Is it okay to keep praying . . . and praying . . . and praying some more for a husband? This is a question I wrestled with when I was single. After all, I’d been praying for a husband for years, yet God seemed to thwart my desire for marriage at every turn.
I’m not the only one who wrestles with whether it’s okay to continue praying for a husband. A thirty-two-year-old recently wrote me:
For as long as I can remember, I have desired marriage. Though my heart aches in this season of prolonged singleness, I know that 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?
If you have a similar question about an unfulfilled longing in your life or in the life of a single friend, this post is for you. Today we’re going to eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayers to the Father on one of the darkest nights of His life. I think you just might find your answer tucked right there in the olive groves of Gethsemane. Let’s join Him.
Jesus’ Desperate Prayers
It’s Thursday night. Jesus has just eaten His final meal with His disciples. But instead of getting ready for bed, He steps out into the night and makes His way to the garden of Gethsemane.
It’s nothing new for Him to spend a night in prayer. This night, though, is different. As the God-Man, He knows what will take place in a few short hours. This is what He came to earth for. This is what He has read about in the Scriptures throughout His life on earth—the details of the weighty, solitary death He would die on behalf of all the elect.
But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t dread every second of what is to follow:
[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 says He was in “agony.” This is no casual prayer time!
Going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 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 asks His Father to remove “this cup,” He’s 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 very last drop. And in His humanity, He wanted out.
Four Ways We Can Pray Like Jesus
Now, obviously, Jesus is not asking for a spouse or a child or a job here. He is asking for a way out of death. No, that’s not it either . . . He’s recoiling from His most humbling act yet: drinking the full cup of the Father’s wrath for sins He’d never commited. Our sins.
So at the risk of sounding like I’m comparing our unfulfilled longings with what Jesus went through on our behalf, I do believe we can learn from His prayers for our own requests. Here’s how.
1. Get honest with God while praying for a husband.
God knows your deepest desires. He is intimately aware of all your longings. He sees. He cares. So be real with Him. Get honest. Spill your guts out to Him. You won’t surprise or shock or horrify Him.
Come to Him over and over and over with your true self. Keep pressing into Him with those unfulfilled longings.
2. Feel free to be a broken record when praying for a husband.
Jesus was a broken record. In Matthew 26:44, we learn that 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 . . . each time He pleaded even more 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: I can bring my request to God again and again and again. Jesus knew it was the Father’s will for Him to go to the cross, but still He asked for a way out if there was any other way to accomplish the salvation of mankind.
But note that this is not the end of Jesus’ prayer . . .
3. Keep your hands open while praying for a husband.
“Nevertheless,” Jesus always added, “not as I will, but as you will. Your will be done.”
This tells me I can keep asking as long as I don’t demand my way but surrender to God’s plan for my life. That’s what Paul Miller points out in A Praying Life:
Jesus neither suppresses his feelings nor lets them master him. . . . Desire and surrender are the perfect balance to praying.
I also like what I read here:
Jesus was committed to the will of God—body, mind, and soul. The prayer of the righteous is always dependent on the will of God (see Matthew 6:10).
It is good to know that, when we face trials, Jesus knows what it’s like to want God’s will and yet not to want it; to act out of love yet dread the hurt that often results; to desire righteousness and obedience, even when the flesh is screaming out against it. This conflict is not sinful; it is human. Our Savior was “fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God” (Hebrews 2:17).
So feel free to boldly continue asking God to send an amazing husband your way in His perfect timing. Hold your desire with an open hand even as you pray and recruit others to pray with you.
4. Ask for more than just a husband.
But don’t stop with praying for a husband. Jesus taught His followers how to pray in Matthew 6:9–13:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
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."
Are you praying for God’s kingdom to come? Or are your prayers dominated by requests related to your unfulfilled longing? Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for your own prayers, beginning with reminding yourself who it is you are addressing.
Praying “Right” May Not Get You a Husband . . .
But remember that praying “right” won’t secure what you want.
The Father didn’t provide a way out for Jesus. His atoning sacrifice on our behalf was the only way for our salvation to be secured.
And because Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will, all people have been given the opportunity to be reconciled to God. On top of that, Jesus has been highly exalted above all others. His intense pain and agony is over, and on the other side of it is joy, exultation, and praise.
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. Even the suffering of waiting is for your good. I promise. But more than that, He promises (Rom. 8:28).
I’m curious to hear from you. Have you wrestled with this dilemma? If so, what has God shown you? Whether it’s asking God for a husband—or something else entirely—are you demanding your desires, or are you bringing them to your Father?