In my last blog about prayer, we discussed our heart’s motivation and attitude towards prayer – to come to Him and seek Him with a motivation to know Him. After all, He already knows ALL of us, so our role in our relationship with God is to quiet our fleshly loud spirits that are focused on our own selves and to focus on Him with a servant’s heart that’s willing to respond.
In this blog, we are again going to focus on our heart’s motivation, but this time focusing on how we ask or lay our petitions before God. Asking is a key component of prayer, but it’s probably the component we too easily jump right into and spend the majority of our prayer time doing. God is not Santa, but I fully admit I regularly catch myself jumping right into my laundry list of requests for God, without: 1) taking the time to put my heart in the right place of submitting to who I am talking to through praise and thanksgiving (previous blogs) and 2) thinking about the “why” of my heart’s motivation in whatever I am asking (this blog).
James 4:1-2 says:
“Where do wars and fights [come] from among you? Do [they] not [come] from your [desires for] pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
The Bible says: “you do not have because you do not ask,” so it is absolutely Biblical for us to lay out our concerns before Him and to ask for His help.
Earlier in this verse, it points out the reason we are all bent out of shape about many issues in our own lives…from our desires for pleasure. This verse uses pretty strong language that’s easy for our self-righteous selves to skip over – wars, fights, lust, murder, and covetousness – but, STOP, we all are guilty of these sins in seeking our own pleasure. Do you argue? Do you have conflicts? Do you always have to be right? Do you want to be comfortable and have it easy? Do you want that “perfect” life someone else has on social media? Do you want what you don’t have- that house, that “perfect” body? Do you hate or disdain anyone (murder)? Is there someone you haven’t forgiven that still overwhelms you with anger and malice (murder)? We are all guilty of desiring our own pleasure – putting ourselves first before others. In a sermon by Greg Laurie this week on GraceFM, he asked: “Are you more concerned with your own comfort than the souls around you?” Ouch! My answer was yes, many times I am. Many of my requests for prayer are often fueled by these very pleasures.
Secondly, there is heaviness and tragedy everywhere you look because of sin – cancer, death, sickness, injuries, car accidents, murder, people getting hurt because of other people’s sin, and on and on. As Christians, we are called to intercede and pray for others (1 Samuel 12:23, Acts 12:5, Ephesians 6:18).
Quite frankly, I’m often overwhelmed with where to start – my list of requests for my own self, my family and friends, our church family, and for the world around me is LONG! I could pray all day! I think we can all agree we have a lot to ask for in this fallen, sinful world and God wants us to seek Him and depend on Him. So, now, what about our heart in asking? Stay with me for this…
James goes on to say in verse 3:
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [it] on your pleasures.”
WHOA! Ah-ha moment! Sometimes we ask and we don’t receive because we ask amiss? In Greek, the word amiss is kakōs which means "to do improperly, wrongly, or with bad intent." We ask for things with the bad intent of “spending it on our pleasures.” Ok, instead of what?
In studying Malachi this week, my heart literally stopped on this verse where the Lord is correcting corrupt priests. We too, like these priests, are corrupt with sin that we know better than to commit.
“'If you will not hear, And if you will not take [it] to heart, To give glory to My name,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take [it] to heart.’” Malachi 2:2
We must take it to heart to give glory to God. It’s not enough to just say the truth and hear the truth, we must be motivated to glorify God authentically from our hearts through our lives, our actions, our activities, our body language, our attitudes, our words, our thoughts, and OUR PRAYERS.
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8
When we abide in Him, our desires become His desires. We are to crucify our own flesh. Our desire will be for Our Father to be glorified through our lives of discipleship and bearing eternal fruit (good works) in His name.
So…what does this have to do with what and how we are asking God for? Next time you pray, think about what you are asking for and the “why” you are asking for it? Are you asking for your husband’s salvation because you want him to be more loving to you and you can’t bear the thought of him spending eternity in hell? This is absolutely an appropriate prayer to ask of God, but the motivation should be that God may be glorified and not dishonored by a life not lived for Him rather than for your own pleasure (feeling loved and so you’re not grieved). Make sense?
Let’s lighten this up here. It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season! When school starts, germs run rampant, and let’s face it, a lot of prayer for healing and comfort comes into play. I had to take my three boys in for flu shots last week. Last year it was a disaster. They literally were screaming and crying, all three of them, at the top of their lungs: “don’t hurt me, help me, save me!” during the busy flu clinic at the pediatrician’s office. So, OF COURSE, I prayed about it this year! First, I will admit, I was 100% praying for my own pleasure - so I didn’t have to go through the discomfort again and be embarrassed. During prayer, I stopped and changed my request so God could be glorified by my family while we were at the pediatrician’s office this year. I even put on my new C4 t-shirt to project God even more (haha!). God was glorified by my loving, respectful kids, and the prayer was answered.
So, practically speaking, start paying attention to your heart’s motivation behind what you are asking for while you are praying. Start focusing your prayers so God may be glorified and honored and put your own comfort and pleasure aside. If it’s God’s will for you to have discomfort or to have to go through something you don’t want to go through, all so He can be glorified in this sinful world, it’s worth it (Romans 8:18). Have faith that, despite the temporary discomfort, He knows all and is working it all out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
“Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, ‘Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.’” Psalm 35:27