I used to view prayer as mystical and unreliable. People always say that prayer moves mountains, but it seemed that mountains weren’t really being moved. It was hard for me to comprehend how prayer actually worked. If one Christian prayed for something to happen, and another prayed for it to not happen, what would God do? Prayer didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
You see, prayer looked dangerous. If you put your being into praying for something, what if God turned you down? It seemed better not to get your hopes up and just skip the prayer. A broken prayer equaled a broken heart, and God already preordained everything that would happen, didn’t he?
So should we pray at all? Well, if you know anything about prayer, you know the answer is “Of course!” So the real question I’m going to bring up today is Are we praying for the right reason? And, naturally, we’ll have to answer What is the right reason to pray?
If you are struggling with prayer, I bet you that it is because you are not praying for the right reason. I’m sure you already know that you should be praying if you have a hard time with it, but, whether you know it or not, you are praying for the wrong motive. Let’s look at a couple of examples of wrong motives.
The Wrong Reasons to Pray
Wrong Reason to Pray #1
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 6:1 (ESV)
Oof. I have actually experienced this first hand. Before I started praying consistently in a prayer journal, I tried to pray laying down in bed. But then I would get distracted and start thinking about other things. Then I started praying silently while sitting up and folding my hands–I tried to be more intentional. But whenever I folded my hands, all I could think about was what my siblings would think!
Oh, I’m being such a good example, I thought. I never see them praying, but if they see me praying I’ll be witnessing to them in a way.
Switching to written prayer helped a lot with this. When I started my prayer journal, I wrote several verses and passages about prayer in the front of my journal, and these are a few of them:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. – Matthew 6: 5-8 (ESV)
Jesus gives us some very practical advice here. In my case though, I was going into my room and shutting the door, but that isn’t very effective when you have three roommates. 😉 So I get around this by writing my prayers. And since I’m a writer and constantly writing anyways, it is not conveniently obvious that I’m praying.
Of course, sitting with your eyes closed and your hands folded isn’t a bad thing. It is the motive that counts.
Wrong Reason to Pray #2
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4:3 (ESV)
Another wrong reason to pray is to pray just to get stuff. Selfish gain. “God, please give me a hundred bucks. Amen.” Yeah, that’s a no-no.
Sometimes when we pray, we are completely focused on getting something. While it might be a good thing, that is not the only reason why we should pray.
When we pray for earthly things for ourselves, the motive of our prayers is often pure selfishness. (The NIV translation of James 4:3 even translates “wrongly” as “with wrong motives.”) Selfishness is a bad motive for prayer. But let’s take a closer look at the opposite motive…
The Right Reason to Pray
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
The right reason to pray is to grow in your relationship with God. If you are trying to avoid praying, you might say, But I can have a good relationship with God even if I don’t pray, right? Well, can a child have a good relationship with his father if he is giving him the silent treatment? Even if it is possible, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Prayer is about God, not you. As we covered, prayer is not about looking good or getting what you want. You know how kids can learn to say “please” a lot faster than “thank you”? That’s because they just want to get the goods. But as Christians, we should be putting the emphasis in our prayers on God.
Have you ever noticed that even though Jesus already knew the future, He still regularly prayed to His Father? Why did He pray if not just to ask for stuff? Because God’s His Dad!
As Christians, God has adopted us and made us His children too. So don’t give Him the cold shoulder. Pray.
Hey, folks! This month, I challenge you to make an entry in a prayer journal every day for the rest of March. A prayer journal is basically a journal that you write your prayers in. So my challenge for you is to get a notebook and write a prayer every day.
Think it isn’t possible? Well, I have been prayer journaling every day–even if it is just a sentence or two–since I started on September 15th, 2019… (Except for February 1st. I don’t know how, but I forgot that day and ended my streak. It was very sad.) So I believe in you! One month is nothing! It has helped me a ton with growing in my faith and is totally worth it. Plus, it makes it a lot easier to pray consistently since you are writing down your prayers and dating them. Up for the challenge? Comment “Challenge accepted!” below and grab a notebook!
Whether or not you’ll be prayer journaling with me, I’ll be doing a prayer themed post each week this month. This week I talked about why we pray. Next week I’ll write about prioritizing prayer. The week after that we’ll discuss persevering in prayer. Finally, I’ll conclude the month with three prayers we neglect to pray.
Ready? Let’s do this! =)
What do you think?
Have you struggled with prayer? Any prayer tips? Will you be accepting my challenge?