Happy Friday. We close the week with this question from our email inbox: “Pastor John, I am a mother of three sweet girls, and my husband and I love them dearly. We are expecting our fourth child. We live in India, where a boy is preferred over a girl. Many Christians around us tell us they are praying for us to have a boy now. A pastor we know told us the story that he went a whole night to a mountain to pray for a son, and he later received a son. We do value a girl the same as a boy. My husband feels that it is special to have a boy also, someone who carries on our family line, and in the Bible a male was prayed for and given (like Samuel).
“But is it right to prefer and ask God for a specific gender, or should we simply trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness, to give to us what he thinks is right for us? Or should we be persistent in our prayers for a boy? Praying for a boy makes me feel sometimes I want a girl less and would be less happy to receive her. And in the Bible is there a special blessing or inheritance for a boy that a girl can’t have?”
Well, I hear two distinct and really good questions
- Is there a biblical basis for some kind of special blessing or inheritance for a boy that a girl can’t have?
- Is it right to prefer or to ask God for a boy or a girl at any given time?
Equal in Value
So let me take the first one first, because I think it is by far the most foundationally important and that is what I want to do is lay some foundations. Because, of course, there are just huge, murderous effects of preferring boys over girls around the world because of the way abortion is used to get rid of girls and so on. So we as Christians need to deeply, profoundly, biblically establish the destiny and the origin and the worth of womanhood. So I am going to go there even though it may be a little deeper than this question was asking.
Let me start with Genesis, where everybody would expect me to start: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). So there was an original harmony as both man and woman enjoyed God’s favor and the extraordinary privilege of being in the very image of our Creator. And in that peaceful, pre-fall condition there was a harmony of complementary roles, which then, in the fall, was ruined.
The image was not destroyed, but it was damaged. And part of the damage of that image is how our roles with one another are so conflicted today that it is very hard to find our bearings in relation to one another now that sin has entered into the heart of every woman and every man.
Queen of the Universe
Here comes a second crucial text about the place and the destiny and the dignity of woman. This is from 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” [that is not a value judgment; that is just a statement of fact: physically weaker] since you are fellow heirs of the grace of life.” That is astonishing. And in 1 Peter the term “grace” — it is clear what that means — and “life” is eternal; this is the grace of inheriting eternal life.
And the stress in that culture, which was probably more shocking than ours, is that you live, man — Mr. Husband — you live with a woman who is destined to inherit the world, because that is what you are promised in Christ. She will be a queen of the universe, and you sleep in the same bed with this stunning being. So wake up to the reality of what you are dealing with here. That is why he says it that way, I think.
And then there is one more. This one is really surprising to people the way Paul underlines the equal inheritance of the woman and man, because it is right in a place where they think he is doing the opposite. So this is Galatians 3:26 where Paul says, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Now a lot of women get their back up here, like, “Whoa, hey, you are leaving me out, because our are saying ‘sons’ instead of ‘sons and daughters.’” But when Paul says to the women in Galatia, “You are all sons of God,” what he is saying is that sons in that culture and in many places today had the right of primogeniture, or the privilege of inheriting, and the daughters didn’t.
So it is as if Paul is saying, “I am telling you, you are sons. Do you see this, women? I am telling you that you are sons of God. You will inherit the way a son inherits from a father.” If we cave on this translation issue here and translate it “sons and daughters,” it loses its very power to say to the women, “You are equal to a son. When I call you a son, I am saying that you will inherit.” And so he goes on like this:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:27–29)
So women inherit the promises of Abraham as sons as much as men do as sons. That is the biblical starting point. There are differences, of course, in what daughters and sons will do in life. She will be able to bear children. The son won’t be able to bear children. So that is a blessing that she has that he won’t have. He will be able to father children and lead a wife and family that she won’t be able to do as a woman. There are differences in what you can be and do because of sexuality, but the massive, important issue is that men and women have a common heritage in the image of God and in worth before God and in the destiny of inheritance from God.
Can I Pray for a Boy or a Girl?
Now the question is: Can you pray for the one or the other? Should you even prefer one or the other? And I very much appreciate the question because I think everybody who has children has to ask this. And they do ask it whether they even say it out loud or not, because you are wondering: What are we going to have? And what would you like to have? And should I ask God to influence that process? And when you get two girls, should you ask for a boy? And we had four boys, so should we ask for a girl? Or we had a boy, so should we ask for a girl? Or should we not?
And so here is my answer: there are dangers and there are warrants for praying this way.
Dangers to Consider
The dangers are — just to mention a couple — that you might pray for a son or a daughter for the wrong reasons. It would be wrong to pray for one sex because you fail to value the other one in a biblical way. That would be wrong and that is true around the world for a lot of people. It would be wrong to pray for one or the other for merely earthly or selfish reasons — like, I need more help in the kitchen. Or we need more help on the farm. I just think those kinds of merely (and the word merely is important) selfish, earthly reasons would be wrong. And so we have to guard ourselves. If we are going to pray, we better pray really carefully.
And a second danger is the wounds that could come to a child if the child felt, “I wasn’t wanted. They wanted a girl and I am a boy, or they wanted a boy and I am a girl.” That is a danger that every parent needs to be very, very alerted to.
Warrants for the Request
But there are not only dangers, there are warrants. I think it is a God-given, good desire for a mother to have a unique kind of desire for a daughter and a father to have a unique kind of desire for a son. And part of that is they both want — and rightly want — to build into this child something what God has made them to be as they have learned how to be a woman or a man. A woman has spent her whole life learning what it means to be a godly woman. She would love to build that into a little girl who grows up to be a godly woman. And a man has spent his whole life trying to figure out what it means to be a man for God, and he would love to build that into a son. Those are good desires. And to want the one or both is not wrong.
A second warrant would be that there may be some settings in life in missions or in unique hardship of a genetic danger — perhaps if you knew a girl had a unique genetic proclivity that the boy wouldn’t have or something along those lines — that you might say to God: I would ask that you would give me a son or a daughter.
So my conclusion is: Test your motives by the Scriptures, and ask God according to your heart’s desire. And make clear to God, to your spouse, and to all the children: we will love God’s gift to us — disabled or able, male or female, living long or living short — we will love God’s gift to us with all our heart and we will believe that God knows best.