Should you keep praying for a husband (or any other unfulfilled longing) when God seems to thwart your desire at every turn?
“For as long as I can remember, I have desired marriage,” she shared honestly with me. “Though my heart aches in this season of prolonged singleness, I know the Lord has given me this time as a gift to serve Him without any relational constraints. Therefore, I am not sure how to pray.
“I don’t want to pray half-heartedly or without faith. Yet there is no guarantee the Lord has marriage in His plan for me. I do not want to stuff this desire and pretend it doesn’t exist. Nor do I want to hyperfocus on this longing and believe contentment requires its fulfillment.
“What is the biblical solution? How can I honor God in my prayer life in this season, rejoicing in His faithfulness while also grieving this unfulfilled longing?”
Can you relate? I sure can. (If you’re new around here, you can read my journey in my book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl.)
How I love this woman’s posture. She’s both honest and honoring as she stands before God with her shattered dreams and her desire to surrender to His will.
She feels this dilemma about how to pray, but I think she’s right on track. Yes and yes: Rejoice in God’s faithfulness and grieve this unfulfilled longing. After all, that’s how Jesus prayed.
Let’s eavesdrop on His prayer to His Father on one of the darkest nights of His life. I think we’ll find the answer to this woman’s question tucked right there in the olive groves of Gethsemane.
Jesus’ Desperate Prayers
It was Thursday night. Jesus had just eaten His final meal with His disciples. But instead of falling into bed, He made His way to the garden of Gethsemane.
It was nothing new for Him to spend a night in prayer. This night, however, was different. As the God-Man, He knew what would take place in a few short hours. This was why He had come to earth. This was what He had read about in the Scriptures throughout His life on earth—the details of the weighty, solitary death He would die on behalf of all who would trust in Him.
But that doesn’t mean He didn’t dread every second of what was about to take place:
[Jesus] began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to [His disciples], “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33–34).
Another account records that He was in “agony.” This was no casual prayer time.
Going a little farther into that garden, Jesus fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, he might be granted an “out.”
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Vv. 35–36).
By the way, when Jesus asked His Father to remove “this cup,” He was using a metaphor. The Old Testament often employs this language to speak of God’s judgment. For example, Isaiah 51:17 says:
Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs.
Jesus knew He was about to drink the Father’s fury toward sin to the last drop. And in His humanity, He wanted out.
Four Ways We Can Pray Like Jesus When Praying for a Husband
Now, obviously, Jesus was not asking for a spouse, a child, or a job. He was recoiling from drinking the full cup of the Father’s wrath for sins He’d never committed. Our sins.
So at the risk of sounding like I’m elevating our unfulfilled longings with what Jesus went through on our behalf, I do believe we can learn from His prayers. Here’s how.
1. Get honest with God while praying for a husband.
2. Feel free to sound like a broken record when praying for a husband.
In Matthew 26:44, we learn Jesus prayed this prayer three times in a row:
He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
These weren’t one-sentence prayers, either. Probably more like one-hour prayers (see Matthew 26:40).
Jesus didn’t let up. Over and over, He repeated the same request. Not only that: He pleaded increasingly earnestly with His Father:
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).
That encourages me to bring my request to God again and again and again. Jesus knew it was the Father’s will for Him to die on the cross, but still, He asked for a way out if there was any other way to accomplish mankind’s salvation. This is also how Jesus encourages us to ask as well (See Luke 18:1-8).
However, Jesus didn’t stop there.
3. Don’t forget to surrender your desires to His will when praying for a husband.
“Nevertheless,” Jesus always added, “not as I will, but as you will. Your will be done.” As the clock ticked closer and closer to His capture, He pleaded with His Father for any other way to redeem humanity. Yet never without this heartfelt statement of surrender.
“Jesus neither suppresses his feelings nor lets them master him,” Paul Miller writes in A Praying Life. “Desire and surrender are the perfect balance to praying.”
So, single woman, keep asking—not with clenched fists—but with open palms, just as your Savior did.
4. Ask for more than just a husband.
Remember not to limit your prayers to this one request alone. Use “the Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew 6:9–13 as a template to broaden your prayers from yourself to God’s entire Kingdom. Begin by reminding yourself Who it is you are addressing:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Note the plural emphasis in this prayer template (“us” rather than “I”). Try to expand your prayers from just you to other brothers and sisters in Christ:
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Two Warnings When Praying for a Husband
1. Pray according to God’s will.
God loves to give us what we ask when we ask for good things in line with His will. We know marriage was created and endorsed by God (Gen. 2:20-25). When we ask for a spouse, we’re asking for a good gift.
At the same time, how we need God to search our hearts for sinful motivations such as selfishness and idolatry. If the Holy Spirit convicts us of this, it’s time–not necessarily to stop praying for a husband–but to confess and repent of our sin and to ask God to align our motivations with His. (You might want to go back and read this woman’s question at the beginning of the post; she has an incredible attitude, and it certainly seems her prayer is informed by Scripture and in line with God’s will.)
2. Remember you won’t “earn” a husband through prayer.
Praying “right” won’t necessarily secure what you want. The Father didn’t provide a way out for Jesus. His atoning sacrifice on our behalf was the only way to secure our salvation.
God’s ways are always higher and better than ours. Trust Him as you pour your heart out to Him. He is good, and all He does is good. He even uses the suffering of waiting for your good. I promise. But more importantly, He promises (Rom. 8:28).
I’d love to hear from you. Do you wrestle with whether you should continue petitioning God for a certain desire? If so, where do you land on this issue?
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Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.