One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse. That took a lot of different forms. Sometimes it was simple and relaxed. Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One. Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).
But over and over again for years, it never happened. God didn’t “answer” my prayer.
This really begs two different types of questions. First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse. Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.
Before I give my feeble attempt to answer those two questions (the first one in this post and the latter in an upcoming post), let me remind us of a few things that we need to clear out of the way. Platitudes that we know aren’t true and that I’ve debunked here before. Those include but are not limited to: There is not a Christian Soulmate; God does not owe you a spouse; God is not holding out on you; God Has Not Changed His plan for marriage; It might not be God’s fault; and You don’t earn a spouse.
Ok, now let’s get to it.
First of all, I think it is absolutely a great thing to pray for a spouse. Why would you not take your desire to God. You don’t need to try to kill that desire (ignore the whole “it’s when you don’t want it it will happen thing” – that is sort of good advice if it means, don’t be desperate, but pretending you don’t want something is called avoidance, not dealing with it).
We need to take our heart to God. But I think how we pray can really help us here. Let’s get very practical. Here are some things I’d encourage in prayer about a spouse.
- Avoid praying for THE ONE as there isn’t the one. This also decreases the pressure when you do meet someone and makes hearing God less pressurized as well. Maybe pray of A One or something like that.
- Pray for wisdom and discernment. “God show me what to do and who to pursue further. God show me what you want me to do. Do you like this relationship?” etc.
- Submit to God. This was huge for me. I finally quit praying for a spouse. I took a step back and said, “God, I’ll do whatever you want (You’ll probably need to at least mostly mean that), Just tell me what to do”.
- Understand that there are different forces at work. So pray for protection. Both in searching for a spouse and also for protection of your heart, mind and will from spiritual attack.
- Pray for God to show you (through others, directly, or in any way) the things that you are doing wrong in this process. “God show me my sin,”or maybe “God show me where you are working on me right now.”
- Also ask God to show you lies you are believing. Lies about Him, yourself, the opposite sex, marriage, singleness – you name it. Ask Him to help you not believe them.
- Ask Him to heal wounds that you have in this area.
This seems like a lot of prayer. But I think too often we get wrapped up in the wrong prayers. We pray for The One because we’ve made marriage an idol. Or we pray for a particular One because we’ve made that person an idol. We might pray for a spouse and not pray for anything else – therefore essentially basing our whole prayer life with God on finding another person. I’ve done all of those things.
Finally as we pray we need to be willing to hear anything. We need to be willing to hear yes or no. I think a big part of what makes listening to God hard is that we are afraid of what He will say. What if God wants me to marry a person I’m not attracted to? What if He wants to me to remain celibate for life? What if He calls me out on a sin? What if He tells me not to marry this person I really want to? It’s the old, “What if God calls me to move to Africa” fear.
But here’s the thing; If we aren’t fully submitted to Him, it will be hard first to hear and secondly to trust what we hear as coming from Him. This is of course true of all prayer not just prayer in this area of our lives. But it can be especially true in areas of prayer, including this one, where we have a high emotional involvement. It can border on anguish sometimes, and I want to acknowledge that if that’s where you are at, but we can’t stay there.
In summary, we should absolutely pray about this area of our life. We should do it in submission to God, while at the same time avoiding false submission sounding platitudes and being open and honest with God. Heck maybe the starting point could be, “God, right now I want what I want. Help me to step back and be submitted to you. That’s what I want, to do what you want. Help me do that.” Then go from there.
Nothing wrong with praying for a spouse, nothing wrong with asking for the “desires of your heart” but with this understanding again comes DEEP responsibility, if you are indeed a Christian. There is a meme out there in “internet-land” that shows a pretty woman praying, and she asks “Lord, please bring me a man, who understands me / wants to lead me / wants to be a husband and father / takes my needs into consideration”
and the next frame shows “God” throwing His hands up saying “I have, many, many times, and you keep telling these men that you ‘just-want-to-be-friends-with-them’ ”
When we express the deep desires like these to God……we have to be ready for opportunity, ready for people to be placed in our path, and we have to be ready as well to *listen* to God.
Too often with our plans in our lives we take the attitude of “here God, here is what I want / need, now you bless it so I can justify my actions taken (or not taken!)”
God wants us to come to him with these desires, but great responsibility our part is then required!
Reminds me of a meeting with a college minister one on one when I was still an undergrad a few years ago. We prayed together and out of nowhere he starts praying for God to help me find a wife. I did not ask for this or expect it, and found the whole thing rather funny. I guess he just knew so many young men that struggled with that he assumed I must too.