Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you can sense as they talk that they are just telling you what you want to hear?
When we first started dating, and after I got a particularly vicious sunburn, Lindsay told me that she really liked super pale guys. I mean, I get it, we were young and flirty. But no one in the history of the world has ever wanted to go the beach with the guy who re-lathers 75 SPF sunscreen every 30 minutes. She told me that because she thought it would make my sunburn sting a little less, and I knew it.
We often do the same thing when we pray to God. We pray grandiose prayers that we think God wants to hear, even if we’re not all that interested personally. We pray for starving children in Africa or families displaced by natural disasters when 99% of our thoughts are really focused on self-serving prayers. We know God wants us to pray for those things, so we add them to our lists. We rightly feel that it’s necessary to consider those who are less fortunate than us because they are the people God is concerned about, but it’s not their suffering that keeps us awake at night - it’s our own.
Here’s the truth. Your prayers aren’t fooling God. He knows what’s really on your heart and mind.
Fundamentally, prayer is a meeting of persons. It is you, speaking in the power of the Spirit, with Christ as your Advocate, to God the Father. It’s an interpersonal dance with the Trinity. It means that, before anything else, your prayers must be honest.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is no use to ask God with a fictitious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with the desire for B. We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”
That doesn’t mean you only concern yourself with yourself and strictly pray for yourself.
It simply means that we don’t pretend our hearts are somewhere they aren’t. God doesn’t want your words, He wants your heart.
So if you find that almost all your desires are self-centered, here are three prayers for you.
One of the most frequent prayers of repentance that I pray is, “Lord, forgive me for making my life about me.” When I’m not careful, my thought life is almost exclusively about my personal benefit. Every prayer I say is about God blessing me. That’s not healthy! If you notice that you only pray for self-serving / benefiting prayers, repent.
2. Change my desires
We can’t change our own desires. We want what we want. BUT, God can change us. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ. A prayer that God is pleased with sounds like, “God, help me desire what you desire: that people would know your love, grace, and glory. Help me care about people the way that you care about them.”
3. Help me want to want…
I’ve found that it’s not natural for me to be others-focused first. In fact, it’s not natural for me to even want to be others-focused. Therefore, an honest prayer for me sounds like, “God, help me want to want this thing…” Praying that way allows me to have a real assessment of where my heart is at, and to beg God to change it.
It’s unbelievable grace that, in our brokenness and selfishness, God still wants us to pray to Him. He desires a relationship with us where we can approach His throne. Live within that grace and just be honest. Tell God what’s in your heart, and if you find that your heart is full of self-centeredness, pray for God to change it.