not in Charlottesville. I don’t know what’s going on all the time.

Ann: That’s a sweet gift, and what a good idea.

John: It’s a great thing for a parent to do for a grandparent.

Ann: Yes.

John: Another way that you can learn to pray effectively for your family is to set aside some time. I’ll tell you what Susan and I have done.

Ann: Yes, give us some homework.

John: Every year, in late August or early September, as kids are going back to school, my wife and I would pull away for an overnight; go to some hotel somewhere or something, spend the night, [and] get some rest. All the next morning, we would spend talking about the children: “Here’s my son, Chris. Okay, he’s—how old is he? Seventeen right now. He’s trying to make a decision about college. Let’s talk about him.”

Susan would say, “What do you think are some of the needs that we need to be aware of in Chris’s life?” We would think [of] physical needs: “What’s going on, physically?” You know, “What are health problems?” “How’s he doing in athletics?” and that sort of thing. Physical needs, spiritual needs, emotional needs, intellectual needs; we would just sort of talk through that child.

But anyway, you try to understand what their needs are, and then you try to discipline yourself in some way to bring these family members to God in prayer and ask God to be working in their lives to meet these needs. I mean, it’s pretty simple.

Ann: Yes.

John: But it takes some thought; it takes some discipline; and it takes some love, I guess.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Now, let’s talk about [if] it’s different as you think—you have a chapter in your book about “How a Man Prays for His Wife.”

John: Yes.

Dave: What’s that look like?

John: Yes, in some ways, it’s a little different, because your relationship with your wife is closer; it’s more intimate. You know, a husband and wife can kind of be inside each other a little bit. You’re more aware of internal struggles, and that helps you to be able to pray, perhaps, more wisely. But if I want to pray for my wife, then I have to bring to God certain things on her behalf.

And so, for instance, I think about: “Okay, what’s her schedule this week? What’s going on in her life? What is she doing?”

Ann: I like this! You have to know your wife and know what’s going on in her life in order to pray specifically for her. Every wife is like, “Yes! I want my husband to ask me these questions.”

John: Well, you can pray much more helpfully, I think, if you know what she’s doing. It’s not just what’s on her schedule. You ask yourself:

“What responsibilities is she carrying? What things does she have to get done that nobody else knows about, but I know about, and I know they’re weighing on her?” “Lord, help her with this; help her with that.”

“What about her character? What’s going on in her mind about things? Is she fearful? Is she anxious? Is she doubting? Is she feeling overwhelmed?”

You pray about those things.

Ann: So, you’re looking at mental, spiritual, physical. You’re looking at all the areas of her life and how you can pray for her. [Emotion in voice] I get teary thinking of someone—and especially you, Dave—praying for me like that.

Dave: Probably a lot of wives feel that way?

Ann: Yes!

Dave: Help us understand. “What is it that makes you teary?”

Ann: It’s that our husbands would know us so well, or even they’re asking those questions, and they care about what’s going on in our hearts; because we all long to be known, we all long to be understood, and we all long to be loved unconditionally. But then, to take all of that and take it before God! That’s one of the most loving, most powerful things a husband could do for his wife.

Dave: Of course, you can’t really pray for your wife unless you know her, and you’re talking to her, and you’re hearing those things.

John: Right.

Dave: I know, just a couple weeks ago on—I think it was a Monday night—Ann was going to host a women’s night for a new ministry that our son is birthing—that has been a dream of yours [Ann] for—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —literally, a dream from God about a women’s ministry birthing. And this was the first—they’d had meetings—but this was the first public.

I get asked to speak the same night to a men’s group on the other side of town. Ann doesn’t even know this, but I got on my motorcycle to ride across town. The whole time on my bike, I’m praying for Ann’s night, just praying for everything: details, her message, the women being moved, and a movement being started in Michigan that we think could be national for women.

I can see it right now. I’m standing in front of all these men at this men’s event, speaking. And during a pause in my message—I’m praying for Ann—you know, I just throw up a prayer right there. I come home, and all I care about—I couldn’t wait to get home! It’s like, “How’d it go?!

John: And nobody told you [that] you had to do that, or you should do it.

Dave: No, it was an honor!

John: It’s because you’ve been married, what? 40-some years?

Dave: 41 years.

John: You’ve been married all this time; you know her. It’s not that hard to pray for your wife—

Dave: —no.

John: —and especially as you’ve logged some years together.

Ann: Yes.

John: When you think about it, you know what she’s dealing with.

