Most of us can reasonably expect to get married. God ordained marriage from the very beginning when he made Adam and Eve with the explanation that a man should leave his parents and ‘cleave’ (i.e., join together with) his wife (Gen 2).
Christ used marriage to illustrate his relationship with the church, advising husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself to it and for wives to respect their husbands (Eph 5). What beautiful thoughts – men loving their wives as Christ loves us – giving of himself for the relationship, while wives showed the proper respect and deference to their sacrificing husbands.
The Apostle Paul some interesting things to say himself about being married. He says,
I wish that all of you were like me, but God has given different gifts to each of us.
Here is my advice for people who have never been married and for widows. You should stay single, just as I am.
But if you don’t have enough self-control, then go ahead and get married. After all, it is better to marry than to burn with desire. (1Co 7:7-9) (CEV)
Paul is saying that while he would prefer single people to remain single, he realizes most people aren’t capable of staying single without committing a sexual sin, so it’s better for them to be married. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible puts it more explicitly by saying, “It is better to marry, even with all the inconveniences attending the marriage life in a time of distress and persecution in the church( 1Co_7:26), than to be the prey of raging, consuming, and exciting passions.“
That makes it pretty clear – it’s good to remain single if you can, but better (and more the norm) to be married to control your sexual sin, among a myriad of other reasons (to procreate, because it is Divinely-inspired, etc.). It is also very possible that the Apostle Paul’s reference to the fact that he is able to remain celibate is in fact a spiritual gift. There are those among us who are asexual or have been given the power by God to remain single and celibate, but this is rare. Again, most of us can reasonably expect to be married at some point in our lives.
Which makes it reasonable to assume that, if you are still single, you can pray for your future husband or wife. You can pray things for things like asking God to make you a better husband or wife for when the time comes, or that He watch over your future spouse. You can pray for your future marriage – that He help you two to overcome the obstacles you will face and that He will strengthen the relationship the two of you have. Or even that you two will always put God first in your marriage.
This is all reasonable and Godly. The trouble with us (Christians) usually begins when we spot someone we think would make a fine husband or wife. And we begin to pray specifically for that person to marry us. We ask God to open that person’s eyes so that he or she could see true love staring them in the face. You list to God (and your friends) why the two of you would be perfect, make certain to ‘run into’ this man or woman at odd places and find yourself serving on similar committees at church. You wait patiently for this man or woman to notice you, ask you out and for the blinders to fall from their eyes as they realize you are ‘the one.’
We get confused sometimes because we know that certain people in the Bible prayed for God to reveal to their husbands or wives to them. In Genesis 24, Abraham sent his servant out to find a wife for his most precious son, Isaac. When the servant reaches his destination, he prays, “You, LORD, are the God my master Abraham worships. Please keep your promise to him and let me find a wife for Isaac today. (Gen 24:14 (CEV))” The story then goes on to reveal Rebekah is the one chosen for Isaac and they eventually marry.
We seem to think we can engage in the same type of behavior when asking for a spouse, but instead of asking God to reveal our husbands or wives, we ask Him to force that person to marry us. This is not Biblical and this is definitely not the way God works.
God always gives us a choice. If He allows us to choose whether to serve Him or not, whether we choose to live or die, don’t you think He would also give us the choice of who to marry? You cannot (and God will not) compel someone to do something against his or her will. By praying for a person to act a certain way, you are getting very close to engaging in voodoo or some other type of dark art instead of allowing God to reveal who your husband or wife is in His own good time.
It’s important to remember this point: prayer is to help you change, help others in your life as they go through adversity and, generally, to effectuate God’s purpose here on this earth. Instead, we pray for things selfishly, so that we can use them for our own selfish purposes (James 4:3). This is exactly what we are doing when we pray for God to force another person to marry us.
Instead of engaging in these dangerous practices, instead ask God to reveal to you His purpose and will for your life. Ask Him, first, if you are to be married. Then ask Him what you can do to prepare to be married. This might even be the perfect time to ask if the man or woman you currently have in your life is meant to be your spouse. He is willing to tell you, but are you willing to listen?
As a final warning – don’t try to misuse prayer. Don’t try to get God to force someone to do something he or she is unwilling (and not meant) to do. Instead, pray that God will use your life as He pleases. That He will reveal the man or woman of your dreams in His own time and that you will have the strength to acknowledge His will.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mat 6:33).