Your Prayers Reflect Your Priorities
What do you really want from Jesus?
Think about the question. It seems simple but your answer is important. What do you ask Jesus for? What are you praying about? What are you not praying about but really want? What is your greatest hope that Jesus might give you? Is it a success or a new career? Is it more money or a better relationship? What is the focus of your time with God?
What are you asking of God, the King of Kings, your Lord and Master?
Do you have your answer?
Good, now ask yourself another question.
What does really Jesus want for you? What does the Bible set out as God’s desires for your life? What is His greatest hope for you? What does the life of a successful disciple of Jesus look like?
Do you have your answers to #1 and #2?
Great, now compare the two results. Are your prayers the same as Jesus’ for you? Is what you want for you the same as what Jesus wants for you? Are they in any way similar? Is what you want from Jesus the same as what He wants for you?
Do your prayers reflect Jesus’ heart and His call on your life? Or do they show your heart and your call on your own life?
Your Will is not God’s Will
Your prayers and God’s desires for you are often greatly different. It is understandable given our makeup. Jesus says you should love others as you love yourself. This is often mistakenly applied to mean you need to love yourself to love others. This is not Jesus’ point. He means each person is born with an instinctual self-involvement that dictates our actions. You are born crying for food, sleep, and attention for yourself. Most kid’s earliest words after “mom” or “dad” are “no” and “mine”. All of these early vocalizations are statements of self – “my mom, my dad, I want that, and that is mine”. This continues more subtly as you get older. Who is the first person you look for in a group photo you are in? You, right? Everyone else in your family photo may look great but how do you feel if you look less than your best? Your feelings and self-esteem vary but man is constantly preoccupied with taking care of self.
An obsession with you seems like something you leave behind when you get saved. Yet, with many, it continues after coming to Christ. You are still all about you, just with a Christian flavor. The same natural desire to take care of self can be the motivating core of your Christian life. It is the same focus on you that defined your pre-Christian life….but now with Christian ideals mixed in.
Are You Denying Self?
Jesus says “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” This is meant to be the core direction for His disciples. Yet, subtle self-involvement wars against this simple call.
The Christian life can become all about you. It is about what you can achieve in Christ, what your gifts are, how Jesus can deliver you, whether you are comfortable with the message and what you want in your Christian life. You say you are a servant of Christ but your service is all about personal improvement and gratification – You, You, You. Your Christian walk becomes much like a self-improvement seminar.
This is why examining your prayers is so telling. If your conversation with the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth is centered on you there is something wrong. If your prayer life with God is similar to approaching a vending machine with a coin demanding a treat of your choice, you are missing out on the real experience of Jesus.
God wants to bless His children but the only real blessings are according to His will. “Deny yourself” is His starting point. Jesus wants to grow you in Him but this only begins when you are submitted to and focused on Him…not you.
Not So Among You
Jesus says this self-centered focus on life is normal for the world. It is what people do when they don’t have God. The leaders among the Gentiles lord it over the regular folks. It is also what you fight against once you become a Christian. The greatest among Jesus’ disciples is the one who serves everyone else. The first is the one who puts themselves last and gives their life as a ransom for many just like Jesus. This is not a result of your will but God’s will at work in you.
Are you treating Jesus like a genie there to grant you your greatest desire? Many Christians do just that every day. It is understandable. People are generally very concerned about themselves. It is not what Jesus calls great in His Kingdom.
Do you want to be great in Jesus’ Kingdom? Then ask how to be last rather than first. The original disciples had just as hard of a time with these ideas as we do.
Me First, Lord
James and John are the brothers nicknamed “The Sons of Thunder” by Jesus. They are filled with passion and enthusiasm for their lives as disciples. This gets them in trouble. These are the two who ask Jesus if they should call down fire on the village that rejected Jesus. Their zeal outpaced their understanding at times.
This is particularly apparent when they get their mom to do their bidding. In the Gospel of Matthew, you see them put their mom up to asking Jesus for a favor.
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
James and John are doing what people do. They are angling for position, power, and reward. They are trying to get to Jesus first and bargain with Him so they get the best rewards when Jesus comes into His Kingdom.
Notice they are doing things correctly in appearances.
They are praying to God. They respect Jesus as King in concept. They are even kneeling down in a position of worship as they speak to Jesus.
Yet, where is their focus?
They are concerned only for themselves. They are on their knees before Jesus in an outward position of submission. Yet, all they can think about is getting their desires met. They are using Jesus like a vain person uses a mirror. Their request reflects the selfish nature of their service to Him. They want to be sure to get the best reward out of it.
They are not alone in this. Have you noticed a favorite past time of the early disciples? It was arguing about who was the greatest. They do so even at the Last Supper. Jesus will die for them in a few short hours and they can’t stop feeding their own egos and wants. They are human, like you and I.
How Could They Be So Blind?
It is easy to look at their example and chuckle. Jesus had just told them about His upcoming death and resurrection. He just taught them about the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. That is all about service and trusting in God’s reward.
How could they be so foolish and self-involved with Jesus?
Let’s return to the questions that started our inquiry. What are you praying for? Honestly, what are your most often requests to Jesus?
You probably find yourself right alongside James, John and their mom asking for perks from Jesus. Jesus please give me wealth, security, comfort, growth, victory over sin…all for me.
Jesus laid out the pattern for prayer in the Lord’s prayer. It is a marked contrast to man’s usual prayer. It is more than just words you should repeat before Thanksgiving. In it, Jesus shows us what you should be asking of Him.
Your Kingdom Come
Your will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven.
How do you stop focusing your Christian life on you? By asking Jesus to change your heart and mind to match His heart and mind.
Do you earnestly desire God’s kingdom to come into your life – even if it looks different than your plans?
Do you seek to understand God’s will for you or simply look for His power to do what you want to do?
Do you pray for God’s will to be done in your life – even if it destroys your plans?
Is God your co-pilot or your Lord?
Prayer is an alignment of your will with God’s. It is not meant to put God in a position to be a divine vending machine. You don’t put a prayer in and get a reward. You seek to understand God’s will for your life and His power to carry that out.
Jesus says if you wish to be great, you must be a servant. If you want to be first, you must your slave and give your life as a ransom for many. This is perhaps the most important concept to understand if you want to live the best Christian life possible.
Whose will does a Christian servant carry out? Whose orders does a Christian slave look for?
James and John sought to flip the authority structure in the relationship with Jesus. They sought power and reward according to man’s judgment. Joel Osteen promises if you have enough faith and give enough money to him, you can have the life you want now. Many churches offer sermons on self-improvement and social consciousness to make you a success in business and community.
Jesus offers none of that.
He simply counters by saying follow me and I will show you the eternal glory of God.
The world doesn’t need more expressions of self or personal achievement. It needs more Jesus through you.
His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven!