I recently completed a 37,000 mile prayer pilgrimage around the world. I met the Pope, danced with rabbis, hung out with monks, walked on coals, and revived my prayer life.
While I was in Italy, I visited a hulking hilltop monastery called Monte Cassino, the place of a massive World War II battle. Monte Cassino was built over 1000 years ago by a guy named Benedict.
Benedict founded a number of monasteries all over Italy, and wrote a book that became the gold standard for Western monastic movements all over the planet. Benedictine lifestyle and philosophy influenced thought and culture ever since.
…And now you’re probably wondering what a celibate monk could have to say about marriage.
Well, as it relates to praying for your future spouse, we’ll be focusing on just 3 famous words uttered by Benedict:
Ora et labora.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean “Work is prayer.” It isn’t a definition of prayer at all—it’s a suggestion about what Christians should actually do with their lives. “Pray and work.”
Benedict believed that prayer and work are partners. Prayer comes first, and work follows. It is a potent mix. Ignatius of Loyola summed up Benedict’s thought well: “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.”
Let me tell you – this is good marriage advice. For every prayer you pray, there’s an accompanying action that you must perform.
But what about those of you who aren’t married yet? Well, let’s back it up a bit. It’s never too soon to start praying for your future spouse, even if you don’t know them yet.
Keeping Benedict’s “Pray and work” in mind, here are 7 things you could pray about your own marriage, followed by something you can work on as well. Because it’s also never too soon to start becoming the best future spouse you can be.
I believe that a relationship with God is the only way you can be fully human – fully yourself. This is the ultimate prayer for your future spouse: that they would become fully formed followers of Jesus.
What you need to do: Cultivate a living faith. Salvation is like saying “I do” at the altar, and walking with Jesus is like living out the marriage. How serious is your walk with God? Make sure it’s not simply a “fire insurance” prayer.
We, as Westerners, have so many options for school, work, church, and relationships. We have a richness of choices, but somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to become complacent. It’s embarrassing, and we’re falling far short of our potential. Wisdom means “learning to live right,” so pray that your future spouse will make wise decisions on a daily basis.
What you need to do: Choose God’s best instead of what’s easiest, and pray for your future spouse to do the same.
I worked as a youth pastor for a number of years. It was disturbing how many guys wanted to marry a good Christian virgin, but didn’t see the hypocrisy that goes along with sleeping around or looking at porn. It’s such an ugly double standard.
When my mom was younger, she dated a guy named Mike. When they started their relationship, they committed to going very slowly, and she’s so grateful that they only held hands.
Why? Because they eventually broke up — and her married her sister. Can you imagine how the awkward family reunions could have been?
Pray that your future spouse chooses purity in their other relationships.
What you need to do: Evaluate what you want versus what you’re doing. By choosing impurity now, you’re stealing from someone else’s spouse and you’re cheating on your own future marriage. Choose purity.
Selflessness is the most underrated value of our generation, and to me, it’s the most attractive virtue. This isn’t about being less selfish – it’s about thinking about ourselves less. Pray that your future spouse will develop an others-focused mentality.
What you need to do: Does the earth revolve around the sun? Does our life revolve around Christ and the community He’s placed us in? If not, reorient your life.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the 5 Love Languages- quality time, acts of service, gift-giving, words of encouragement, beard-stroking. And many many more, of course.
Pray that your future spouse will love others the way they need to be loved. Pray that your future spouse will learn to navigate relationships in a spirit of understanding, grace, and love.
Sidenote: Girls, watch how a man treats his mother and observe your future. If he treats his family like crap – run. He clearly takes his closest relationships for granted. Guys, this rule of thumb goes both ways.
What you need to do: Are you loving people the way they need to be loved? Practice the Golden Rule of treating others the way you’d like to be treated.
6. Never settle
It’s pretty obvious at this point: The American dream is the world’s nightmare. It’s also a detriment to our spiritual walk- we cannot serve both God and money.
Scripture is very clear. In fact, the Bible talks more about money than heaven and hell combined. It’s so easy to settle into a 9-5, collect a paycheck, manicure the lawn, walk the dog, juggle the payments, and live in air-conditioned luxury.
Pray that your future spouse will never buy into that house of cards. Pray that they’ll never believe the lie that stuff will bring them fulfillment.
What you need to do: You have two options: chase the American dream, or pursue God’s dream for humanity- of reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus ushering in justice, peace, equality, hope, love, mercy, and grace. Abandon the “white picket fence” lifestyle and hone in on the essentials.
While most people settle for a career, Christ invites us into a higher calling – a vocation where our life speaks of who we are. Pray that your future spouse will enter the fullness of their calling – to do all they were created to do, and be all they were created to be.
What you need to do: Discover your giftings and strengths and spiritual gifts, and put them into action for a mission and purpose that extends far beyond your lifetime.
These are just a few ways that you can pray for your future spouse, and this is only the beginning. It’s important to pray for your spouse because it’s part of God’s will for your life. And what if your prayers are part of God’s plan?
Remember: you can’t just pray for these things for your future spouse – you need to practice these things in your own life, too. As Shane Claiborne says, perhaps we need to “be the answer to our own prayers.” In this case, your wise choices might be the answer to someone else’s prayers for their future spouse.
That person could be you.
Jared Brock is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer. He is the cofounder of Hope for the Sold, an abolitionist charity that fights human trafficking one word at a time and he has written for Huffington Post, Esquire, Converge, and Relevant. Jared is happily married to his best friend, Michelle.