When a single woman asked me how to pray for her future husband, answering her question proved harder than I first thought it would. Maybe it’s because I didn’t start praying specific prayers for a husband until after I met my own future husband. Or maybe it’s because I realize that though most people eventually do marry, not everyone who wants to marry will. Still, God calls us to pray about everything. How then should you pray for your future husband?
Give Thanks for Hard Things Too
My mom used to encourage me with Matthew 6:33 when I’d call her to complain that my singleness was dragging out longer than I wanted it to. She always took me back to that verse: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” She even challenged me to give thanks for my circumstances.
“Give thanks for not having anyone ask me out?” I’d ask in frustration.
“Yes,” she’d say gently, but firmly. “Thank God for this opportunity to praise Him, to grow in your faith, to grow in your dependence on Him. Give thanks for the things you most want Him to change.”
She had good biblical support for her advice. Paul wrote,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7).
Paul is showing us how to pray for a husband: humbly—that’s what supplication means—and with thanksgiving. But how can you feel thankful when you’re hurt, angry, and frustrated? Thankfully, we don’t have to feel it. The verse just says give thanks. When I’m anxious, and most need this verse, saying “thank you” always starts as an act of the will.
“Seek first His kingdom,” Mom would say. And I’d cry, and we’d pray, and the more I did, the more I submitted my unmet longings to God. And humble requests started outnumbering prideful demands. My pain led me to pray, and giving thanks protected me from bitterness. Spending time talking with God created an opportunity for Him to soften my heart and shape my desires to conform to His.
I don’t know what changes God wants to make in you. We’re all different. But there is much work to be done. We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2) and we all have areas where we need to put sin to death and be conformed to the image of Christ (Col. 3:5). If you submit to His sanctifying process, especially in your pain, His Spirit will transform you (2 Cor. 3:18).
Ask for God’s Will to Be Done
Once you start praying, what if God answers your prayers differently than you want Him to?
Don’t lose hope. He is able to change the desires of your heart to align with His desire for your life and to satisfy you completely. We may never be able to understand how this works with our finite minds, but the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to pray with Jesus, “Thy will be done,” and truly mean it.
I’m amazed that God doesn’t ask us to begin there or require us to deny what we long for. Not only does Philippians 4:6 instruct us to “let [our] requests be made known to God,” but also, Jesus modeled this in His prayer in Gethsemane. Paul E. Miller talks about this in his book A Praying Life. It was only after Jesus prayed, “If you are willing, remove this cup from me,” that He prayed, “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Read the Gospels and you’ll discover a passionate, feeling man. Thank God we have a Savior who is in touch with the real world, who prays that he will not drink the cup of his Father’s wrath, who cries out on a rough wooden cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus neither suppresses his feelings nor lets them master him. He is real.1
A significant purpose of prayer is our transformation. The more we talk and listen, the more God shapes the conversation. As we grow closer to Him, our desires shift from what we want—what we think we most need—to what He wants, which is what we actually do need. His desires become our desires.
David Platt explains this change in his book Radical:
[God’s] gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for him, and we love him. We seek after him, and we find him, and we discover that he is indeed the great reward for our salvation. . . . [W]e are saved to know God. So we yearn for him.2
Keep Your Eyes on Him, Always
In 2006, a Barna survey showed that there were more never-married Christian men than never-married Christian women. I first wrote about this encouraging finding in “Plenty of Men to Go Around.” But statistics change. And even if that number were to hold steady, other numbers fluctuate.
One recent report from the Institute for Family Studies found that the marriage rate is dropping for singles under age thirty-five. Americans are marrying later than ever, more are cohabiting instead of getting married, and the share of never-married adults under age sixty-five has risen dramatically—from 26 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2016. Among adults under age thirty-five, only 2 percent of were married in 2016, down considerably from 44 percent in 1990.3
Add to falling marriage rates the world’s growing disregard for God’s design for marriage, and the increasing devaluation and even hostility toward it, and it’s easy to slide into discouragement. But whether stats are up or down, our hope shouldn’t be in what’s statistically probable, but rather, in what’s supernaturally possible.
Never-married women are a lot like Peter walking on the water—something he wasn’t supposed to be able to do. When he focused on that improbability, along with the storm and treacherous waves around him, he did what you’d expect. He sank. But when he fixed his eyes on Christ, he did the unexpected.
For many women, getting married would seem just as miraculous. Praise God that He is unchanging. He’s still the same wonder-working God who walked with Peter on the water. He still does the unexpected. But we have to do our part. We have to focus our faith and our eyes on Him. As we do, He may change our attitudes, our expectations, our habits, our health—whatever needs changing. He is trustworthy.
The encouragement I offered in 2006 hasn’t changed. God is still God. He designed us for marriage and despite all the roadblocks our culture puts between us and the altar, He still “sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6 NIV). He hasn’t cancelled the Creation Mandate to be fruitful and multiply. His solution to man’s aloneness is still a wife—the suitable helper (Gen. 2:18–24; Matt. 19:4–6). He’s still in the business of making good matches (Prov. 19:14). And no matter what happens in any one woman’s life, He is still able to do all His holy will (Eph. 3:20–21; Dan. 4:35).
God’s purposes for your life are not limited, thwarted, or in any way altered by cultural challenges. He is able to bring you a husband regardless of your circumstances, if that is His will for you. And if it’s not, then what He does have in store for you is good. His plans for us are always better than the plans we make for ourselves. Although things may not turn out the way you think they will, that’s not bad news.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan asked Mr. Beaver about Aslan: “Is he—quite safe?” Mr. Beaver replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Like Susan with Aslan, you can know that no matter how unpredictable your journey is with God, it will be good.
God is calling us to unshakeable faith regardless of the outcome; faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who said,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:16–18).
Before You Pray for a Husband
When I first started writing this article, I was thinking in terms of a list of traits to ask God for and specific verses to pray. But the more I wrote and prayed, the more I realized that God’s leading in our prayer life is individualized. Each of us is unique, and His work in us differs from person to person. That’s not to say you can’t pray for a godly husband who meets the requirements of the “husband verses.”4 I think you should.
But I also believe you should ask God to show you how to pray, given your story and this particular moment in history. With all the bad news about men, it occurred to me that even before we arrive at praying for men as suitors, we need to pray for them as our brothers in Christ. Many of the men in our churches are limping spiritually. We should be asking God to raise up a generation of godly men who are not only willing to take on the challenges and calling of being godly husbands and fathers, but also able by His Spirit to do it.
Whatever season of life you’re in, you need to pray. We all do. Whether single and praying about your desire for a husband; or later, if you’re married, praying about your desire for a baby; or praying for your (or your husband’s) need for a job; or if you never do marry, praying about serving faithfully while celibate, the need to pray never ends. Jesus told His disciples they “always ought to pray and not lose heart.” It’s never too soon, or too late, to start.
God is able to bring you a husband. But even more remarkably, if He doesn’t, He is able to hold you fast and keep you trusting Him and believing that He is good. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).