Summary: Selfishness paralyzes prayer. God will cause us to accomplish more through sincere prayer than we ever could on our own through murderous rebellion, warring, and quarreling. When the church in Acts prayed, they received power and God received glory. When
Prayer Keys - Pure Motives
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3
Just to be clear before we go too far, God knows our weaknesses. If we needed a perfect attitude before praying none of us... Let me rephrase that. Some of you may be more spiritual than I am. If we needed a perfect attitude before praying, I would never be able to pray. God knows our weaknesses, but that does not excuse selfish prayers.
A heavy snowfall closed all the schools in town. When classes next met, a teacher asked her students what they did on the free days. After describing their antics, one child added, “And I prayed for more snow!”
Sometimes, we try to make our prayers sound extra selfless and spiritual. I heard about a college student who always ended her prayers with a simple petition: “God, I’m not asking this for myself. Please send my mother a strong, handsome, Christian son-in-law.”
The following prayer was reportedly found among the papers of John Ward, a Member of Parliament:
“O Lord, thou knowest that I have mine estates in the City of London...”
When I first read this, I didn’t notice the plural, “estates.” I noticed it was plural while taking notes.
“O Lord, thou knowest that I have mine ESTATESSSS in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in the county of Essex. I beseech thee to preserve the two counties of Middlesex and Essex from fire and earthquake; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg of thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county. As for the rest of the counties, thou mayest deal with them as thou art pleased.”
“Lord, take care of me and mine. I don’t care about them or theirs.” That’s even more selfish than the Janis Joplin song. Does anyone remember the prayer she sang?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?
I’m sure it was meant to be humorous, but too many Christians pray that way. There are too many preachers who preach like “name it and claim it” is the gospel instead of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Their message is, “God wants you to be prosperous. If you want a Mercedes Benz, name it and claim it. If you don’t get it, your faith is too weak. Send me money and I will pray for your faith to grow (while my driver gets the oil changed in my Mercedes).”
James says that selfishness, the sin that the prosperity gospel promotes, is the reason his readers prayers are not granted. Selfishness paralyzes prayer.
The KJV says the readers “ask amiss.” Those words, in the Greek, could mean asking for the wrong things or, as the NIV translates them, asking for the wrong reasons, with the wrong motives.
Have you ever not wanted to pray about something because you are afraid God will say no? You finally decide to pray about it, then, just as you feared, God said no.
The head cheerleader really needs help with chemistry. If her grades do not improve, she is off the squad. She REALLY needs help with chemistry. So you help her. She appreciates the fact that a smart guy doesn’t make her feel dumb. Her grades improve. She appreciates you even more. Then, she has that “ah ha moment.” She understands. She never thought she would understand chemistry, but she does. Now she appreciates you even more.
You pray, “God, if I’m ever going to ask her out, this is the time. I know she’s not a Christian, but maybe I can witness to her on a date, when we’re not thinking about chemistry... when we’re not thinking about THIS chemistry...”
Thus saith the Lord, “NO!”
When you ask to date a non-Christian you are asking for the wrong thing.
Maybe high school is just a dim memory for you. You’ve already married the girl of your dreams. Now, you’re dreaming of a bass boat. You start working overtime. If you keep tithing on your regular income, the overtime pay will just be enough to make those payments.
You pray, “Lord, my boss likes fishing. If I had a boat, I could invite him to go with me. We can enjoy your creation together, then I could witness to him. His tithe would be a lot more than my overtime tithe...”