Selfish Praying

I realized something as I was praying today.

My prayers are really, really selfish.

I realized that I use a lot of first person pronouns when I pray. A lot of “God, I want to ask you to do this” or “Please hear me as I pray” or “Please bless my family, my friends, my life.” Even when I lead corporate prayer, I tend to use a lot of first person plurals: “We ask you, God…” and “Please watch over us…bless us.” I understand that it’s biblical to pray this way; even Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread, our daily forgiveness, and our daily concerns (Matt. 6:11-13).

But Jesus also prays in a way that challenges me: he prays to God in a way that respects prayer’s participatory dialogue. He prays “hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done.” And that strikes me, because so much of my prayer life is devoid of this second person language.

And so this week becomes an exercise in praying as Jesus prayed, to shift away from the smallness of my little world and my near-sighted requests and to acquire the vision to pray for the greatness of God’s will and God’s kingdom to flood my life. It’s a shift away from telling God what to do (“God, bless me, my friends, my family, etc.”) and a shift toward asking God what He has in mind (“God, what do you want to do in the world through me?”). It’s a shift away from comfortable, complacent praying and a shift toward a position of vulnerability and receptivity to God’s glorious will.

It’s a move away from the selfish prayer of my consumeristic flesh and an embrace of the selfless prayer of my Savior.

This entry was posted in Faith, Jesus, Prayer, Sermon on the Mount and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Selfish Praying

  1. Stacy says:

    I appreciate this post, Jason. I’ve been thinking about something similar to this today too–one of our college friends and his wife welcomed their 1st baby into the world last week and are now dealing with the news that he has a very serious condition that will probably not allow him to reach age 1. They have a Caring Bridge site and he was sharing about how his prayers and attitude were focused more on what he wanted God to do in his/their baby’s life and that was what he was praying for. He realized after talking with his wife that his goal should be to love his baby and do the best he could for him, while trusting God to handle the situation however HE would. Also, more importantly, that he should continue to trust God to sustain and carry them through the aftermath of whatever happens. Interesting how a different perspective can change things…

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for sharing what your friend is going through. That’s such a difficult spot to be in, but I really admire your friend’s faithfulness to God and his willingness to trust Him so fully. I know that’s a lot easier to say than it is to practice. I have some friends who are pretty adamant that praying “in faith” in circumstances like this is to pray boldly, nearly demanding that God will bring healing — as if such language is indicative of the pray-er’s great faith in God’s ability to heal. I get that (sort of), but to me, it takes so much MORE faith to say, “Lord, you know what I want and how I want all of this to play out, but I trust you in this situation no matter what.” That seems to be the whole point of Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer the night before He died. And I think that same sentiment is present in your friend’s prayer, too.

  2. LucyP says:

    Jason, I really appreciate your post here. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who was wondering about the faith we claim. She made a statement assuming that my REASON for my faith was because it had worked out for good in my own life…how it gave me peace and comfort, how it made MY life better. It made me realize how I needed my faith to go beyond that…I want to BELIEVE regardless of how it affects me personally, because I am part of a Kingdom. And being in a Kingdom doesn’t always mean that everything works out best in all the personal details of my life; it’s about how my life feeds into the community. It’s really difficult b/c I’m not sure I’m there yet. If I faced great personal challenges, these heartbreaking ones that come up in all our lives, I’m not sure if I wouldn’t ask “What was in it for me?” of my faith. I hope that I can grow beyond that self-focused faith and I appreciate your post for reminding me of that! Love to you, Sunny and the family!

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