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Why Don't Religious Jews Sacrifice Animals Anymore?

FAQ: Is Marriage the Cure for Lust?

James 4:3 talks about misguided prayer. It says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So, if you’re single and struggling with sexual self-control, is it wrong to pray for God give you a husband or wife?

No, that’s not a wrong prayer. The larger context of James 4:3 gives us a better sense of what James means: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”

James seems to be talking here about prayer requests that aren’t honoring to the Lord. It’s the desire to fulfill the sinful passions. Now, sexual desires aren’t necessarily sinful. They’re part of how God made us. And he made those desires to be fulfilled in the context of marriage. So, it’s not wrong to pray for a spouse.

But marriage doesn’t solve the issue of lust. A lot of young men and women out there think, “Oh, if only I were married, this wouldn’t be a problem.” I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a church planter. He said he was talking to someone else interested in church planting, and he asked this guy, “Why is it that you want to plant a church?” And the guy said, “I want to plant a church because I want to preach every Sunday. I just love preaching.” And my friend said, “You know, wanting to plant a church so that you can preach is sort of like wanting to get married just so that you can have sex.”

Sex is part of what happens in marriage. But it isn’t everything. And so we need a right understanding of these things. We need to be careful not to think of another person as just the way to solve our problem with lust.

Yes, the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that if we have these strong sexual desires, it’s an indication that we’re not called to celibacy. And so, if you’re single, you can continue to pray for marriage. That’s a good desire.

In the meantime, though, practice contentment. Trust in the Lord. Draw nearer to him. Try not to take matters into your own hands. Don’t force something. For example, don’t date someone who isn’t a Christian or who doesn’t have the same values that you have. You have to prioritize your relationship with God.

Continue to pray and to trust in the Lord. Trust that the Lord hears these prayers. And know that the Lord is going to answer those prayers in his timing. In the meantime, continue to exercise that contentment that we’re all called to in whatever stage of life we’re in.

This article is part of our Frequently Asked Questions series. Listen to Pastor Adriel answer this question on Core Radio here.

Dig deeper with these free resources from Core Christianity:

Core Questions

These clear and concise PDFs answer some of your toughest questions about the Christian faith:
How Do I Live the Christian Life?, What is Prayer?

Core Guides

Dive deeper with these lengthier and more thorough guides to difficult topics in the Christian life:
7 Things You Need to Know About Marriage and Sex

Photo of Adriel Sanchez
Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez is pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he also serves the broader church as a host on the Core Christianity radio program, a live, daily call-in talk show where he answers listeners' questions about the Bible and the Christian faith. He and his wife Ysabel live in San Diego with their five children.