Our Sunday school class has been working through the Navigators 5:7 series on the basics of the Christian life. This week as I read verses on prayer, I was struck by James 4:3, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures" (NASB). In that moment I thought of prayers offered, even that morning, that were for my own pleasure--to meet my desires.
We all have unmet desires and wishes. Sometimes we pray for physical healing, for better relationships, for a change in our Church, for weight loss or a successful outcome. The object isn't the issue. The attitude and motive are. After all, David the shepherd prayed, "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake," not mine.
Jesus offered that same example when He taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). And I had to ask how many times I pray for God first. Too often I acknowledge Him then ask for the things that are on my heart, trying to hold them loosely and knowing that God will accomplish His purpose. But the attitude, the words, and the heart are for me--to make life easier, more comfortable, less confusing and uncertain.
Since reading and thinking about those verses, my prayer has changed. "Lord, teach me what pleases You. Help me seek out pray and live for those things that give You pleasure. Make me aware of those times I put myself ahead of You and give me discernment." And that's where God's Word comes in. The only way to know God's heart, what pleases Him and what is best, is by reading His Word. Because He is so very different from us, we will not find Him in our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). We can see His glory in creation (Psalm 19) and God uses that to draw us in and reveal Himself, but we can know Him and His heart, one on one. We get to know Him personally and intimately as we commit listen (read the Bible) and respond (prayer). He wants to give us the desires of our hearts--even change our desires to match His--as we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4-11).
"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:24 NIV).
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:15-16 NIV).