Prior to coming to Tyndale, I had never prayed for my future spouse. I had no starry-eyed notion that the first man I would date would be my “one and only” nor was I caught up in a fantasy that by 20 I would be married, have my first kid at 22 and be done having 5 children by age 30. Obviously, I didn’t want my heart to be broken by men who weren’t passionate about their faith or who didn’t know how to respect a woman. Naturally, my goal was to only enter into mutually satisfying relationships that honoured one another and Christ, and an initial layer was added due to my faith – keeping my heart, mind, and emotions pure until the wedding night. I did not pray for my future spouse for 3 years, the time it took me to complete my Bachelor’s degree. All around me, friends were getting engaged, exchanging vows, and welcoming life into their midst. Although the majority of my young friends have found good matches and remain satisfied in their marriages, looking back I have to reasonably conclude that at 19 or 20 I had no idea who my “type” was, let alone an understanding of the gravity (“till death do us part”) such a decision would have on my life. It is clear to me in Scriptures that marriage is a life-long commitment and journey. That doesn’t mean there will never be times when you struggle or want to give up, but it’s the spark of dedication that keeps you fighting when the cares of this world threaten to make your love dry up or run cold.
Suddenly when I was 21 I met a young man and began courting. Through my relationship with him, we began to discern together what a Christ-centered marriage would look like and how to respect each other even when we disagreed. Both he and I prayed constantly to God about our relationship – whether we should keep going, proceed with caution, or stop. I began praying about my future spouse, but in reality I was only referring to this one guy in my prayers. Although I am thankful that God guarded my heart and protected me from drama until I was 21, our relationship did not last and we went our separate ways. I did not pray about my future spouse again until about a year and a half later when I changed my thinking on this issue.
Today, I pray almost constantly about my future spouse, but it’s not asking God to bless a union I simply wish was there or to believe that God will prohibit my free will to choose to date someone who isn’t right for me. I do not believe in the notion that God will save my emotional attachment only for one man, my husband. I am human and capable of feeling a wide range of emotions including attraction. Yet, when this happens, it is up to me to prayerfully ask God and then decide what that attraction is based off of – lust, a growing understanding of the characteristics I would like in a spouse (although not necessarily a desire to be with that specific person) or a potential friendship which could develop into blessing one another for the long run. I believe that God has chosen (predestined) my future spouse from the beginning of time, but until then He calls for patience (though because of free will does not always stop me from jumping the gun). In each case, when I have chosen to follow my own will rather than God’s He still restores what could be there, taking even the bad experiences and using them for good.
So, instead while I still enter each potential relationship with the hope of marriage, only entering into courtship when the man has desirable characteristics, I have learned to slow down. I have a personality which is goal focussed – everything in my life is about accomplishing something; so it’s easy that when dating I can become obsessed with marriage as the only focus. The be-all-end-all. Yet, doing this is unfair to the man, myself, and even the spirit behind marriage. I believe in courtship, getting to know someone with the intent that he COULD be the one, but I disagree with a preoccupation that he definitely IS the one. It just puts way too much pressure on both you and him. Sometimes Christian women come at dating with a mindset that you have to know who you are going to marry before even giving it a shot. In reality, dating is a time to discover who you are, who this person is, and whether you are compatible with each other. You don’t have to know right away, in fact you probably shouldn’t know right away. That’s why I also advocate for staying pure (physically and emotionally) before marriage. Since the man you date might be the one or he might not you want to enter into marriage with no regrets and no guilt in telling your spouse what went on before. Even in engagement, it is important to maintain purity because unless you have said your vows before the altar of Christ, you still do not belong to one another.
Therefore, when I pray for my future spouse, I pray about the following things. First, I take the wisdom of a new friend of mine that because there is no marriage in heaven, clearly it is not a NEED here on earth (see https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A30&version=NASB). Instead of marriage being something we NEED to have, it is a blessing that God chooses to give to us in order to enhance our lives, our depth of relationship with another soul, and our understanding of His love for us. So, I ask God to show me whether I can serve Him better as a couple or as a single person and then I ask Him that if it is His will for me to serve Him with a partner that He provide me with a husband who I can minister with and who can build me up spiritually at the same time as I encourage him in his faith.
Then, I ask God to guard my heart and mind and to provide patience so that I can wait on His timing – I ask God to bring about the right man at the right time and in the right way and ask Him to strip away any relationship that is not of Him so I can see clearly and remain focused on His Word. The Song of Solomon tells us that we are not to “awaken love until it is time.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Song+of+Solomon+8%3A4&version=NASB)That’s why we need to be slow in professing our love for another, not flippantly whispering sweet nothings that are not centered in Christian love. Even in dating, I reserve the phrase “I love you” until I feel confident that there is something deeper than just physical attraction involved.
Lastly, I also ask God to allow me the opportunity to take a healthy dose of responsibility for myself. I refuse to make a list of what a Godly man looks like until I have also determined what a Godly woman looks like. A great place to start in Proverbs 31 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+31&version=NASB). I want my husband to love, respect, and support me, but I also want to learn how to better appreciate, support, and encourage him. So, I search the Scriptures, spend time with Godly mentors, and pray and in this way ask God to help me to continue to grow in Christian maturity. At the same time that I am praying for a Godly husband, I make an effort to have Godly male friends – men whom I have profound respect for, but am not interested in dating. Surrounding yourself with Godly models of the opposite gender provides a basis for understanding the kind of guy you eventually want to have in your life.
So in closing, here is my advice for Christian young women: 1) Ask God for a prince, but do not step over the frogs on the way to the palace. Take time to get to know the frogs, but do not feel pressure to marry the first one you see. Try to work on friendship first and dating as a by-product of that friendship – something that can deepen it and ultimately enrich it.
2) Understand that evangelical culture is not indicative of the world. Many people in our day get married in their 30s after finishing school, securing a job, and having the financial ability to put a down payment on a house. So, if you’re 24 and not married, know you still have time – don’t rush into a lifelong commitment simply because everyone else is doing it if you don’t truly feel ready for it yet.
3) Approach courting (dating) with a genuine desire for purity, honesty, and trust in the relationship. Only go for a man who knows how to build you up and who can edify the (potential) marriage even when you feel like calling it quits. At the same time, understand your own need to be loyal and dependable. Far too many youth pastors are encouraging young women to make lists of Godly characteristics in men, when in reality we need to encourage women to first know who they are in Christ before trying to bring a guy into the equation. It is easy to know what we expect from others and much harder to take an honest look at ourselves.
I truly believe that for every person who desires marriage God has ordained a special person for them and them alone. Praying for your future spouse does not automatically speed up this process, but it does help you maintain your sights on the things of Christ even in the midst of infatuation and flirting. When you know your foundation is build on a rock, you can have assurance that even when the storms and floods come up and bang against the house, that your marriage will be able to withstand it and you and your husband will come out stronger and victorious because of your desire for one another and for Christ (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+7%3A24-27&version=ESV). Praying for your future spouse now will also carry over into praying for him when you are dating and ultimately praying for him and your kids when you’re married; and just as the old adage goes, “the family that prays together stays together.” So, get into the habit now because you who wouldn’t want their spouse to pray for them even after marriage?