About “Prayer-Sex” And Really Bad Dating Advice

honeyinheart asked a question:

I know you’ve mentioned in some of your posts about relationships regarding praying with a partner is not “soul-sex” but a speaker at retreat last year said praying together as girlfriend and boyfriend is one step closer to having sex and should be avoided. Care to help explain?

Hey there my dear friend, I don’t want to be one more guy who badmouths the church: but our church subculture has often given really, really bad advice about dating, because most religious conservative people are very scared of teens having sex.  Then emerges all the scare tactics.  That’s the whole deal, right there.

So of course, there are teachings on courtship and soul-sex and purity rings and love languages — and none of these are necessarily bad in themselves.  Yet any idea taken to an extreme will kill you.  A healthy culture of accountability then becomes a toxic subculture of paranoia, and your pastor will try to scare the sex right out of you.

But there’s an equally grievous error, which is to be way too relaxed about sex: and this is really a reactionary subculture to appear relevant and “with it.”  There’s always some hipster laid-back emergent pastor saying, “Don’t be like those uptight Christians, just go with the flow man.”  And while it’s good to relax about dating, if you take this to an extreme: then you won’t take your own body very seriously.

So here’s the bottom line.  Relationships cannot be about avoiding lust: because running away from something has no direction towards anything. You can’t stop lust by stopping lust.  The Christian life is about working from the righteousness and purity that God has given us through Jesus, and not the other way around.

At the same time: Relationships require serious prayer and self-examination and mentoring and honesty.  Jesus is always trying to make us more human, and not less.  And depending on your upbringing or history or baggage, you may have some more work to do.

All this requires balance.  So if you find that a certain idea like avoiding “soul-sex” is helpful for your spiritual health, then why not.  So long as you’ve prayed this out and you’re led by the Spirit and you’re pursuing Jesus as your primary focus.  If you find yourself all anxious about dating and neurotic about romantic feelings and beating yourself up over emotions: then maybe it’s time we relax a little and step back from the restrictions we’ve been bound to.  If you find yourself easily idolizing the opposite sex or having lust issues, then I would recommend setting up good boundaries and keeping more vigilance than the average person.  This is really just common sense, and you’ll find that the Christ-driven life often goes that way.

There’s no one-size-fits-all for wisdom on relationships.  Don’t trust me.  Don’t trust any blogger.  Don’t assume that some bestseller or piercing sermon has all the answers for a perfect magic formula.  Sure, seek all the help you can get.  But ultimately: find yourself in Christ, know how God has wired you, repent in those areas that need rebuke, and be restored in what Christ has already done for you.

— J.S.

My new book on sex, dating, and relationships here!


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