Most of us struggle with praying for the people we do know, much less people we do not!
However, years ago, a friend wrote a heartfelt letter detailing his petitions before God on behalf of his future wife—who he had yet to even meet.
Now, I will admit it: I am a cynic.
And I read his letter with a cynic’s eye.
Yet, cynical as I am, I had nothing but positive regard for the thought behind his gesture.
Praying God would prepare his heart and the heart of his future wife struck me as a pious and worthwhile.
Indeed, if you listen to Contemporary Christian Music, songs like Rebecca St. James’ “Wait for Me,” as well as “Praying for You” by Mandisa illustrate an evangelical trend of actively praying for a marriage relationship not even on the horizon.
I find this a well-intentioned way of reminding ourselves that prayer must form the locus of the Christian life.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray “thy [God’s] will be done”, so to pray God’s will be done in the life of an unknown mate is commendable in my eyes.
So, let me explain why I am not praying for my future wife.
I think I did once or twice, but the bar was pretty low, like “Lord, can you make sure she exists, please?” and “I hope you didn’t go to the wrong address!”
But, seriously, while I tend to think positively about prayers for a future Mr. or Mrs. Right, it is not something I can do.
And it is not that I do not want to get married.
I challenge you to find another 21-year-old male who wants to get married and have 19 kids (no joke) like I do.
“Beginning to read 1 Corinthians 7 deeply with fresh eyes to see, something stirred in my heart and I had to face the possibility that I would prefer to serve the Lord as a single man.”
Indeed, the intensity of this possible future generated persistent feelings of “missing out” as childhood friends began marrying and starting their own families.
However, my life was altered upon being given godly counsel to think about my life and the ways I was serving God at the time and ask how that would change with the responsibilities of having a spouse.
Beginning to read 1 Corinthians 7 deeply with fresh eyes to see, something stirred in my heart and I had to face the possibility that I would prefer to serve the Lord as a single man.
Phrases like “free from concern,” “concerned about the Lord’s affairs,” “devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit,” and “undivided devotion to the Lord” (vv. 32-35) in describing the single Christian had such a ring of truth. It appealed to me on a deep spiritual level.
Would the singleness last for a few years, decades or for life?
I did not know.
All I knew was that thinking about dividing my time, decisions, finances, and thoughts between God and a spouse made me unhappy.
Again, it is not a matter of not wanting to be married, just that the idea of giving my “best years” to anyone but God has changed how I view the options before me.
(Also, as an aside, imagine me trying to explain this to a group of teen guys, which I did, who looked at me like I confessed to plucking the wings off butterflies and enjoying it.)
I am not praying for my future wife because I want to keep my heart open to the possibility there will not be a future wife.
And even if marriage is to come, I want to serve God now with a heart undivided, not waiting or anticipating a possible future relationship state, but using my singleness as a way to bring God glory and testify to the all-sufficiency of Christ.
If anyone interprets this position as being “anti-marriage” or even anti-praying-for-your-future-spouse, they should revisit the Bible.
The same Paul who wrote 1 Corinthians 7 also wrote Ephesians 5.
Jesus was single, but he affirmed the sacred, divine origin of the marriage bond.
Some of the godliest and most inspiring believers I know are modern-day Priscillas and Aquillas who have mentored and supported me.
I thank God for them.
At the same time, I believe God is still calling folks like the Apostle Paul and others who, as the Lord Jesus said and did, will “make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”
Wrestling with the conviction that I am such a person, I have tabled preparation for a future relationship in favor of meeting God where I am and asking Him to use me as I am, no strings attached, for however long my present state brings Him glory.
Editor’s note: This essay was first published at Unpretentious Spiritual Musings.
Eric J. Miller is an avid religion nerd, Mexico enthusiast, and undergraduate preaching major at Cincinnati Christian University. He blogs at Unpretentious Spiritual Musings.