What I Pray Against

On Mondays, we fast and pray for lunch (or something other than food) asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

One of the many reasons why FastPray is such a unique place on the internet is that we have amazing readers who contribute their hearts, wounds, and perspective into the comments section each week. I appreciate when we hear from you when something has been particularly encouraging and when you might have a different perspective. The Lord has provided us a space to discover what walking in faithfulness means when so many of us remain in an unintentionally single place.

I really enjoyed Emily’s post last week. I wouldn’t call myself a runner per-say, but I know that 4-5 years ago, I made many conscious decisions with the hopes that I’d eventually meet someone who wanted to date me. Some of them worked somewhat? Most fell flat. But, I too, had marriage at the forefront of my decision-making matrix, sometimes in ways that weren’t healthy. (Noooo, I ne-v-er followed my mom’s suggestion to shop at Wegmans because she “always saw so many nice young men there.”)

All that being said, I really appreciated the comments last week asking about what we pray against as FastPrayers. I don’t know if we’ve ever done a specific post on that, so I figured, I’d elaborate a bit on what I pray against while I pray good things for men, women, and marriage. We freely acknowledge here that there are no specific, formulaic solutions to why so many are single for so long, and I actively pray (in word and deed) in faith for healing, wholeness, and renewal of marriage culture. But, there are also many things that I see as obstacles (both personally and culture-wide) that I pray against. So, here are a few:

Family/Marriage Idolatry. This one may be an odd one to start off the list, but when I pray for God to give the gift of marriage to those who desire it, I do so in the context of a proper understanding of what kind of a gift marriage and family is–and what it is not. When I pray against family/marriage idolatry, I am praying against the spirit inside and outside the Church that glorifies earthly, human families so much that it makes families hide their brokenness so that they appear perfect, shames single women who might think they could never be perfect enough to merit a husband, paralyzes single men who think that marriage isn’t an option because their paycheck, their spiritual maturity, or their social awkwardness make achieving John Eldridge “manly men” levels impossible.

Sexual Idolatry. I tried of think of a category that captures the myriad of related things that I pray against. Obviously, pornography and the entire porn industry deserve being mentioned, but really, pornography is a symptom of a deeper sexual idolatry. Our culture–and even we ourselves at times–worship sex in ways that scarily similar to Old Testament worship of Baal and Asherah. With at or near religious dedication, men and women want sex on their timetable, in their prefered way, at whatever cost. Christians disagree with the timetable, but many of us are skittish when preaching or teaching comes too close to home. Although, I’d never say sex isn’t meant to be pleasurable, we’ve decided as a culture (and sometimes in Christian circles too) that sexual pleasure is the highest good, and if you curtail (or even gently warn against) someone’s ability to pursue that happiness then–strap in, because you’ve just spat on the sacred altar.

Rejection of the Body. I hate not having parallel categories, but I couldn’t come up with a better way of phrasing it. When I pray on Monday’s I frequently find myself praying against our culture’s tendency to jettison the body and what it tells us about ourselves, the world, and God. You don’t have to look to far into your browser history to find the recent articles on this topic. I pray against our culture deciding that bodies don’t matter, that being an embodied man or women doesn’t say something about the nature of the universe and the God who set it in motion. Our bodies were designed, in a sense, to marry and produce children. I know that’s not the only purpose, and obviously as singles, we aren’t second-class citizens, but in the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, he made a man and woman who were meant for each other and for children and for story. When our culture rejects the body, it rejects God’s baseline story and design for humanity.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface here, but the encouragement that I have for you is this: even if there are so many things to pray against–know that God sees and understands all of these things. He cares tremendously about how the world and culture affects you and your heart. When you pray this week, remember that you’re praying to a God who set the world in motion and for whom nothing is impossible. Pray with boldness!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

With love,
Anna

Posted in Author: Anna | 6 Comments

Why I Became a Runner

Reminder for Monday’s lunch: We’re fasting and praying for godly marriages for those who desire to be married and for those who are married; for courage for men and women to walk toward marriage; and for humble, obedient hearts towards the Lord.