Ann: For you men, I just want to say, “That makes us feel seen. It makes us feel cherished, and it makes us feel like you really care about our spiritual walk with God in every part of our walk in life.”

Dave: Well, it’s interesting, the name of her women’s ministry is Heard.

John: Heard.

Dave: Because so many women want to be heard. When a man prays for his wife, I think she feels heard.

Ann: Yes.

John: Absolutely, I do.

Dave: Why don’t we do it?! Why is it so rare?

John: One, we don’t think about it. Two, we don’t feel adequate. Three, we’re afraid we’ll be embarrassed. Four, maybe our faith is pretty weak. But if we could really understand how much it means to our wives, we probably would attempt it more frequently.

Ann: And let me encourage the wives who are listening: if your husband prays for you—even if it’s a short prayer, even if it’s a sentence, even if he’s prayed for dinner—can I just encourage you to encourage him? Just to say, “Thank you! That means so much to our family when you initiate that prayer. That means so much to me. Thank you!”

Don’t say, “Well, finally!” or “About time,” or “I’ve been wishing you would.” You know, kind of that voice or that tone.

Dave: Or “You call that a prayer?”

Ann: Yes! [Laughter] Encourage whatever step he takes toward prayer. I would just encourage him and pray for him to have that confidence. Be confident in him when he doesn’t have confidence in himself.

John, you’ve brought your prayer notebook. Do you have any prayers in there that you’ve written about Susan? Can we hear one that you prayed for her? Is that very personal?

Dave: That’s getting pretty personal.

John: I don’t know.

Dave: It’s a prayer journal between him and God.

John: I don’t know.

Ann: I know. I’m just nosey.

Dave: “Let’s share it with the world.”

John: Here’s a whole list of things I was praying for Susan in fall of 1996.

Ann: Oh, let’s hear that.

John: Let’s see, what can I read? For her to be encouraged and peaceful about our family and our marriage.

Ann: Ahh!

John: That God would feed and nourish her in her spirit. That God would be preparing her for the time when the children are gone.

Ann: Wow!

John: That was not too long before they started leaving.

I prayed for her relationship with a teacher in our high school; this was a really difficult woman. It’s too a long story for me to get into, but I prayed over this relationship for

20 years. Before this woman died, we saw amazing answers to prayer in her life. She was one of those teachers who would mock the kids because of their faith in school. Her whole life changed around—

Ann: —because of your prayer!

John: Yes, well, I—

Ann: —part of it.

John: —because of my wife’s persistence, probably. [Laughter]

Asking God to guide her in her writing. She was beginning to write some books then. I was asking God to control her imagination, because she has a pretty wild imagination. [Laughter] Sometimes it gets the better of her.

Dave: I don’t know if God answered that one, did He?

John: I don’t know if He did.

Dave: Probably, her imagination was from Him. [Laughter]

John: Anyway, just that sort of thing.

Ann: Yes.

John: You know, I’d just say to the men: when you’re praying for members of your family, just talk to God. Just say, “God, here’s my wife. You know her. You know that she’s got this concern about her health—she got this report the other day, and she’s worried about it. Lord, please give her assurance that she’s going to be okay. Help her to feel secure. I can’t seem to pull that off, but You can, God.”

I mean, that’s not as good as the Lord’s Prayer, but it’s good enough! [Laughter] I mean, God doesn’t care, you know?

Ann: Yes. [Laughter]

Dave: Well, in some ways, it sounds like we live in the natural world, and we’re asking God to do something supernatural in our natural world. I’m going to do everything I can. I’m going to love her and communicate with her, but like you said earlier, I can’t change her heart.

John: Right.

Dave: I can’t change my son or daughter’s heart. “God, You have to do that, so I’m going to come to You.” Let me ask you this: how often—how many times—do you maybe pray the same prayer?

John: You know, that’s a really good question. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount—He said: “Knock, and the door will be opened. Seek, and you will find. Ask, and it will be given unto you,”—but the way He said it, in the original, the tense is: “Ask and keep on asking.”

Dave: Yes.

John: “Knock and keep on knocking.”

