Near the end of my sophomore year, my best friend, Betsy, said she was planning to spend two weeks at Summit, a camp at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado. The more she told me about it — worldview studies in a classroom setting with time for outdoor adventures built in — the more I knew I had to do it. My first thought, I hope it’s not too late to register. My second, Dad will think this is great. So great, in fact, that he’ll cover my airfare, pay the tuition and even throw in some spending money.
It’s not that he was a Daddy Warbucks; there were things I asked for that he said no to. But some things, like travel, experiential learning and anything that would get me closer to deciding my major, were almost guaranteed yeses.
I’ll admit it. I had an entitlement mentality. I figured what I was asking for was good, and he would want to give it to me.
Still, for all of my bravado with my earthly dad, I was pretty timid when petitioning my heavenly Father, especially where the big things were concerned.
When I was single, I used to pray for a husband like this, “Oh, God, please don’t make me be single my whole life. I really want to be married. Oh, I hope it’s not Your will for me to be single. I don’t think I could do it! Please bring someone into my life soon, very soon. But help me to be patient in the meantime. And, God, if You do want me to be single — but I hope You don’t — please give me the grace for it because I really don’t feel it. Did I mention how much I hope that’s not Your will for me?”
I wish I had read about Bartimaeus back then. It wasn’t until recently that his story, recorded in Mark 10:46-52, leapt off the page.
When Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, heard that Jesus was approaching he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The exclamation point emphasizes his volume. In a book known for economy of words and punctuation, it’s clear this was no timid request. Even as the crowd rebuked him, telling him to be quiet, the Bible says “he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!”
His clamor was rewarded. When Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” he replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” He was frank about what he wanted — fully expecting healing. And he knew Jesus had the authority to do it, acknowledging Him as, “Jesus, Son of David.”
And Jesus did. “Immediately he received his sight,” the Bible reports. But it wasn’t his flattery, his neediness or even his volume that made the difference. As Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.”
Learning to Really Pray
Unlike Bartimaeus, I asked half-heartedly, comforted by Scripture about having faith as a mustard seed — I barely had that. It’s not that I disbelieved God could bring me a mate, I just didn’t think He would. Still, my heart longed to be married.
And on it went. Then one day I met someone who helped me see my prayers for what they were: faithless requests for something I wasn’t even sure it was OK to want.
Her name was Mary; I’ve talked about her before in “Learning From Ruth.” She talked differently about marriage than what I was used to. She said it was a good thing, that God created it for our benefit, and that He still wants Christians to marry and have families. But she didn’t stop there. “Be open about your desire to marry,” she said. “Talk about it with your friends, just like you talk about all the other things you hope to do.” She even went so far as to say, “In our anti-marriage culture you have to be strategic.”
I was embarrassed to admit my desire, and here she was encouraging me to not only acknowledge my hopes, but also pursue them.
Suddenly I felt free to really pray. My requests looked totally different than before. No longer weighed down by doubts that what I wanted was good, I asked with confidence:
Lord, You created me. And I believe you created me for marriage. I don’t know the timeline, but I’m asking You to fulfill my desire to be married.
Then I thanked Him for what I believed He would do:
Thank You, Lord, for this strong desire You’ve placed in my heart. Thank You that You’ve already been where I’m headed and that You know what my future holds. Thank You for marriage and for my future mate. Please be with him and prepare his heart to do Your will.
Once I started praying this way, it came pretty naturally — I’d already had years of practice with my own dad.
What You Ask for Matters
No matter what your earthly father is like — even if he gave more stones than bread or gave you nothing at all — you have an open invitation to be adopted by the perfect Father, and His love is unconditional. As an adopted child of God, you can stand before Him and ask with confidence. It may take some time — and practice — to feel comfortable praying this way, but it’s worth the effort to learn how. You’ll be following His invitation:
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11: 24).
Does this mean it’s OK to pray for a million dollars and expect to receive it? Hardly. Jesus said this just after clearing the temple of all the moneychangers and merchants. Jesus isn’t showing us the secret to unleashing material wealth — pray for a Cadillac and you’ll get one — He instructs us what to pray for in other places in Scripture. I believe this statement has everything to do with how we pray. It’s about our posture. It’s about our faith and believing that if we’re following the guidelines He gave us for what, we can ask boldly, believing our prayers will be answered.
An old proverb warns, “Be careful what you pray for — you just might get it.” In the case of praying for a spouse, I’d say, “Be aware of what you pray for — you might just get it.” There’s so much misinformation about what marriage is that lots of couples marry with unrealistic or warped expectations. The purpose of marriage isn’t companionship, romance or even sex. Marriage is, in the words of J. Budziszewski, “a divinely blessed and covenantally-sealed procreative partnership.” Its purpose, as Gary Thomas writes, is not to make us happy, but holy. And the procreating has everything to do with being refined toward holiness.
With all the confusion about what marriage is for, it’s possible that unanswered prayers for spouses have more to do with unrealistic expectations than God’s power to supply mates. If you’re praying for a spouse thinking he/she will solve all your problems and meet all your needs, an unanswered prayer may be more of a blessing than you realize. In 1 Corinthians, just after Paul exhorts those who do marry that they haven’t sinned, he warns them that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life” (v. 28).
Asking God to help you find a mate is asking Him to take you from a place of single focus to one that will require selflessness. Far from being the answer to all your dreams and fantasies, marriage is a crucible for making you more like Christ. Thankfully, in the midst of the refining, marriage also provides the opportunity for friendship, companionship, romance, love, fun and yes, sex.
We know God designed us for relational intimacy — when Adam admitted his loneliness, God created Eve. After they were together in the garden, God said, “It is good.” Not long after that, He gave us marriage. It’s not a “social construct” but a gift from God. Some are called to celibate service, and they’re specially gifted to live that out. But the rest of us are called to marriage. Asking God for a mate is asking Him for something He created and called good. For those of us who are called to marriage, it’s nothing short of asking Him to give us what He wants us to have.
Copyright © 2005 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.