The year I graduated from college, having failed to find a husband, much less date, I moved to the D.C. area where I had a teaching job. The closest friend I had was about an hour away, so needless to say, there were more lonely nights/weekends than I care to remember.

That’s when I decided to become a runner:

  1. I don’t need other people to run.
  2. I will get in shape and look good if I run.
  3. Cute boys who also run will see me running and want to run [life] with me.

Things I neglected to factor in:

  1. Running by myself is lonely.
  2. Running makes my face turn red and the rest of me hot and sweaty, not attractive.
  3. Cute boys run much faster than me and won’t stop to talk in a middle of a race.

This is one instance of the many large and small life choices I’ve made that were, in part, motivated by my desire to find a husband. While not the only factor considered in my decision-making process (i.e. would this action hurt my relationship with the Lord?), it was certainly on the positive side of the pro/con list.

  1. Work at a Christian school – Find a single male teacher to marry.
  2. Go to grad school – Gets me around a new circle of people.
  3. Join the alumni board of my alma mater – A 2nd chance to meet someone from my Christian college.
  4. Go to church this Sunday – Most likely place to meet a boy who loves Jesus!

For all of my scheming and literally running around, none of my best-laid plans resulted in a husband.

  1. Work at a Christian school – Do you know the ratio of single female teachers to single male teachers at Christian schools?
  2. Go to grad school – At orientation, the faculty joked about how we happened to be an all-female cohort (and all single too!).
  3. Join the alumni board of my alma mater – All married or single girls.
  4. Go to church this Sunday – Again, a problem with ratios and lack of guys asking me out.

As a I reflect on the many times I’ve ridden the roller coaster of hope deferred, I realize that while I was allowing my desire for marriage to be a bigger factor in my decision-making than it should have been, my desire gave me that little push I needed to try something new and usually good for me.

And, in His graciousness toward me, God used my “foolishness” – the emphasis I placed on my desire for a husband, not the desire itself – for my good. He put me in situations where I learned to rely heavily on Him. He brought people alongside of me to do life together. Friends who’ve taught me the meaning of “closer than a brother.” Maybe not the direct outcome I was looking for at the time, but oh-so-necessary.

I’m reminded of Psalm 46:10 which admonishes “Be still, and know that I am God” (NIV). Other versions say “Cease striving” (NASB). My well-intended plans and asserting what I think should happen is sometimes in direct contradiction of God’s desire for me to be still and let Him have control of my life. Sometimes He wants me to quietly sit at His feet instead of trying to find something I feel is productive to do and moving me toward the goals I have for myself.

As you fast and pray this week, spend time reflecting on how you’ve seen the Lord working in unexpected ways – where you asked God for one thing, and He gave you something you now see you needed more. Be still and meditate on the fact that He is God and in control. Know and claim the truth that He can work through any situation and circumstance and foolishness on our part.

Sending you love,

Emily

Posted in Author: Emily | 19 Comments

Front of the Box, Please!

On Mondays, we fast and pray for men and women to be increasingly transformed and conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and that marriages would be granted to those who desire them. 

Update on Poll Results: Many thanks to the more than 380 of you who filled out the poll! We are thankful that you took the time to figure out the survey and give so much helpful feedback. A few quick highlights:

Although there is wide variation in the community, it appears that the majority of fast.pray folks are 30-something women who have not been married before…don’t worry, we are grateful for all of you in that demographic or otherwise! The most helpful content is evenly split between “life stories from other singles” and “discussion on issues related to singleness/marriage.” The biggest factor that keeps us involved is “a weekly reminder to bring my relational status to the Lord.” And we’ve got a boatload of helpful info from your individual responses as well. If there is more you’d like to share, you can always shoot the team an email at fastprayblog@gmail.com.

Connally Update: In the survey results, the name of one of our favorite people was mentioned quite a few times: Connally Gilliam! She was one of the original founders of the blog and wrote a book on singleness (here) that has been a gift to many of us. In case you’re wondering what she’s up to now, she’s recently launched a new website and she’s blogging again – check it out here!

