And even when you ask, you don’t get [what you want] because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:3 NLT)
How often do we think about our motives when we come to God in prayer? And even if we are conscious of our motives, and even if they’re pure in an earthly sense, do we stop to think about them in an eternal sense?
It is pretty natural to pray for what will “give us pleasure”. We want to have certain things. We want to avoid certain experiences. We want things wrapped up nicely in a bow so we can feel good. But in some situations, our momentary pleasure is not eternally helpful. And often we won’t even understand why because only God can see the whole timeline of our life in one glance. Only he knows which answer to this prayer will keep us on the path he has set out for us.
Imagine taking your child to the doctor. Maybe they are sick and the doctor needs to draw blood to test for an illness. Your child does not like how that sounds and begs and pleads with you not to let them do it. Your heart aches for the temporary pain your child will feel. Your heart aches that you can’t just give them what they want. Their motives aren’t wrong. They don’t want to feel pain! But you know the big picture. You know that the pain they will feel will pass and knowing the result of the blood draw is of more value than avoiding the pain.
At this point, offering an explanation to your child won’t help. They will not understand and they will likely be mad at you for a time. But because you love them, you can’t let them skip over this experience. You know it’s long term importance.
Just as our children’s best interest is in our hands, we must leave ours in God’s. We must trust God and know that he loves us more than anything and has our eternal best interest in mind through it all.
When we pray, we can be honest with God about what we want. We can cry out for the answer we desire. (He knows anyway.). But ultimately our prayer must end with “not my will but yours”. That is the only way our motives will be completely pure.
And I don’t know about you, but when it’s all said and done, I’d certainly rather have things done his way than my way!
As Jesus prayed: “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39 NLT)