Why You Pray Is More Important Than What You Pray For


The next time you pray, think about your motive. Are you willing to share with others what you’re asking God for?

“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 NIV).

If you expect God to bless your life, you must be willing to bless other people’s lives with the same benefits God has given to you. One of the conditions for answered prayer is a willingness to help those less fortunate with the blessings that we are given. 

Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (NIV). God says if we ignore those who are in obvious difficulty around us, what right do we have to expect him to bail us out?

God wants us to be like him, and God is love. One of the ways we prove we have love is that we’re willing to be generous toward other people. The principle of stewardship is repeated throughout Scripture: God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to other people. 

For instance, we might ask God for good health, but what are we going to do with that healthy body after we’ve got it? Are we praying just to help ourselves, or are we praying so we can help other people, too? When we ask God to bless our businesses or careers, are we willing to give back a portion of what God has blessed us with? 

The Bible says in James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Motive is important in prayer. Why you pray is more important than what you pray for.

Is it possible to pray for the right thing with the wrong motive? Sure. I’m not saying you should never pray for your own personal needs. Jesus says to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In Mark 11, he says you can even pray for your desires. But you have to check your motive. Are you willing to share your blessing with other people, or are you going to hoard it all to yourself?

God is not interested in simply satisfying our selfishness. The conditions of prayer are an honest relationship with God, a forgiving attitude toward other people, and a willingness to share God’s blessings with other people. God loves us, so he’s teaching us how to pray in an effective way.

Talk It Over

  • How has God blessed you? How can you share those blessings with others?
  • During your next quiet time, think about your motive while you pray. Are you willing to share with others what you’re asking God for?

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This devotional © 2017 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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