Front of the Box. Sometimes I feel like life is getting a few puzzle pieces at a time. I’m looking at them, examining the angles and trying to find the edge pieces. And I’m looking at the strange assortment of pieces on the table in front of me. It’s not that I don’t like the pieces I have…it just seems that like they don’t fit together. Also, I have absolutely NO IDEA what picture they’re supposed to be making. And so, in my problem-solving mindset, I want to see the front of the box. I ask for clarity and a life purpose statement and overarching vision for my life…especially as my puzzle pieces look more and more different from the puzzles other people are producing. And I want to scream…show me the (expletive) front of the puzzle box!!

God tells us that His word is our guide (Psalm 119:105). And it gives light to our feet. Not floodlights of clarity on the entire map. He says He’s holding our hand and guiding us with His counsel (Psalm 73:23-24) – this is a rich promise, but it is not a guarantee of seeing the big picture. It’s the better guarantee of walking together. And then we come to this poignant description in Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship (or masterpiece, handiwork), created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

The front of the box? Perhaps it’s that the pieces of our life are somehow becoming a unique, glorious display of God’s artistry. He is weaving the seemingly disparate into a masterful, coherent, beautiful finished work…and we might not get to see the final product on this side of eternity. But if, this week, the pieces seem particularly jagged or nonsensical or difficult to decipher…be encouraged that He is walking with us, guiding us and somehow weaving beauty out of our mess.

In His Grace,

Amy

Posted in Author: Amy | 1 Comment

Fast.Pray. Community Survey

Hello fast.pray. community!

Every few months, the current fast.pray. writers get together to pray over the blog and discuss topics we want to share in our weekly posts. We want to include you in our conversation.

As you pray and fast this week, we’d love for you take a few moments to answer the following five questions that will help us as we plan for the next season of fast.pray. If for some reason, the poll questions don’t show up in you email for you subscribers, click the title link above to view the poll on the blog.

Thank you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Zoom!

zoom-rooster-combRed peaks arranged in an arc with blue and orange speckles fill the page, almost resembling the back of a stegosaurus. Turning to the next page, you realize that’s no dinosaur, but the comb part of a rooster you were viewing on the previous page. Each page of the book, Zoom, reveals a broader perspective than the previous page. The camera gradually takes a step back with each turn of the page until ultimately ending with a black page with a white dot (outer space and earth from a great distance away).

Imagine we’re in a room together and each of you holds a single page from this book. One by one you make your way around the room trying to describe your page to see if it holds any connection to another. Alone, your page makes little sense and doesn’t reveal much about a cohesive story. It’s hard to describe your page without knowing the broader context of what you’re looking at or where this picture-story is leading. As I instruct you to begin showing your picture to others, suddenly the story starts to make sense, connections are made and a sequence of pictures begins to reveal the intent of the author.

Perspective. How often do we hold a single page of our life story and struggle to find any meaning in a broader context? Why does my career path look like a patchwork quilt instead of a carefully planned pyramid to the top? Why is singleness dotting every page of my book thus far? On page 8, what was I thinking with those glasses and that hairstyle? Questions fill my mind as I reflect on individual moments throughout my life.

A friend recently asked me if I truly believe that God gives good gifts and wants what is best for us. We discussed verses like Matthew 7:9, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Or John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” And then she launched the test question, “Can you really believe that God cares about your desires after you’ve wanted and prayed for marriage for so many years?” This wasn’t an insensitive question, but a longing to know how to reconcile unmet desire with the goodness of a loving God.

If we’re honest… married/single, childless/child-full, healthy/sick, fulfilled/longing, employed/unemployed, shackled/free… this is the question of anyone living in a fallen world who places their hope in God. Is God concerned with our desires? If you listened to the talk that Connally gave at Regent College (posted on here a few weeks ago), she pointed out that God sees us. So if God sees us and knows our longings, how long can we believe He is good and gives good gifts in the face of unmet desires? Sarah was 90 years old when she conceived and gave birth to Isaac, was God oblivious to Sarah’s desires before this or was there something else at work in the lives of Sarah and Abraham?

Our story is still unfolding. The page you hold today is not the end of the story. God’s goodness and plan for your life is like a thread woven through the pages of your life. Today, you may feel like your desires and longings mean little to God, but remember this verse from Psalm 27:13 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” There is a grand story being told about a Father that created a world, and filled it with humans made in His image, and then hatched a crazy, love-driven plan to rescue them from harm. Your individual story fits into the larger story of redemption. Wait for God’s timing, hold onto hope, because your story isn’t over yet!

