Considering What We Want When We Pray

I am currently reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller.  I plan to read several good books on prayer and this one seemed to be highly rated in all the places I was looking.   I am a little more than half way through the book and I have not yet formed an opinion on whether it is good or not.

In my reading, I recently came across this statement made by the author:

If you are going to take Jesus’ offer of “ask anything” seriously, what is the first thing you must do?  Any child will tell you.  You have to ask, and in order to ask, you have to reflect on what you want.”    (page 138)

Mr. Miller makes this statement in a discussion of what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to “ask anything” in His name and it would be granted to them (John 14:14).  As I read this, something did not seem right to me.  I was not sure what it was at first.  On the face of it, it makes perfect sense.  After all, if you are going to request something then it is only natural to request something you want.

At this point I want to make it clear that it is not wrong to pray for what we want.  God already knows before we ask Him.  He knows our heart.  We can’t hide our real desires from Him.  So, asking for our desires is not wrong.  Although, we are told in James 4:3 that if we “ask wrongly” we will not receive what we ask for.  So we see that prayer does not give us a blank check or a way to control God.

As a Christian, we are taught not to pray for what we want but to seek what God wants.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Himself prayed that not His will be done but God’s will.  This is our model.  This is they way we are taught to pray.  If we want answers to our prayers then we need to pray for what God wants to do.  If we pray contrary to God’s will then He will not grant our requests.

So, when we pray, should we reflect on what we want?  I see nothing wrong with this.  I believe in salvation that Jesus will change what we want and bring it into conformity to what He wants.  As a result, when Christians pray, our prayers should be the same as His prayers.  Sadly, Christians are not yet perfected so we don’t always pray in they way we should.  I also believe that is actually brings us closer to God to be completely honest with Him while we pray.   As I said earlier, He already knows….so why should we be different when we pray.  As we are more honest with God, He is more glorified and our dependence on Him should grow. Examining what we want when we pray is a good thing but the main thing is to see Him glorified.  So, reflect on what you want and seek His will in your prayers.

What do you think about Mr. Miller’s qoute?


2 Responses to Considering What We Want When We Pray

  1. bruce says:

    I think its good to pray for what you want, it is also good I believe to keep ones desire in check so that it is not a “willfull/headstrong” desire where you want it even if it isn’t in accordance with His will. Or to put it another way, where you want it regardless of His will, I don’t know if that conveys what I mean precisely.

    It can be difficult to sacrifice that kind of “willful” desire for a more submissive , defering to His will kind of desire, and I think it takes trust in His love and wisdom and power and willingness to help us in good ways. The cool thing is, we can always ask for help with our trust and desires.

    Also, praying regularly about something I believe is biblical, even though it can seem like we should just pray once and trust after that.


  2. Rich L says:

    Forgive me Mr. Shelton me if I’m missing something here but it seems to me that by researching peoples books on how to pray effectively etc. you are doubting or at least ignoring the words of Jesus as stated in Matthew 6 starting about verse 7.

    … for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

    After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

    Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

    Give us this day our daily bread.

    And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

    Just seems to me that ‘when in doubt do the Lord’s prayer’ is pretty much what the Lord’s prayer was for.


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