Singleness can be a long, lonely, and confusing road, especially when it’s unwanted. Through most of my twenties, I felt like I was born wanting to be married. God finally gave me a wife a little more than a year ago, but not before walking with me through a winding decade of temptation and sometimes failure, of waiting, wanting, and wondering why not yet.
Over many years, I learned that God does not guarantee temporary joys for his children like physical health, marriage, success at work, or children. And that’s because he is utterly, relentlessly committed to giving his precious sons and daughters what’s best for us, when it’s best for us, and only if it’s best for us. Never, otherwise (Romans 8:28). No matter how good the gift seems to be in the moment, or how much we want it, or how long we have waited, God will not abandon the greater good he has promised us (2 Corinthians 12:7–10).
But we may be tempted to abandon him, to give up on his plan for us, or at least turn our backs for a little bit in disappointment. We really do convince ourselves that we know better, that we can choose better for ourselves than God can — the same God who came and died at infinite cost to save us. But we don’t, and we can’t. When we begin to feel overlooked or forgotten, or to doubt God’s love for us, we distance ourselves from him, when we should be running to him. Instead of walking away, we really need to kneel down and pray.
If you don’t know where to start in prayer — how to begin talking to God daily, or how to surrender your desires and difficulties in singleness to him — here are nine prayers for the not-yet-married life, each with God’s words to help shape your longing and waiting.
1. Not my will, but yours, be done.
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Not my will, but yours, be done, O Lord. If those seven words and the faith beneath them were enough to carry Jesus through the cross for my sake, they should be enough to carry me through anything in this life for his sake. Prepare me to make the most of marriage or singleness, whatever you have chosen and planned for me. If it’s not your will for me to marry, help me see all that you have planned for me — in gifting, ministry, and singleness. Either way, anchor my heart firmly in you, and not in marriage.
2. Reveal as much of yourself to me as possible while I’m still single.
[May] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16–19)
Show me more of yourself and shape my life to reveal your glory. As I walk back out on the raging sea of life and of singleness, still my faith in you and set my eyes on you standing strong and reliable above it all. Reveal how much bigger and more beautiful you are than marriage, or any other dream or desire I might have.
3. Satisfy me so fully now that I never look to anyone else to make me happy.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments. . . . I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. . . . Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. . . . Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. (Psalm 119:10, 15, 37, 133)
You are the only one who could ever truly make me happy. No spouse, no friend, no job, no amount of money could ever fill the space inside of me made for you. You are more than enough for me, and yet my heart is still prone to wander. Order my loves according to your surpassing worth and beauty, and guard my eyes and mind from being preoccupied with anyone or anything besides you. Capture my heart again, and secure it against all of Satan’s lies.
4. Tell the world about yourself through my joy and freedom in singleness.
May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20–21)
Use me and my gifts to make your name great in the world. I want my life to count for the mission you have given us. I want it to count today, even while I am still young and single. Fill me with ambition, creativity, and selflessness for the sake of your glory.
5. Give me faith to trust you even when I walk through pain and disappointment alone.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)
Help me see every loss or disappointment, every moment of loneliness, every unfulfilled dream or desire, and every evidence of weakness as an opportunity to remember and enjoy the strength, hope, and rest you bought for me with the blood of your Son. Remind me that you are working all of this, every inch, in every way, for my good.
6. Send me the people I need to follow you.
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11–16)
Surround me with people who love me, and who you love more than they love me, especially while I would otherwise live alone. Reveal things about me to me through their eyes, their faith and maturity, and their words. Make me a healthier, more effective member of the local church. Give me a deep, abiding, and growing desire to serve her in whatever ways I can. Rescue me from the blindness and self-centeredness of isolation.
7. Protect me from making work my god while I wait for marriage.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23–24)
Help me see any success or progress as evidence of your grace, and wean me off of the love of money and human approval. Liberate me from the tyranny of today’s to-do list, and receive every task, every meeting, every chore, and every project as an act of worship.
8. Keep me from conforming to the world around me, and make me more like Jesus.
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
Finish the work you have started within me and through me, making me a little more like Jesus every day. Restrain me from doing anything to make his death look cheap or meaningless. Equip me to increasingly think, talk, and act like someone who has been saved at infinite cost and entrusted with the greatest news the world has ever known.
9. If you have called me to marry, help me to date differently.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3–8)
If you would have me marry, prepare me to love a husband or wife with the love and grace you have shown me through Jesus and his cross. Give me clarity in dating, and guard me from all impurity. Let patience, selflessness, and humility mark every relationship — every date, every conversation, every step forward or backward.
In every step of my pursuit of marriage, make it clear that you are God, and I am yours.
(This post originally appeared on Desiring God on June 20th, 2016)