The Wrong Reason To Pray
I was riding along with a family member the other day. As she drove, I heard her pray as we passed a certain building, "Lord, wake these people up so that they will stop supporting [political party name here]." At other times, we would pass a business, and she would pray, "Lord, help these businesses prosper so that none of us will suffer financially." These prayers bothered me, not because I think that it is necessarily wrong to pray for people to, say, prosper in their business if they are facing hard times. My concern was the motive for praying these prayers. Because of this, I was forced to wrestle with my theology of prayer. In this post, I wanted to explore the results of this wrestling.
Jesus commands His disciples to pray, and He even teaches us how to pray, as well as how not to pray (Matthew 6:5-13; James 4:3). In the model prayer that He provided, Jesus told His disciples to pray for God's will to be done (Matthew 6:10). We are, therefore, to pray in accordance with the will of God. That is, we are to pray for things to happen that will glorify God, and we are to pray with the motive of glorifying God.
Christ made it clear that it is a good thing to pray for our own physical and spiritual needs. It is a good thing to ask God for our daily bread, because it forces us to recognize that God is the source of all good things. The same can be said in regards to praying for forgiveness. These are good things. Yet even these prayers can be prayed with the wrong motives.
This leads me to one of the most important passages concerning prayer in the New Testament, one that really forces us to look at our motives. James tells his readers, "You ask and don't receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires" (James 4:3). This is significant, because it tells us that if we ask for something from God with the wrong motives, God will not give us what we ask for.
The question this entire blog post has been leading up to is this: What is your motive when you pray? If your motive has to do with what you desire or what you think should happen (in other words, in accordance with your will, not God's), then perhaps something needs to change. I would challenge every one of you to examine your motives before you pray, and ask yourself, "What is God's will and how can I pray for it to be done?"
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