When I was 12-years-old and learning about dating and marriage, my camp pastor gave us the simple version of preparing for marriage: "Begin praying now for God to prepare you for your spouse and to prepare your spouse for you." I'm sure he had no idea I would take him up on that, but I did. Interestingly, when I was 12, Andy was 17. So for the next 6 years, I prayed this prayer. Then when Andy & I met on a blind date when I was 18, I knew he was "the one." He told me later that he could have proposed that night--because he knew, too. Remember...I had written my dating standards and what I wanted in a husband at that camp when I was 12. As I got to know Andy, I realized he had everything I'd written on that list.
I know some people don't believe God has someone specific picked out for you...that it's a matter of choice. I do believe God gives us a choice! (If you're already married and reading this, please know that if you didn't pray about your spouse, God starts right where you are. He wants to make your marriage the best! He's a redeeming God.) But I also believe if we put it in His hands and commit to praying and asking for specific things, God delights in doing more than we could ask or think! Why else does He say, "Ask and keep on asking?" I'm glad I asked. I also believe as we pray this prayer, "God prepare me for my spouse and prepare my spouse for me," some things happen. I believe God begins working on whatever is needed in our lives--our emotions, our minds, our choices, or our spirits. He may begin emotional healing in one or both of you. Or he may begin correcting your course. The important thing is...you shouldn't pray this without meaning it or without listening to God so He can correct your course.
What are some other ways to prepare for marriage? You may not like my answers, but I stand by them.
- OBEY YOUR PARENTS...If you're still at home with your parents, the best way to prepare is by obeying your parents. Hear me out. In Ephesians 6:1, we're told, "Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you." The word "obey" in the Greek is hypakouo. The meaning of the word is "to listen" and then to obey a command. Let me tell you why this is important. If you don't learn to listen to your parents, you aren't going to be open to listening to your future spouse--or God. And anyone who is married will tell you the most important thing in marriage is communication. You have to learn to listen to have good communication. Learning to listen to your parents is good practice for marriage. The reason most kids don't listen to their parents is because they've developed a bad attitude or have begun resisting authority. Neither one of those things is healthy to bring into a marriage.
- OBEY YOUR BOSS...If you're already out of your parent's house and not married, you have opportunity to do the same thing by obeying your boss. Ephesians 6:5. It's the same Greek word for obeying parents. It's learning to listen and then carry out their command. Do it as unto the Lord--even if they're difficult--maybe especially if they're difficult. This may bring new purpose into your job as you wait.
- GET ALONG WITH YOUR SIBLINGS...Work hard at your relationships with your siblings. If you learn to get along with your siblings--especially those of the opposite sex, it will help you in understanding your spouse in the future. Work at unity and communication. As one of my sons was leaving home, I was asking him how he thought he'd get along with his new roommates. He told me, "I figure if I can get along with my family, I can get along with anyone." Very true. If you learn how to receive your brothers and sisters as God's best for you, you'll be in a good place to receive your spouse.
- PUT YOUR DESIRES ON THE ALTAR...I never wanted anything but to get married and have kids--but I had to lay all of my desires on the altar and sacrifice them to God at one point. I knew if it was His plan for me to marry, He'd resurrect that desire and make it into a reality. But I had to sincerely mean I'd give up marriage if that was His plan for my life--knowing He was enough.
- KNOW MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK...No one ever tells you that. Even if you wait on God's best for a spouse in your life, marriage is going to take a lot of adjustment, communicating, and plain hard work. I knew that God had given me Andy. But we came from very different backgrounds. Even though both families were Christians, we just did things differently. Holidays were celebrated differently, vacations looked different, disciplining children was different, how we hung the toilet paper was different. If you go into marriage thinking you're "right," you're going to have a harder adjustment. Go into marriage understanding that there will be compromises for all of your differences. Plan on working hard for your marriage and believing the best of your spouse.
- NEVER USE THE WORD 'DIVORCE'...The pastor who counseled us before marriage gave us this bit of advice. Andy & I made a promise we'd never use it--it was never going to be an option for us. If you don't plan ahead, angry, hurtful words can come out in the heat of an argument that you don't mean...but Satan can use them to roll around in your mind until it becomes an option. (Please note that I'm not saying there are not scriptural reasons to get a divorce...there are.)
- FOCUS ON LOVE...You can focus on being jealous in your marriage or you can focus on love. You can focus on yourself or you can focus on your spouse and their needs. You can be angry and list a long roll of offenses in your mind, or you can die to those things and choose to love. Love is a choice...not an emotion. You CHOOSE whether you love or not. You'd do well to study or memorize I Corinthians 13.
- READ SCRIPTURE ABOUT MARRIAGE--Ephesians 5, I Corinthians 7, I Peter 3, Colossians 3. If you don't understand it, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. That's His job...and He can't wait!
There are so many more things I could say about preparing for marriage, but if you prepare in these basic things, you'll be on a good path. I can't say enough about using the situation you're in right now to learn how to be a good spouse later on. Learn how to obey your parents, how to get along with your siblings, or how to be a great employee! It's the best training ground you could have.