We place our focal point of prayer widely on the external avenues of our life and seldom on the internal avenues of our hearts. We’ve accustomized ourselves to a watered-down version of prayer that seeks promotions and safe travel instead of softened hearts and humility.
Why? It simply comes down to our capacity of awareness. In other words: we don’t know how. It’s easy to pray for a different job, but it’s hard to pray that the Lord would make you content in the job you already have. It’s time to raise a generation of believers that practice purposeful prayer so that we can learn how to actually pray.
There are two devices of prayer that we neglect to use effectively. If we disciplined ourselves to learning and applying these devices, we would break down the barrier of innocent ignorance that has plagued this generation of pray-ers.
The first device is petition.
James 2:2-3 says, “…you do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…”
There are two parts to this verse to look at. The first is, “you do not have because you do not ask God.” You’re entangled in arrogance because you’ve never asked the Lord to humble you. You’re addicted to pornography because you’ve never pleaded with God to remove the desire. You’re stuck with an envious heart because you’ve never asked God to fulfill you. Stop asking the Lord to bless your travels and start falling before Him in desperate petition to fix the internal posture of your heart.
And say what?
Pray specifically and pray expectantly. First, pray that the Lord would reveal to you what’s in your heart. Pray that He would make your sin known. Ask him to take away the appeal, to take away the venue, to take away the thoughts, triggers, and actions. Ask him to replace it with what is holy and pleasing. Ask him to replace anger with gentleness, pride with humility, rudeness with kindness, doubt with confidence, emptiness with fullness, and fear with trust. And above all else, ask the Lord to let love be the deepest desire of your being.
The second half of James 2:2-3 says, “when you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” There are two potential issues with your prayer life that this statement sums to say. The first is that you’re asking for the wrong things. The second is that you’re asking for the right things, but with the wrong motives.
How do you know what the “right things” to ask for are? A simple trick of the trade: if what you are asking for is in direct alignment with what is written in God’s word, you are asking for the right thing. If what you are asking for is in direct opposition of what is written in God’s word, then you are asking for the wrong thing.
That being said, we also should heed Paul’s advice that we would not ask with the wrong motives. This primarily becomes an issue when we begin asking the Lord to provide us with tangible things. When I say “tangible,” I mean things that we physically receive, such as a new job, an acceptance letter, a raise, a new car, a house, a spouse, etc. To put it plainly, you have no idea what the Lord’s plan is for your life. So, when you begin asking for these tangible things, what you might really be praying is, “God- this is what I’m doing with my life, so I need you to go before me and make it happen.” Your desired outcome may be in line with the Bible’s teachings, but your motives may be misplaced in selfishness. I would challenge you to instead pray that the Lord’s plan would be done in your life and ask that he would make you content with where he has you and what he has called you to.
Petition these things before the Lord with outstretched arms and a humble heart.
The second device we neglect to apply to our prayer life is repetition.
Jesus presents a parable in Luke 18 to show his disciples that they should pray and not give up. He tells a story of a widow who approached an unfair judge day and night, pleading with him to grant her request. The annoyed judge finally gives her justice, solely because he was impatient and wanted her to stop bothering him. Then Jesus says this to his disciples, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (emphasis mine)
I think we so often think that we need to go before the Lord with our request a single time. Max Lucado, in his book A Love Worth Giving, writes, “Ask him again and again and again. He won’t grow impatient with your pleading, and you will receive patience in your pleading.” Don’t raise up your petition just once or twice whenever you happen to remember. It’s inherently for your own good to come before the Lord day and night and lay your requests before him. It is in this pattern of repetition that the tendencies of your heart are made known to God.
Come before the Lord day and night and bring your petitions before him again and again and again. David writes in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
Pray as David does. Lay your requests before the Lord every morning and wait patiently, in full expectation that he will deliver you. It’s the Lord’s unyielding kindness that promises you deliverance. So pray as if this is truly the case.
We serve the same God who created the universe. The same God who created the universe makes this promise, that “all good things would work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). Petition expectantly and repetition continually, knowing that his plans for you are so very good.