Much of prayer places us on “the end” of some blessing sought from God. It is never wrong to ask God to assist with personal needs, direction, protection, favor, healing – or any need. He is even concerned about the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4). And yet, if we use prayer only as a means of acquisition from God, we will make a tragic mistake. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” or desires (James 4:3).
James, the brother of Jesus says, “You ask and do not receive.” Suddenly, heaven grows silent. God does not answer our prayers. What we request is not granted. It is “because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 1:4). Whenever prayer becomes decidedly about us – God stops answering. James charges that in such moments, the spirit of the world has gripped our hearts, perhaps, without our even realizing we are caught in such a dynamic. He charges that our relationship with the world has made us “adulterers,” and that such “friendship with the world” places us at “enmity with God?” Imperceptibly, we stepped across the line. We are now contributing, unwittingly, to the war against God. The remedy is humility. That is why Scripture says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, NIV).
Selfish praying entrenches us on the receiving end of all God’s blessings. Underneath, buried in the heart of a genuine believer, is another prayerful cry, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?” That is, God, by the Holy Spirit in us, has other designs and desires for us, better than we ourselves could acquire by selfish praying. Selfish praying isolates a blessing, seeing it in an exclusive way, as only for us. Spirit-led praying enlarges the blessing, seeing it as an inclusive way to bless others.
God answers His people when we pray. Making requests of Him is a royal privilege. But, He does not want us to cement ourselves into the posture of always receiving for ourselves – of being “on the end” of all blessings.
This blog is an excerpt from a re-release of a popular title, Intercession: The Uncomfortable, Strategic Middle.
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.