Join us this Monday in fasting for our unmet desires to lead us to the feet of Jesus in prayer. May God hear the cries of His people and continue His work in their lives. Habakkuk 2:2-3

Zoom!

Michelle

Posted in Author: Michelle | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Memorial Day!

As as become our tradition over holiday weekends, we are taking a break from our regular routine as we gather to celebrate and remember the sacrifices of so many over the holiday weekend.

We hope that wherever you are that the Lord is making himself known to you–that you feel his pleasure and joy in you. The sermon below from Tim Keller was a huge encouragement to many of the FastPray team when we saw it because it deals with of the deeper story and robust theology of walking as a single adult before the Lord–even while you’re praying for marriage. We hope it encourages you!

Tim Keller – A Theology of Singleness from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.

Blessings,
The FastPray Team

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from Marriage. Oh Wait. I’m Not Married.

On Mondays, we pray and fast for lunch or longer for women to be softened–trusting God to work in their lives, for men to be emboldened to walk in to relationships, and for God to give the gift of marriage to those who desire it.

I never really understood God’s love until I got married.

When I became a mom, I finally understood God’s fatherly love for us.

God is using your marriage especially to sanctify you.

If you’re eyes roll back in your head, when you hear quips like that. You’re not alone. I usually have one of a few different responses when I hear platitudes about marriage or kids like that: (1) Feel bad about myself that God didn’t choose me to understand his love through a married relationship. (2) Shrug my shoulders and say sarcastically, “You got it, dude.” (3) Quietly wonder if they’re right. Maybe, I’ll never fully understand God’s love if I never get married.

I may not be married. Friends (and sometimes me) may think I spend too much time thinking about marriage and singleness–that writing about it online brands me with a scarlet S. Even single girls who want to be married, don’t always want to admit it or think about it too much. It looks a little desparate. Maybe you’ve never been branded as the single adult who thinks about marriage too much, but I want to encourage you that even as I enter my fifth year of intentionally praying for marriage that the Lord is using marriage–even the just the desire–for as a tool for sanctification.

Here’s two things that have cropped up recently:

Dismantling marriage/family idolatry. Even though I can still find myself slipping back into my old patterns of thinking, the Lord has used my desire for marriage to dismantle my marriage/family idolatry. I used to believe–either absorbed from the culture around me or just welled up in my own heart–that getting married and having a family were the answer to all of my unmet longings. God could have used my own marriage to tear it down, but instead of allowing me to enter a marriage with a hugely out of control set of relational expectations, God quietly walked beside me and showed me how good marriage is and how unrealistic my ideals were.

Do I wish I could have been one of the many girls who went riding off into the marriage sunset at 22 with a newly minted college diploma in my hands? Some days I do, but in my more honest moments, I can see how kind the Lord was show me how stop carrying my burdensome anvil of a marriage/family god and see that he’s the one that is carrying me. (Isaiah 44-46)

Seeing God look for and love me. When I hear marrieds say things like, I now understand what God’s love for us is like. I have to resist running for the toilet or passing out from holding my breath. I know that what they say is true to an extent. God did design marriage to be a unique conduit of his creative love, but marriage doesn’t tell the whole picture of our experience of God’s love here on earth.

As Connally said in her Regent talk, Christ is looking for us. His eyes are on us. I’ll add to that. Jesus is expectantly watching and longing for us in a way that is much more analogous to a single believer’s life journey than a married couple’s. As an unmarried woman, I understand the complex nuances of waiting and looking for something I desperately want so much more than my sisters who got their diplomas and diamonds in one May weekend. It’s painful and bit snotty at times, but it allows me to more fully understand what Jesus feels when he’s searching for us.

So, as you pray and fast this week for the gift of marriage, be encouraged that the Lord is with you, that he’s looking for you, seeing you in the midst of your circumstances, loving you with a longsuffering and patient adoration, and is using your story to show the world a unique facet of his love.

Blessings,
Anna

Posted in Author: Anna | Tagged , , | 14 Comments