I spent my 20s marching down plenty of church aisles in puffy taffeta and badly dyed shoes, standing idly beside friends to celebrate what was, up until then, the happiest days of their lives. During the receptions, while they beamed beside their new husbands, I sat in my too-tight ugly bridesmaid wear, usually ghettoized to the table for all the unmatched people—younger cousins, creepy uncles, the guest book girl. At every wedding I attended, I longed for my own spouse, praying that I would never end up like Fran, the nice-enough 50-something unmarried woman at our church who always came to events alone.
But I don’t think I ever specifically, or systematically, prayed for my future husband: or even asked God to act with more speed, else I might enter my 30s a certified old maid.Which is why I find Candace Waters’s Women Praying Boldly campaign unsettling. Waters, whose book Get Married promises to enable women to snag a partner, advocates for a campaign of prayer to ask God for a spouse, because in finding a husband, women are “asking Him for something He created and called good.” Praying boldly for a spouse is “nothing short of asking Him to give us what He wants us to have.”
Of course, Waters offers the caveat that these bold prayers are “for those who are called to marriage.” She makes it clear that if women aren’t supposed to get married—if God wants them to remain single—then they might as well be asking for a million bucks; God ain’t going to deliver the goods if it’s not in the Plan. But the caveat itself seems weak—because, clearly, Waters believes those who pray boldly are going to be blessed by God with a husband. (I suppose whether he’s hot—or not—is a matter of personal supplication.)
Perhaps my own discomfort is misguided, though it seems that in encouraging women to pray boldly for a spouse, the focus of women’s life and calling becomes solely that of a helpmeet, rather than as someone with her own agency and vocation. Shouldn’t women pray instead that God would help them understand their callings, and that they could act with strength and courage to answer God’s call, whatever that might be?
Also, too often, the church privileges the image of a perfect woman as one who is attached to a man, rather than having anything to offer others in terms of her own self. It seems, then, that this kind of prayer campaign also leaves an awful lot of single people marginalized. Not only by other Christians, but also in God’s Great Plans.