If your friend’s child is marrying a non-Christian, perhaps this scenario sounds familiar: Your friend raised their child to love Jesus. They prioritized church, youth group, Bible studies, Christian camps…you name it. They prayed since their child’s birth that they would love God and marry someone else who did.

But their child grew up and started dating someone who is, at best, ambivalent toward God. Then the relationship got serious. Soon enough your friend received a phone call: “Dad, we’re engaged!” Wishing they could rejoice and squeeze the livin’ daylights out of their child, your friend resisted the urge to crumple.

Crushed, afraid, and ashamed, their heart aches, facing the reality that their child is marrying a non-Christian.

Concerned for your friend, you want to help. Of course, you can care well by listening, asking questions, making yourself available to them. But the most significant way to help is through prayer.

It’s not the least you can do. It’s the most you can do. You know the One who comforts, offers wisdom, and gives sight to His children blinded in their thinking. He’s the expert heart-changer.

As you approach the throne of grace, pray for these practical needs.

How to pray for the child marrying a non-Christian

1. Pray for this child’s life to be surrendered to the Lord.

The core matter isn’t the child’s choice to marry a non-Christian, but the spiritual reality of their heart’s willingness to do so. Regardless of what they’ve confessed in the past, a decision to unite their life with someone who is spiritually dead—not alive in Christ—indicates some level of an unyielding heart.

The primary prayer you and your friend can pray is for the Lord, in His kindness, to lead this child to repentance (Romans 2:4). Pray they will grasp why God’s discouragement of “unequally yoked” marriages (2 Corinthians 6:14) arises from His great love toward them.

2. Pray for their fiancé to know Jesus through the example of your friend’s family and others.

Ask the Lord to not only open your friend’s child’s eyes, but the eyes of their fiancé to their need for a Savior. Pray they would see Jesus as more than a religious figure, but as a personal Lord and Friend worthy of our lives. Pray they would “taste and see that the Lord is good” by the way your friend’s family, and other families, live (Psalm 34:8).

3. Pray for the engagement to break off.

I promise I’m not cold to the core! Of course, you and your friend want their child to be happy. Marriage is exciting, something they’ve anticipated for years.

But it must grieve your friend to watch this engagement unfold, aware that what currently makes their child’s heart sing is not what’s truly best for them (James 4:4).

Out of love, it’s okay to pray against this engagement. Ask God to give the child strong concerns about marrying a non-Christian, even revulsion about their distance with God.

However, once the marriage is official, it’s you and your friend’s job to support them. For instance, it’s vital to speak well of the new spouse, pray for the marriage’s success, treat the new spouse as part of the family, etc. And continue to pray for the salvation of the child’s spouse.

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4. Pray their child is not marrying a non-Christian because they idolize marriage.

As a single myself, I know the temptation to make marriage the ultimate “thing.” Over everything else, I’ve always dreamt of becoming a wife and mom.

It’s a wonderful thing to want. When I think about marriage, I’m most excited about having “my person” to laugh, talk, make decisions, and live life with. I also can’t ignore that romance and opportunity for little humans adds to the excitement. All good things!

Which makes it easy to idolize.

Not everyone who’s prayed for years to get married is idolizing marriage. Yearning, longing, and earnestly praying for marriage isn’t detrimental or outside of God’s parameters. But when our desire for marriage trumps our delight in obeying God and our patience to wait grows fragile, the idol mold has already been set.

Thankfully, God is a master idol-melter. He is powerful to shift their child’s focus from what they want to what God wants.

How to pray for your friend whose child is marrying a non-Christian

1. Pray they will not feel guilty.

This engagement news may have unleashed an avalanche of negative self-talk in your friend’s life.

Did I do enough as a parent? they might wonder. I could have done more to keep this from happening.

Pray your friend wouldn’t martyr themselves or believe these lies. Pray against placing their identity in their children’s choices. Remind them God is a perfect Father and yet has rebellious kids.

2. Pray they would let God do His job.

Even if their parenting could have improved (which is true of every parent), God is no less able to heal what’s gone amiss.

But we have to let God, far more than our efforts, activate the healing. Ask the Lord to help your friend surrender control. Ask Him to provide other Christ-following adults who can guide the couple Christ-ward.

3. Pray God gives the right time and words to say to their child.

Realistically, your friend has thoughts worth sharing with their child. Pray they’d be sensitive to the Spirit’s timing and even the child’s willingness to discuss the topic. Ask God to help them know when to speak and when to remain silent (James 1:19).

4.Pray they would not shun their child for marrying a non-Christian.

First Corinthians 5:11 can leave parents unsure of God’s expectations. Your friend might be wondering if they need to “not associate” with their child if they plan to marry a non-Christian. However, this passage speaks directly to the response church members should take toward those confessing but failing to live as Christians. It doesn’t speak directly to parents.

Pray your friend wouldn’t misinterpret this passage. Severing a parent/child relationship over this won’t help. The child probably expects their marrying a non-Christian to illicit a shaming reaction from their parents. But you can pray your friend’s mature, gracious response would prove their child wrong.

5. Pray they would keep the door of honest communication open.

In line with not shunning them, pray your friend would continue to communicate openly and lovingly with their child. Showing them this situation isn’t going to change all aspects of their relationship will speak powerfully to the child. This is not purely for the benefit of maintained relationship, but to act as a witness to Christ in their life.

Pray the child would feel comfortable coming to their parents for help and to process.

6. While you pray, suggest helpful resources.

Have you prayed about recommending biblical premarital resources? Perhaps the couple might respond best if you sent them Preparing for Marriage, or if someone paid their way to a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference.

And for further encouragement for your friend, this particular FamilyLife Podcast specifically addresses parents of children marrying a non-Christian.

Prayer is powerful. It’s the best practical way to help your friend. Ask in faith for the Lord to have His way in this upcoming marriage.

Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Lauren Miller serves on staff with FamilyLife as a writer in Orlando, Florida, though she’ll always be a California girl. She graduated from Biola University and the Torrey Honors College where the Lord first planted in her a love for family and marriage ministry. As a single, she loves serving the youth at her church, watching British dramas, and reading a good book in her free time.