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Praying With The Wrong Heart Doesn’t Move God

Christians pray all the time for all kinds of reasons. This is good! Did you know though that you can pray with the wrong heart and find that God won’t be pleased?

I know this because of Scriptures that I have been reading. Here is one example of a parable from Jesus in Luke 18:10-14a, the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like all other men – robbers , evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”

What struck me this time is that the Pharisee is praying to God, with the belief that God is pleased with his prayer. But God is not pleased and in fact rejects the prayer.

Another very sobering passage is found in James 4:3. James writes, “And even when you do ask (God), you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.”

So heart motive is something that is crucial in our prayer life. Now understand this: no one prays perfect prayers. This is not about never asking God for something for ourselves, because like any loving father, He wants to bless us. The key difference here is heart attitude.

Praying with a right heart is essential because God is looking for believers to express a sincere motive. But we can certainly miss it for a variety of reasons.

Samuel was the leading prophet in Israel at a time when God wanted him to anoint a king to replace Saul, the current ruler. So in 1 Samuel 16, the Lord tells Samuel that he is to go to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons to be king. When Samuel enters the home and sees Eliab, he immediately reasons that this is the chosen son. But here is the Lord’s response in verse 7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

Even a great prophet who is close to God can miss it, when looking at things not related to the heart.

Proverbs 21:2 really gets to the heart of the matter. “People may think they are doing what is right, but the Lord examines the heart.” People may think they are doing what is right! This phrase is one of the main issues and problems in the American church today. It is expressed in the way Christians pray. This trend is to pray what “they” think is right and expect God to hear and answer affirmatively.

But now we come to a significant question. How do I know what is on the Father’s heart? The truth is God is listening when we pray, but He wants that humble, open heart where we say “not my will, but yours be done.” Or we pray for Jesus’ kingdom to come.

To say it differently, before you ask God to do something in prayer, do you ask Him if you are praying according to His will? I hope we all do! Otherwise God would be pleased with those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, took over Congress, and prayed while sitting in the Speaker’s chair.

This in my view is the most egregious example of praying with the wrong motive. How can God answer prayers of those who used violence, injuring police, breaking the Law, and then act with a twisted view of righteous indignation. This is prayer deception at its worst!

Our attitude should always be Psalm 119:18. “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law.” Do we come to the Lord and Scripture with this heart motive or do we pray with selfish and prideful actions.

There is a wonderful Scripture chorus we have sung for years in church. Some of the lyrics go “open the eyes of my heart Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.”

It is time we reevaluate our heart’s motive when we pray. Because, if we are praying with the wrong heart, then God will not be moved to answer. Then if we see some kind of an answer it will be something other than the Lord. That my friends is a very frightening thought!

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