I used to think it was foolish to ask for the same thing repeatedly, but then I thought about my relationship with my children. When they came to me and asked for something, I wasn’t always all that clear how serious they were; how important it was; what it meant to them. But if they came back, over and over again, and said, “Dad, I really need your help with this,” or whatever, it’s a way that they demonstrate to their father how important something is in their life. So, when we bring something to God in prayer, and we bring it back again a few days later, we bring it back again, there’s no shame in that. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes God answers a prayer by saying, “Yes, right now.” You know, sometimes He says, “You’ve got to be kidding! [Laughter] No way!” Sometimes He says, “Not now.” A wise man used to talk about how God works in response to our needs, and he said, “Delay is not denial.” So, God may say in [response to] prayer, “You keep asking. In My time, I will do what is right. Delay doesn’t mean I’m denying your request.” God doesn’t always answer the way you want Him to, but many times, He does.

I would like to make another point about prayer, though. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate, as I’ve got a little more time now, is prayer is also being still before God; and prayer is trying to listen to God. I know you know this, but now, because I don’t have to hurry in the morning and get off, I have more time just to sit with a cup of coffee, early in the morning, and just sit with God; just be with God. I will eventually get to those lists, you know, but I’ve found that it’s very helpful just to sort of reflect in God’s presence on the day before; think about the conversations; think about what we did; to give God thanks; to sort of go back and reexamine: “How did I handle that? Oh, I need to do something about that.” Make a little note, you know? “Don’t forget to do this.”

And I’ve just found great delight in sort of sitting in the presence of God and reflecting on the day before, reflecting on the day ahead; asking His help on the things that are coming, the things that are coming up; and not being in a hurry, so that I’m able to let my mind go in whatever direction it will go. You know, every morning, your mind goes in different directions. But to do that in the presence of God, I’ve found it to be very—just a great blessing.

Ann: You know, I was coming home from visiting my dad in Ohio, driving back home to Michigan, and I had just lost my mom. She was 90 years old; my parents had been married 70 years. I remember—that drive is four hours—for the first hour, I remember just talking to God the whole time, telling Him what I was feeling, crying. [Emotion in voice]

But there was an intimacy of love that I felt about my heavenly Father. I remember saying, “Jesus, You’re my best friend!” I felt and feel about Jesus the way I had first felt about Dave when we were dating, like, “I can’t wait to be with You! I can’t wait to talk with You. I can’t wait to hear what You think about this; or to feel Your presence, and Your power, and Your majesty.” In the car, it’s that overwhelming sense of peace that just comforted my soul.

I thought, “Oh, Lord! That’s the greatest gift: Your presence!” And I think God longs for that relationship with us that, as Paul said, to “pray without ceasing.” That’s what it looks like. It’s you, just with your best friend.

John: Yes.

Ann: And you’re telling Him everything that’s going on in your heart, with your family, with your spouse, with your kids; your worries. I love to think—and I know—that He’s intent upon every word, and emotion, and feeling, because He’s a loving God who cares for us.

Dave: I’m thinking, for me—I think a lot of men are probably feeling the same thing—I want to get a prayer journal going. I used to do that. I remember, often, I would write out prayers; and then I’d put an “L” on my little paper and put my pen down.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: “L” meant “listen.” Then I’d say, “Okay, God, are You saying anything?” And you know, I always ask, “What do You want me to know? What do You want me to do?” But to have that in writing, or you can even do it digitally if you want to do it on your phone or whatever, but to have a copy that, someday—

I’m guessing those prayer journals are going to end up in your grandkids’ hands someday, and it’s going to be a legacy—

Ann: —oh, yes.

John: —maybe they will; maybe they will.

Ann: —yes.

Dave: —of a father [and] a grandfather who prayed for them.


Shelby: I have a prayer journal. It’s in my bag right now, next to my Bible. I just don’t write in it the way I should and record the prayers I speak about my life, about my family, about my ministry. Well, I think there’s always room for change though, right? I’m going to start, and I think you should do it with me. Maybe grab a journal—maybe go buy a journal or order one online—and start recording your prayers. I think I’m going to do it.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John Yates on FamilyLife Today. John’s written a book called How a Man Prays for His Family. This is more than just a placebo to make you feel better. John’s going to show you some tools about how to have a powerful consistent prayer life. To pick up John’s book, you can go to and click on “Today’s Resources.”

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A lot of people ask the question: “What are some practical steps to help men raise sons of consequence?” Maybe they don’t word it that way, but they’re thinking that: “How can I raise my son in a way that’s just different than what the culture tells me and, maybe, what my natural sinful instincts might be.” Well, next week, Jon Tyson is going to be in the studio with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about “Raising Sons of Consequence.” I hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

FamilyLife Today
Praying: Men Who Struggle: John Yates
with John Yates December 7, 2023
Many men struggle with praying. John Yates discusses why men struggle, steps to help, and how it can affect their whole lives.
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