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Why I No Longer Pray for a Husband


Sep 26 2011
Lessons in longing, hunger, and trust.

Could fasting and prayer ever be a kind of sin? That was more or less the implication of one person's response to the news that I had joined a group who weekly fast and pray about marriage and singleness. (And yes, we're mostly female and mostly single.)

Perhaps it seemed like I'd committed myself to asking for a husband each Monday, that I'd found a spiritual guise in which to obsess about singleness and pester God to change things. But here's why I don't think we're a bunch of women trying to apply The Prayer of Jabez to our love lives.

My first encounter with the fasting-and-prayer group came in summer 2008, a few months after my memoir of reluctant chastity was released. The book had begun as a blog, launched in summer 2004, when I was an angry Christian single woman, committed to serving God but struggling with deep doubts that he was really good enough to be trusted with my love life. By the time that four-year writing project concluded, I had discovered a far deeper intimacy with God, but was as single as ever and staring down my 30s. With the book done, I didn't want to lose hope in God or drift away from trusting him with that part of my life, but I wasn't sure how to proceed.

Then a friend forwarded me an e-mail. A small group of people across the country, plus a few outside the States, were fasting and praying each Monday for God to bring marriages to those who desired them, to change and heal men in the ways they needed (but especially around their willingness to commit) and to do the same for women in the areas where we were most broken. To participate, I just had to sign up to receive the weekly e-mail meditations, skip at least one meal on Mondays (though other kinds of abstention were also possible), and pray. I joined them.

Of course, I hoped this might finally be the context where not just interior but also exterior, circumstantial change happened. Of course I did. The religious impulse to manipulate fate is strong. But I also knew God was God, and that beginning a spiritual discipline carried no obligation for him to work through that practice in the way I wanted. That was part of the appeal, in fact. Here was a way to invite him to work and bring life into a part of my life which, with each month I grew older, seemed more like a place where hopes, dreams—and fertility—were gradually dying.

From the start, it was far easier to fast than to pray. Often I felt guilty about this—especially as a former daily prayer-walker—but I started to see it as one way to acknowledge my ultimate weakness and lack of control with God.

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