One morning when getting ready to go to church for our prayer meeting, I joked with my wife that during the meeting I should pray for selfish, silly things just to see how the others would react. I thought about praying for the Lions to win their football game, for the movie, “Thor”, to do well in the box office and other really silly prayers. We had a good laugh because, of course, I know better than to pray for such things. The bible teaches us that we are to pray with the right motives, and selfish prayers are certainly done with selfish motives. James 4:3-4 says:
"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."
The bible teaches us that we should pray with faith. It says that if we pray with doubt, we shouldn’t believe that we’ll receive anything we ask for. But here, it also tells us that we need to pray with the right motives. It just makes sense. Why would we pray to a holy God for something that is clearly not within his will? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pray for personal needs like a good job, good health, wisdom on how to handle a situation, or things like that. These are things that are very likely what God wants for you. But praying to win the lotto, that you’ll get your favorite video game for your birthday, or that your favorite team will win the Super Bowl is certainly done with the wrong motives. Knowing God’s will, is as simple as getting to know his word. The more we know his word, the more we understand his character and where his heart is. He wants what’s best for us, but he wants our hearts to be right when we ask. And since God is love, I believe that some of the best prayers are prayed with the motive of Godly love.
God wants us to pray to him. He really does. The bible tells us that he wants us to bring all types of prayers and petitions to him. But God judges the heart. We need to pray in faith, believing that he will answer our prayers, and praying in humility with the right motives. Love is always the best, safest bet. But God is also our father, and wants what is best for us. He wants us to be healthy, to not be in need, and to not worry. But that does not mean that he wants us to pray for riches, selfish gain or extravagant blessings. No, I’m not God, and I don’t presume to speak for him out of my own knowledge. We have the bible for that. And in James, we’re reminded that motives matter when it comes to our prayers.