“Am I Praying Selfishly?”
a devotional by Claire Goyak
One of the things that I have been challenged to recently is deepen my prayer life, becoming more authentic in my prayers, as well as understanding the depth of it in being our means of communicating, communing, responding, encountering, and experiencing God.
I have been going through this book written by Tim Keller called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. I am only in the fifth chapter of the book, and it has been so convicting! The Lord has really opened my eyes to how I can be more intentional in how I pray, and ultimately, make sure my prayer is truly Christ-centered.
Now, “Christ-centered prayer” almost seems like an obvious thing…as if there wouldn’t be another way to pray, because you are, in fact, praying to God. But what the Lord has brought to my attention while reading this book by Keller is that there are moments that my prayers become selfish.
Sometimes, I think we get so caught up in our emotional needs and what we want to “get out” of prayer, that we miss the opportunity to put God, rather than our feelings, at the center of our prayers. I know personally, I have a habit of gearing my prayers towards what I am feeling or what I desire to experience for that time being; the problem with this is that prayer is not and should not be determined by what we want, but rather on God’s character and who He is. Keller explains:
“The nature of prayer is determined by the character of God, who is at once our friend, father, lover, shepherd, and king. We must not decide how to pray based on what types of prayer are the most effective for producing the experiences and feelings we want. We pray in response to God Himself.”
“We pray in response to God Himself” – so what does this look like in our daily lives? How do we respond to God, as well make sure our responses are of a selfless, Christ-centered posture?
We respond to God by intentionally seeking out a personal connection with Him; we do this by immersing ourselves within His holy Scriptures. Keller explains that through the Bible, God speaks to us, and in return, we respond to Him through prayer, allowing us to experience true communion and conversation with Him. Immersion in the Scriptures means we are actively listening, reading, reflecting, and thinking upon God’s Word, so much so that we are able to grasp and better understand the nature and character of the God that we serve. God has given us His Word, and He has also given us the opportunity to know Him more through His Word, know Him as our “friend, father, lover, shepherd, and king.” This…this “dive-in” in to the Scriptures…is truly when we can begin to selflessly respond to God, and it is when “God, not our feelings, is at the center” of our prayers.
This isn’t to say that God does not call us to come to Him in our times of trouble, worry, and hardship. All throughout Scripture, especially in the Psalms, we see a number of prayers where David, through his personal trials, pleads with the Lord. God openly invites us to go to Him during our times of need, and He wants to hear the cries and pleads of His children. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
And 1 John 5:14 states, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us.”
But notice the last part of that verse: “according to His will.” Even here, we are encouraged to pray not of our own will, but of the will of the Father.
“Prayer,” as Keller notes, “is all about learning to answer God.” So as we pray to the King of Kings, our Savior, and our Lord, may we be challenged to not get caught up in what we are looking to get out of prayer, or what we want to experience for our convenience; rather, may we humbly and selflessly respond to the character of who He is as our God and of what He has done for us.
“…if God is not the starting point, then our own perceived emotional needs become the drivers and sole focus of our prayer.”