The Heart With Which We Come

Anokina Shahbaz, Volunteer Writer, Huntley | January 17, 2024

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 
James 4:3

He must become greater; I must become less. 
John 3:30

Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” I don’t exactly picture God laughing when we go to Him in prayer and pour our hearts out, but I do see Him smiling sympathetically at our meager attempts to do life right. I can’t count the number of times I have repented for the same sin, asking for strength to try again, this time without the sin part.

The thing about going to God in prayer that many of us may not think about is not what we say when we’re praying or what happens during the time we pray. It’s how we show up to pray in the first place—the heart with which we come before God and our motives. Before we ever kneel or close our eyes or clasp our hands together, we must examine our goal for prayer. Are we approaching God in order to ask for something that will benefit us? Are we intending to give Him our laundry list of needs with the expectation that He should meet them all?

It’s easy to forget that God desires our heart above all—not our wallet, good deeds, or more sacrifices. When I find that my prayers are not being answered, even after years of knocking, I have to stop and ask myself: when was the last time I prayed simply to know God more? When was the last time I left my agenda behind and sought His will for my life? Because when we pray as a means to our own ends, we are not seeking God’s plans to prosper us and give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). We are looking to “spend what [we] get on [our] pleasures.”

This is not to say we can never ask God for miracles, healing, or help with a specific situation. But James 4:3 reminds us that we need to keep our motives in mind when we pray. In a world designed to keep us focused on ourselves and our challenges and woes, deliberately turning our attention back to God and seeking His will is no small feat. The more we do this, the less we will find ourselves in endless cycles of recurring sins. And that seems like something that would surely make God smile.

Next Steps

  • Spend some time this week reflecting on your motives for prayer and consider whether they prioritize your agenda or God’s will.
  • Practice devoting small moments throughout the day to just tuning in to the Holy Spirit without expecting anything in return.