Motive merits careful examination
Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader and director of media and communications, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave:
Certain prayers may indeed be sinful, depending on one’s motives. James, the brother of Jesus and one of the leaders of the early church, wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3, NIV). One of the aims of the Christ-like life is to shift one’s focus from one’s self to other people and to serving God and the aims of his kingdom — to pray like those James criticizes is clearly self-centered, and un-Christlike.
But in his letter to the Philippian church, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7, NIV). Jesus himself prayed on the eve of his crucifixion (Luke 22:42) that he might be spared the suffering that would follow. In that particular case, God’s answer was “no,” but the principle stands, nonetheless — God invites us to bring our anxieties about life to him in prayer.
In Psalm 103, we see that God understands our frailties and the realities of our lives: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV). My suggestion is to fear God, and pray as you will.
— Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at email@example.com.The Rev. Shaun LePage, pastor, Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road:
Scriptures ask that we pray honestly
The Rev. Shaun LePage, pastor, Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road:
I sometimes wonder if any other kind of prayer is possible! I’ve prayed that classic, one-word, selfish prayer a million times: “Help!”
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said to pray for ourselves — for daily bread. For forgiveness. For protection. According to the Bible, God wants us to pray honestly. Look at Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
We’re told to “let (our) requests be made known to God.” Put it out there! Get honest with God! He knows what you want anyway, so why not say it out loud?
But let me balance this. We can’t ignore the context of Bible promises and think God is a giant vending machine and if we drop in the right coins (i.e., prayers) we get what we want. The Bible tells us “... if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Our prayers must be “according to his will.”
The most important thing is what God wants. He has the big picture. He knows best. He always does what is best. If your prayer is best he’ll say yes. If it is not best he’ll say no or wait. If we’re serving him and living according to his revealed “will” (the Bible), he desires to support us. He wants to give us what we need.
So pray. Ask for what you want and need. But also get your nose in an open Bible and find out what God wants for you, your family, the church and the world. Then pray “according to his will.”
— Send e-mail to Shaun LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org.