Is it wrong for couples to pray against pregnancy? It’s a question from Chelsea in North Carolina. “Pastor John, thank you so much for all that you and the desiringGod.org team do online. My question: Do you think it’s sinful for me to pray to not get pregnant? I love my children, but don’t think I can handle any more right now. My husband says it’s not a sin, but I feel so selfish praying this prayer, especially since God has closed my closest friend’s womb. Is it biblically sound to pray for God to close my womb for a season?”
My short answer is that it may be biblically sound to want a limited number of children if your motives are informed by the priorities of Christ and the Scriptures. I know some would say, “Well, that’s contradictory because it’s precisely the priorities of Christ in the Scriptures that tell us not to limit the number of children we have. They’re a blessing, for goodness’ sake. Why would you limit that?”
But let me try to show you how I’m thinking, and then you can decide whether it’s contradictory or not.
In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So, it is not good to be alone. Then in verse 24 he says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” And back in Genesis 1:28 he says to this couple to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
“It may be biblical to want a limited number of children if your motives are informed by Christ and the Scriptures.”
In other words, it is right, normal, and proper to want and pursue a family in the world as God created it. It’s right to want to raise up lots of lovers of God who fill the earth with his glory. I would say that’s normal and good.
God says, “It’s not good for man to be alone. Let him marry, become one flesh, and fill the earth.” Nevertheless, when you get to the New Testament, you read from Paul, who speaks with the authority of Christ, “I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:26–28).
Paul is actually counseling people, in that situation at least, that singleness would be preferable to marriage. He gives his reasons later on, and they have to do with greater devotion to the Lord. But it’s astonishing, that in view of Genesis 2:18 — “It is not good that the man should be alone” — that Paul would say there are times when it would be better to be alone and not to marry.
The lesson I draw from this is that while it is normal and right and proper in the ordinary order of creation for marriage to be pursued, nevertheless, now that Christ has come into the world, there are redemptive priorities — saving priorities — where it’s right for redemptive and saving purposes for a person to forego marriage.
This means that Christ-exalting kingdom principles and kingdom values on this side of the cross relativize the mandate for marriage in the order of creation. In other words, the goodness of it is relative to the glorification of Christ and the advance of his kingdom.
Now, if that’s right thinking, then I’m suggesting that the same principles apply to having children and loving to have your quiver full of them (see Psalm 127, which we should love).
In other words, this is the normal, right, good pattern for all people in the order of creation. But there may be situations in life when for Christ-exalting, God-centered, kingdom-advancing reasons, restricting the number of children that we have may be appropriate.
God’s Highest Priority
Now, I realize that in a sense I have not made matters easier for anyone, but perhaps even harder. I have now put on you the burden of trying to know your own heart and whether the motives for limiting the number of children that you have are in fact Christ-exalting, God-centered, kingdom-advancing motives, or whether you’re driven by fear or unbelief or selfishness or worldliness.
“The goodness of marriage and children is relative to the glorification of Christ and the advance of his kingdom.”
That’s the real danger. But I think that is the kind of situation we find ourselves in regarding most decisions that we have to make in this world.
God knows your heart. He’s a merciful Father, and he loves children. But our having children is not his highest priority. His highest priority for his children is Christ-exalting faith and Christ-magnifying joy that overflows in meeting the needs of others. That’s his highest priority.
He loves big families with lots and lots of children — but not for their own sake, but for Christ’s sake. The issue is, Do our lives with many or few children magnify the greatness of Christ, whether married or not, and however many children we have?