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When Prayer Is Really Prayer

May 18, 2020

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:2a, 3 NLT

More than any loving father you and I could know, God wants to have a close, loving, and growing relationship with His children. Of course, that happens through communication, so the communication must be growing, truly connected, and authentic. A primary means of communication is prayer.

Just as a casual “Hey, what’s up?” “Not much—you?” exchange between you and your child doesn’t do much to grow your connection, simply giving a nod to God in a routine, perfunctory prayer doesn’t do much for us. That’s probably the most common reason why prayer is disappointing and not a lifeline for us as God intended. We’re in a hurry, can’t concentrate, and we just do the bare minimum. Grace at meals, night-time prayers, when we leave on a trip—the kinds of prayers we can say without even thinking are the prayers we typically pray. The relationships you value most are the ones where the other person actually seeks you out to have real conversation and listens to your heart. It is exactly that way with God. The relationship can’t be treasured and central at the level God or you really desire until it moves from routine into a vital relationship through prayer.

A second reason our prayer life disappoints us originates in why we pray. I think most of us would admit that our prayer life beefs up when we need something. We may not have prayed much for quite a while, but when we need something or want something, we give God our list and put it on the prayer chain. We cry and anguish over why God doesn’t hear our prayers. James says it’s because we are praying from wrong motives. We aren’t talking to God because we love Him—we love what He can do for us, and we want Him to do it. Now.

A God who truly knows that our best is wrapped up in having an authentic, close relationship with Him has to disrupt that routine. He knows it is not the path to what we really need and desire. He will repeatedly invite us into a relationship that is real.

  • Spend some time with God today just telling Him about your desire to be close to Him. Tell Him about the things that really matter to you, but no grocery list.
  • Talk to Him all throughout the day about every good thing that comes to your mind. Gratitude is the healthiest human emotion. Thank Him for every good thing you experience. You will feel very close to Him as you do.