Nearly seven years ago, I was part of a group of women in my church who were fasting and praying for marriage, for single men to be saved and added to our church, and for God to bless the single men who were already part of our church. A year and a half later, I wrote about God's faithfulness in answering those prayers. Here's an excerpt:
At the time, it was nearly impossible to add another meeting to our collective schedules. So we decided to form an online prayer group. The first of every month, we decided to set aside time to pray and fast for God to provide husbands. Over email, we would share Scripture verses or prayers with each other.
As if often happens, the group lasted for about a year and then slowly dissipated. But God, who is rich in mercy, did not waver in faithfulness toward us. Several weeks ago, I thought about this original group of 16 women. We range in age from early 20s to late 40s. Since we began praying, one has already gotten married, three are engaged, one is currently in a courtship, and two have been pursued for courtship. There may even be other relationships that I'm unaware of, but without canvassing the original group this is what I know at present. That includes women from both ends of the age spectrum--the Lord is not bound by what we might consider to be limitations. In fact, the group was rather diverse, and the statistics I just quoted included women raised in the church and women saved as adults, women from other nations, women with significant health challenges, and single mothers.
I hope this encourages anyone reading today who is despairing because of her circumstances or what "conventional wisdom" says about extended singleness. I remember that when we started this group, I had been crying out to God to glorify Himself in our weakness. I distinctly remember standing outside one night and praying while looking at the stars. I told God I wanted all the glory to be given to Him. I didn't want any method, practice, or dating business to be held up as the solution for our record high number of single adults in the church. I wanted to experience the same grace George Mueller did as he cared for thousands of orphans in 19th-century England: to take all my needs to God in prayer so that He got all the praise when the prayers were answered.
I've been thinking about this group because another one of those dear friends from that original prayer group is getting married this weekend and I have the honor of being one of her bridesmaids. In fact, as I think about it, the vast majority of the women from that group are already married. What a testimony to the faithfulness of God to answer prayer!
Since starting that group, I've become aware of how many other praying groups of women exist in our nation and even around the world, including my friend Candice Watters, who wrote a book and started a blog about women praying boldly for marriage. Most recently, another friend has been sending me emails about a group of women who are fasting and praying for husbands each Monday. This email group grew too large and soon became a blog. It began back in 2007 and now includes women from around the world. One of the contributors to this blog, Connally, wrote this entry to encourage those praying this week:
As you probably know, we just switched up to this blog format. The fun thing about this is that as people sign up, we can see where they are located. In addition to people signing up from throughout the U.S.—from Mississippi to Vermont, from San Francisco to Atlanta—we have people from Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Italy, Dubai, Bangladesh, India, Russia, Hong Kong, and Japan! It’s amazing. In other words, and I hope this encourages you, the widespread gender/relational angst and the related wave of “unintentional singleness” isn’t just “your issue,” but it’s something experienced by many.
So, given the fact that it’s not just an isolated experience for one or two women who are “too picky” or “too desperate,” “too strong” or “too weak,” we inevitably come back to asking what we can do. And I’d like to propose that praying really matters. Recently, I read an article about praying for those who are yet to know Jesus as God’s beloved Son (let alone themselves as God’s beloved child). The author made the point that “travailing” in prayer, “laboring” on behalf of these friends/colleagues/neighbors/family members, is integral to God’s Spirit birthing new life in these men, women, and children.
Interestingly enough, the examples that the author—a man—uses to support the importance of laboring in prayer are almost all taken from Biblical stories of barren woman who persistently prayed to be delivered from their barrenness. These women had passionate desire, these women were compelled by their longings, these women unflinchingly wanted to see and experience fruit in their lives. And so they prayed their guts out! (Take a look below at the references.)
Now I am not saying that there is a magic formula in the sense that fervent prayer guarantees a particular, personal outcome (let’s face it, there were 5 of us initially involved in this prayer and fasting thing, and 4 have gotten married. Guess who number 5 is?….So I’m under no illusion that we control God). But, I am saying that there is historic precedent of women—who tend to feel the pain of relational gaps more deeply than men—taking that pain and transforming it into powerful prayers on behalf of new life growing in the gaps (be that new relationships, new children, new growth, or new spiritual life in those we love).
So please know this week as you pray, your prayers—perhaps born out of barrenness in your own life on some level—are one of the means that God has always used to bring about new life. He has done it for generations of people, and he is doing it literally around the world. You don’t need to deny your longings, your aches, your confusion or your hopes. Rather, let those realities become the powerful fuel for your prayers—for our prayers—for new and robust life.
No matter what your petitions are to God today, I hope you are encouraged by this view that we are privileged to be able to intercede in prayer and see God bring life out of the barren aspects of our existence.