He Said-She Said: Praying for Specific Qualities in a Spouse
- Thursday, November 26, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please click here to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: Is it wrong to pray specifically for those things we want in a spouse and for how we want a spouse to look?
HE SAID: When I was a teenager, I was encouraged to start formulating those attributes I would want in a spouse, like a "Top 10" list. I was told if I didn't know what I was specifically looking for, I would never find it. Since becoming a believer in Christ, I have been taught to "pray fervently, constantly and without ceasing, and I will receive the desires of my heart."
I have sometimes wondered how this relational logic and continuous prayer relate to one another as I pray for my future spouse.
I think you're essentially asking the same thing, "Do these two lines of thought coincide, if so, how?" Furthermore, "What can do we do to maintain our sense of hope in the midst of our singleness?"
First of all, we should have definite things we are looking for (and not looking for) in our spouse and we should be incessantly praying for them. However, when it comes to praying for the "specificities," we need to be cautious how meticulous we are scrutinizing over our own desires and with the people we meet.
As Christians, our primary requirement of a spouse should be one who shares the same spiritual convictions as our self. Our belief, trust and faith in Jesus should be the foundation for our life and for our marriage. This has to be a non-negotiable.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Beyond a common faith and being "equally yoked," the Bible does not explicitly denote any other "musts" believers should share in a relationship.
Some may prefer a person who comes from a large (or small) family, grew up in a Christian home, is a college or seminary graduate, is taller (or shorter) than you, comes from the same area, has specific hair color, is of the same ethnicity, works in a specific profession, etc., and many of these things can be influential in a marriage.
However, these are preferences, many of which a person has little or no control over. When compiling a list of desires in a future spouse, we should consider the qualities of a person's character and values that guide their life, before the circumstances of their environment or what "genes" they have inherited from their family (although we do need to be attracted to the person).
We are bombarded by every form of media telling us the "things" we should be looking for in a spouse and the "ways" we can get that spouse. These "things" are predominantly not "of God," but "of men." A better place to begin searching for the qualities and traits to focus on (and pray for) is in Galatians 5:22.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Along with determining the characteristics we desire in a spouse, we should also be cognizant of God's plan and desire for our life. After many years, I have discovered I don't know everything there is to know about God or his methods (surprise!) and I have learned not to try to figure him out anymore. His ways are not my ways.
Many who may not have fit perfectly into my earlier "list" may be the exact person I need to complement my strengths and personality. I may think I know what I want, but only God knows what I need.
Establish those characteristics and values you want most in a spouse, lift your prayers and desires to the Lord, minimize your pre-conceived parameters or notions on whom, how, when or where you will meet your future spouse, step out of your comfort zone, take advantage of all opportunities, place your hope in him, trust in God and look for him to work in some amazing ways.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
SHE SAID: Is it wrong to pray specifically when it comes to any matter in our lives?
Should we not pray about healing from a particular disease? About a job we are interviewing for? About a familial squabble that needs resolution? About whether or not we should go back to school? About believers undergoing persecution in a certain country across the globe?
I think not.
God's Word simply—and plainly—instructs us to bring our requests to him:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
The danger, I believe, lies in this: if we don't truly give over our requests to God and trust that he will work it out according to his plan, then we will worry and be anxious. We will be fixated on our circumstances and on these issues in our lives. We will be wasting our time (as Christ's ambassadors) here on earth. And we won't be any use for what God wants to do in and through our lives for his Kingdom.
There is nothing wrong with asking God for specifics when it comes to a spouse (I don't know of any verse in Scripture that prohibits this). However, know that all of us form and fashion our own ideas of what we think we need in a spouse. But ultimately God knows best who and what will be suitable for each of us. That can be a hard pill to swallow. It means giving up control of who you think you should marry.
But you may be thinking:
I don't want to marry someone I'm not attracted to.
I don't want to marry someone who doesn't make me laugh.
I don't want to marry someone who's not making x-amount of dollars per year.
I don't want to marry someone who doesn't fit in well with my friends or family.
What if God pairs me with someone who is boring?
What if God pairs me with someone who is overbearing?
What if God pairs me with someone who doesn't understand me?
What if God pairs me with someone who doesn't seem interested in what interests me?
Hey, I'm right there with you! I don't want to be matched with someone who I don't think is right for me either. But the older I get, the more I see myself trusting my Father in this area. And the more I have seen my list of specific qualities that I desire in a mate become shorter and shorter.
I think I've narrowed it down to the most important ones now. Yes, there are a few "must haves" and also some "deal-breakers," but I've also seen how the Lord has changed the desires of my heart and caused me to be interested in people who I never would have considered perhaps five or ten years ago. In fact, if I showed you what used to be on my list of "spouse specifics," you would probably laugh. I had some very narrow-minded notions—right down to height, hair color and very detailed personality traits. (Okay, truth be told, the "height requirement" is still on there. But a tall gal's gotta do what she must do.)
As I have grown deeper in my faith, I can see myself letting go of these old notions and embracing whatever God has in store for me. Bottom line, it is a matter of trust. Do I trust in myself when it comes to determining the right spouse for me OR do I trust in the Creator of the Universe? The Master Designer who knew me before I was born. A Heavenly Father who knows the exact number of hairs on my head. The One who knows better who is right for me should he desire that I marry.
So I join with you in presenting my spousal requests to God. And I hope that we will both approach our Father accompanied by heart attitudes with thanksgiving, as Paul says in Philippians. I don't think it matters as much what we request, but how we are bringing our desires before the Throne of Grace ("I need, I want, I have to have" versus "I desire this, Father, but your will be done, as I know your ways are higher than mine and only you know what is best for my life").
God is bigger than our requests when it comes to a spouse or the emptiness we may feel in a present season of singleness. And he will form and shape our hearts to accept and receive whatever—or whomever!—he is bringing our way.
We aren't promised understanding, but when we give our requests to him, we are promised his peace that will embrace us, guard us and free us from the shackles of ourselves (our selfishness, our anxiety, our worries) to seek God's kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:25-33).
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on November 26, 2009.
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