A little boy was in a relative's wedding. As he was coming down the aisle, he would take two steps, stop, and turn to the crowd (alternating between bride's side and groom's side). While facing the crowd, he would put his hands up like claws and roar… So it went, step, step, ROAR, step, step, ROAR all the way down the aisle.
As you can imagine, the crowd was near tears from laughing so hard by the time he reached the pulpit. The little boy, however, was getting more and more distressed from all the laughing, and was also near tears by the time he reached the pulpit.
When asked what he was doing, the child sniffed and said, “I was being the Ring Bear….”
Like the “Ring Bear,” having your child participate in a wedding is not what I had in mind to help your child prepare for marriage.
“Get serious Smalley,” you might be thinking, “My child is only five. Why on earth would I want to help her prepare for marriage when she should be concentrating on Kindergarten or Pre-school?” Waiting until your child is older certainly is a choice. But with divorce rates hovering around the fifty percent mark, why would you want to wait until later? Why not do everything within your power to cultivate success in your child’s future marriage.
I believe that marriage preparation is something we should be thinking about for our children from the time they are young. After all, a young age is the ideal time to instill healthy habits and core values—especially the ones that will impact a future marriage.
Even from a young age, I believe there are three things you can do that will have a tremendous impact upon your child’s future marriage.
- Pray for your child’s future spouse. This is by far the most important thing we can do for our child’s marriage. Imagine the impact prayer can have on your future son-in-law as he matures into a Godly man. Imagine the influence you can have on your future daughter-in-law as she makes choices that will affect her life. One of the most special rehearsal dinners (the dinner before the wedding day) I’ve attended occurred when the bride’s father shared how he had been praying for the groom since his daughter was three. People wept out of control when the groom passionately embraced his father-in-law and, with tears streaming down his face, thanked the man for his faithfulness.
- Teach your child to pray for his future spouse. As a person who is passionate about marriage, one of the most sobering statistics I’ve ever seen about relationships is that couples who pray together every day have a less than one percent divorce rate. Realize that the Christian community as a whole has a divorce rate around fifty-three percent. That’s what makes the “less than one percent” statistic so amazing. Helping your child pray for his future mate now can foster a habit of praying for his relationship that will hopefully carry over into marriage. As I began encouraging my seven-year old daughter Taylor to pray for her husband, the first time she prayed she said, “Please God don’t make me marry an 88-year old or someone who speaks a foreign language!” That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but she is slowly learning to pray for him in a meaningful way.
- Help your child to see a silhouette of what she wants in a mate. In order to be successful at marriage, it's crucial for your child to gain a clear picture of “who” she wants for a mate. I’m not talking about visualizing a particular person like a movie star, supermodel, or other famous types. Instead, she must see a silhouette or visualize the “kind” of person she’d like to marry. Things like character traits, personality makeup, temperament, spiritual commitment, and so on.
The importance of early premarital training is best understood through a survey I did in 1999. I asked 3,000 couples at one of our marriage seminars what they would do differently to better prepare for marriage. Can you guess what the number one response was? You guessed it: better premarital training. You can begin right now training your child to be successful in marriage by praying for your child’s mate, encouraging your child to pray for his mate, and by helping your child develop an idea of the type of person he would like to marry. “And pray for one another…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
What to pray for when praying for your child’s future spouse:
- Pray for the child’s salvation.
- Pray that the child will develop into a Godly man or woman.
- Pray for specific character traits like integrity, faithfulness, tolerance, patience, kindness, and empathy to name a few.
- Pray that the child will develop specific skills that are needed for a successful marriage like communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, commitment, forgiveness, and listening.
- Pray for the child’s moral choices and a commitment to remain pure.
- Pray for the child’s family so they will bring him or her up in a healthy environment.
- Pray that the child will learn practical skills for earning a living and maintaining a home.