When single folks like me—who on many days would prefer to be partnered—talk to God, our prayer life can sometimes sound a bit demanding. When we’re feeling frustrated that dating apps are drying up or that the pandemic isn’t helping our marital prospects, we can get a little bossy with the Almighty.
But just as the Bible’s prayer book, the Psalms, includes a variety of prayers for different occasions—Help! and Thanks! and Sorry! and Yikes!—so, too, different prayers fit the various seasons of the dating journey. Here are eight prayers that I and others navigating the online dating world have found useful.
I didn’t have the good sense to offer my loneliness to God until I learned it from my friend, Ella, who’s been single since divorcing 15 years ago. She says, “When I feel and notice my loneliness and desire for a lover and companion, I talk aloud to God. I tell him how I feel, shed a few tears, and ask him to come alongside me to fill those empty spaces.” Then she asks God that if that special man is out there, God would orchestrate the introduction. Ella adds, “I then thank him for life, joy, laughter, and all the opportunities and experiences I’m given to show his love to others every day.” God welcomes us to confess and release our loneliness.
“Help me to see what you see.”
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on the dating journey is that I need help seeing. Yes, I do literally squint my eyes trying to zoom in on microscopic profile photos to read whatever name is scrawled on a suit jacket nametag. But I also need help seeing men clearly. We need God’s vision to see who this person is. It’s easy to notice height or figure, a nice smile, a lucrative profession, or a clever wit. But what about integrity? What about kindness? What about a steadfast commitment to Christ? When we are able to see clearly, we recognize the “other” as one who bears God’s holy image. As a result, the other ceases to be an object to be consumed and is seen rightly, instead, as a brother or sister in Christ. We can ask God to open our eyes to notice quality individuals by praying, Help me to see what you see.
“Take my eyes off of myself.”
I’m just going to say it: dating apps consume our time, attention, and dollars. When I fill my quiet moments by checking to see who has viewed my profile, I end up becoming consumed with myself. Truly, if anyone would have told me two years ago that I would have taken as many trying-too-hard selfies as I have, I wouldn’t have believed them. In her new book, The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself, Marlena Graves exhorts, “God’s riptide is intent on moving me further and further away from the shores of self-centeredness.” This is the work of sanctification. In this season, dating can help me become more like Christ. When I notice that I’m becoming overly consumed with myself, I pray to ask for God’s help to free me from self-absorption. It is God’s good pleasure to help redirect the attention of our hearts.
“Teach me to love as you love.”
Jesus shows us that we were made to love. No bones about it. And while most of us are hoping to find romantic love on our dating journey, it is also the place where we pattern our lives after Jesus by loving God and loving others. One woman I know had the opportunity to share about forgiveness and reconciliation with a man with whom she had just one date. And my own relationship with Christ was strengthened by a friendship with a man who wasn’t “the one,” but who encouraged me to be praying for my kids. We were created to love, and if we’re dating, then that’s where we’re called to live it out.
In addition, when I have felt the most despondent and focused on my own wants, needs, and happiness, I have found amazing relief when God has given me the opportunity to care for someone else. Truly, it’s magic. Try it. Whether you are just discovering who someone is, or you’re on a third date, or you’re letting a person know you don’t see the relationship moving forward, pray by asking God, Teach me to love as you love.
“Guide my next step.”
Like the title suggests, the big idea of Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing, is that even when we struggle to find clarity in some of the big decisions we face, we can always choose to take the next step. I think that is also the big win on the dating journey. In any moment—whether I’m deciding whether to swipe left or right, or send a message, or even flirt with a guy in real life who’s also stopped his bike to take a swig of cold water—I can ask for God’s guidance. The prayer I’ve begun praying in these moments sounds a little something like this, “God, in this moment, is it more faithful for me to move forward, to stay put, or step back?” And I’ve become convinced that God loves to answer that prayer as we purpose to follow and obey.
“Why, oh Lord?”
Often confused with the “Why, Lord, am I still single?” prayer, this is actually the “Why, oh Lord, have I made poor choices?” prayer. (In my experience, the two aren’t always unrelated.) I believe there is fabulous potential for growth and transformation in reviewing our old choices that didn’t work out so well. We can learn to make better future choices by examining past decisions, noticing how our old desires might still be bossing us around, and breaking old patterns that have kept us stuck. The flow of this prayer goes something like this: Help me to notice the poor choices I’ve made in the past. Help me to recognize what’s driving my choices today. Help me make better choices now.
“Not my will, but yours.”
After the meal we’ve come to know as the Last Supper, Jesus retreated to the Mount of Olives with his disciples and knelt to pray. When he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42b), we believe he was asking God to spare him the brutal violence of crucifixion. And while I recognize how inappropriate it is to squeeze out a dating mandate from this scene, I do believe that the posture I imagine Jesus taking—kneeling in submission, head bowed, hands open to receive from God—is one we’re called to imitate in all facets of life, dating included. Moment by moment we wait to receive what God has for us, even when it’s not what we would choose.
Further, we can ask God to help us to want his will. In her book Teach Us to Want, Jen Pollock Michel claims that when God groans for the faithfulness of his people, God is longing for the transformation of their hearts’ desires. “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always!” (Deut. 5:29) That’s what I’m asking God to do in my heart, and you can, too.
“Thank you for my singleness.”
The myth that many of us were fed when we were younger was the fairytale notion that when our prince or princess finally appeared, we would live happily ever after. That’s problematic for a few reasons, but the message that has tripped some of us up is the lie that “happily ever after” doesn’t begin until we’re partnered. Rather, we were designed and are equipped to live right now. When we choose to practice contentment with our God-given singleness, we give thanks for the life we’re living now. I’m not waiting for the real show to begin, because this is the day the Lord has made.
Beloved, I encourage you to notice the prayer that wells up inside you when you speak to God about dating. The one who is present to every moment of your journey is listening.
Margot Starbuck is the author of The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating: Lessons Learned While Swiping Right, Snapping Selfies, and Analyzing Emojis (Thomas Nelson, August 2020).