I remember the weeks and months surrounding Valentine’s Day - particularly during my time as a single woman. Walking through the stores, you notice that the string of lights and row of trees have been replaced by red hearts, chocolates and flowers. Couples seem to be everywhere - holding hands, sharing flirtatious glances, and sneaking in passionate kisses. The sting of being alone can seem even harder to handle when everywhere you look love is in the air - except the air you’re breathing.

I remember praying a lot when I was single. At least I called it prayer. But in reality it was, more or less, venting. I would cry out to God in my frustration. When would it be my turn? When would he send me love? How much longer did I have to feel alone? I wasn’t there to discuss the matter with him, I was there to tell him what I wanted. he needed to know.

Looking back at my time as a single I see God’s grace all over my story, and the path he had paved for me. But there are so many things I know now, that I didn’t know then. If I could go back to those discussions with God, I would spend less time venting to him and more time listening. I would have invited him to shift my heart and open my eyes to what he was doing. If I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would have prayed:

1. Pray for Trust. One way I would have prayed differently is asking God to help me trust him more. We talk a lot about trusting God in the Christian life, but do we do it? I know I said I trusted him, but deep down I was afraid that maybe he couldn’t be trusted - that maybe he needed a little advice and direction about my life. As I look back, I see how much I missed out on life because I was worrying, analyzing, and planning, instead of resting in assurance of his perfect plans. The mark of trust is believing that God’s plans are so much better than anything we could come up with on our own - and believing that he is good. Trust is a necessary skill when it comes to finding love. If we’re unable to trust a perfect God, how much harder will it be to trust the fallible human being he one day places in our lives? I had so much to learn about trust back then, and so much I’m still learning.

2. Pray for Fulfillment. Deep down there was a part of me that believed I would feel fulfilled in the arms of my spouse. But if I knew then what I know now, I would have sought to be filled while standing alone. While there are so many things a healthy relationship can do, there are so many things it can’t. It can’t bring purpose, security, or healing. It can’t bring ultimate joy or perfect contentment. I would have prayed to rely on God more and more each day, because I would have known that a life that is filled to the brim will eventually overflow that kind of love onto the people God brings it’s way. I would have asked God to fill me with more of him, instead of simply asking him for things that could never actually fill me up.

3. Pray for Discernment. I made many poor choices as a single. Partly because I didn’t really trust God, and partly because I allowed life to just happen. There were so many doors I shouldn’t have walked through, and so many doors I should have slammed shut. Instead, I lived in the mentality of “whatever happens, happens” and “maybe it’s meant to be.” What I didn’t realize is that God grants wisdom to those who want it. He gives us the ability to choose right from wrong, and to make healthy choices even when life offers us unhealthy options. I would have prayed for more discernment as I made choices in my life and relationships, rather than letting my life and relationships control me.

4. Pray for Healing. We don’t spend very much time looking in when we’re focused on finding a relationship. In my book, True Love Dates, I call this process “dating inward.” And I truly believe it’s one of the most important steps in finding love. We get so fixated on what we want in a relationship that we fail to focus in on who we are and what God is doing in us. If I could go back, I would have asked God for more healing as I examined all the inner-workings of my life. I would have addressed my insecurities, my fears, and my selfishness. I would have asked him to heal the parts of my life that only he could. What I didn’t always understand was that the best relationships are made up of two healthy people. I would have started working on me while standing alone.

5. Pray for Love. It’s so important to pray for love. God made us for relationships; we’re wired that way. But rather than be so consumed with finding love, I would have asked God to help me experience more of his love. What I didn’t know then is that knowing God’s love is the greatest way to understand earthly love - and to learn to love yourself. There is so much I could have learned about love as a single, by allowing God’s unconditional love to penetrate my life and my relationships. I would have asked him to help me receive more of his love in my life, because at the end of the day, the definition of true love can only begin there.

So many times we seek God in prayer with our “list.” We assume that prayer is for him, and is our chance to tell him what we want and need. While there is value in that, even more so it’s important to understand that prayer is actually for us. As much as God wants to give us the desires of our heart, more so, he wants to change our heart. To fill it with love, trust, and wisdom. To pour down fulfillment, peace, and faith and make it more like his. And when our hearts are truly aligned with his, we’re destined to experience life abundant - no matter what our relationship status.

Debra K. Fileta is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Relationship and Marital issues. She, her husband and two children live in Hershey, PA. She is the author of the new book True Love Dates (Zondervan, 2013), challenging young men and women to do dating in a way that is psychologically sound, emotionally healthy and spiritually grounded. Visit www.truelovedates.com and follow her on Twitter to get your dating questions answered and to learn more.

Publication date: February 11, 2014