When I was a child my family had a dog who was given the name Angus by my father due to this Labrador being in appearance like a Black Angus cow. He was an outdoor dog that loved to play with me and my two brothers and sister. We could count on him meeting us when we walked home from school via a path through a cotton field. Sometimes he would even meet my older brother and me in the gym at school to the consternation of our coach! He wanted to be with us even if just to sit quietly together in the cool evening breeze enjoying a sunset together. He was loyal and although he enjoyed what we did for him, including feeding him, he loved to be with us even when we were not tending to his needs.
Today, my family has a house cat given the name Darcy by my daughter from Jane Austin's book Pride and Prejudice. He is a smart cat that knows how to get you to provide what he desires by giving you his attention. However, he does not often just want to be with you "to be with you" but rather shows up when he needs, wants, or desires something. Typically, he knows when I will be going downstairs in the morning for breakfast and he rubs all over my legs as I get out his food. However, once satiated he often will look at me like – who are you and walk off!
My point here is not to argue whether dogs or cats (1) are better but rather to help us see ourselves in them. Do we pray to God for our needs, wants or desires like my dog Angus or like my cat Darcy? Is it about the master or about us? Do we enjoy being with God even when He is not directly giving us something or do we just give God our attention when we want, need or desire something? We have previously discussed that we must ASK (1) in order to receive. Now comes the harder part – asking with the right motive (James 4:3).
Our motive in prayer must be only for our Heavenly Father’s glory; it is not enough just to ask for a good thing (2).
For example, you may be praying for revival in your church so that we might have more people born again, that we would be better parents, or that the world would not influence our children. These are noble requests that are in God’s will but are selfish in motive. The only motive that is free from selfishness is the desire to see our Heavenly Father glorified in the things we ask of Him. The proper motive in asking for revival would be because: we cannot endure God seeing the blood of Jesus trampled underfoot by the worldliness of the church, by the sins of our children, or by the lack of Christ-likeness of our spouse.
Furthermore, we may be praying for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives so that we can have a victorious Christian life. This again has the selfish motivation of something to make our life easier or more pleasurable. The proper motive would be that God would no longer be dishonored by our low level of Christian service and poor testimony but rather be glorified by the inward beauty in our lives and the power in our service that comes by the Holy Spirit’s presence. A great prayer motive check is to ask yourself the question, "What does God get out of this request?" That is, what's in it for God? (1 Corinthians 10:31. Colossians 3:17. 1 Peter 4:11)
Realize one reason we stay on Earth after being saved is to show forth our Heavenly Father’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our Heavenly Father is glorified by the revelation of His Son in our lives by the Holy Spirit (1) (Matthew 5:16. John 8:12). The revelation of Jesus shows the world that He was God’s Son who died and now lives resulting in their salvation (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our Heavenly Father is glorified through our verbal and nonverbal (i.e., our actions) confession of Jesus’ Lordship (Philippians 2:10).
When the world sees Jesus, they will see the Heavenly Father (Hebrews 1:1. John 14:9). They will then realize that He is for them and not against them (Romans 8:33-39). That Satan has lied to them about God (John 8:44). That Jesus came to save the world (1) and not to condemn it (John 3:16-18).
Furthermore, realize it is those that are humble that receive God’s grace (favor) and mercy (ability) (James 4:6. Hebrews 4:16).
Let us do a case study of verses noticing Jesus’ humble motive in His prayers:
NET John 17:1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you –
NET John 17:21 that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.
NET John 11:42 I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
NET John 5:19 So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.
NET John 8:28 Then Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me.
NET John 5:30 I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.
NET John 12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Remember that we are not seeking the “presents” of God but rather God’s “presence.” However, in order to see Him as He is we must have the veils of deception removed from our lives (Matthew 5:8). I am referring to the mask(s) that we wear to keep others from seeing who and what we really are – our personas. The same mask(s) that we wear to keep others from seeing what we are really like also keeps us from seeing what God is really like. Know we become like the one we worship (Psalms 115:4-8); therefore, it is paramount that we see God accurately (1) in order to become just like Him (1 John 3:2. 2 Corinthians 3:18).
O God, You be exalted over my possessions! Nothing of Earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only You are glorified in my life. You are exalted over my friendships! I am determined that You will be above all even if I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the Earth. You are exalted above my comforts! Even if it means the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made before You this day. You are exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please You even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream! Rise, O Lord, into Your proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me sink that You may rise above. Ride forth upon me like when You rode into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to You, “Hosanna in the highest.” Amen (3)
Lastly, we must realize how great is our God (Acts 4:24). As we realize how great our God is (1) then giving Him glory becomes a natural response and faith becomes easy!
Heavenly Father, so that the World might see that I am in You and You are in me; give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened; that I may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe. Cause the veils of deception that I have either knowingly or unknowingly allowed in my life to be removed. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen
(Based on Ephesians 1:17-23. John 5:22,30. John 9:39. Psalms 139:23,24)
Discover Pray Series:
1. We Must Ask (1)
4. Pray in Faith (1)
7. Be Persistent (1)
8. Power Dressing for Prayer (1)
(1) Left click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) How to Pray by R.A. Torrey
(3) Tozer, A. W. (1993). The Pursuit of God. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications. pp. 101,102