Proper Motivation in Prayer

How do you know if you are praying with the right motivation?

I was recently asked the following question…

We are hung up on praying that God allow us to save money for a bigger house in the future. We are afraid, “Is that selfishly motivated?” We’re both confused as to what we’re allowed to pray for and how to do that without “selfishness” blurring the lines, i.e. the house, our future.

How would you answer?

Improper motives are clear hindrance to prayer as these passages reveal.

James 4:2–3 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV)

Matthew 6:5–6 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (ESV)

A self-focused, selfish prayer robs prayer of power because it reveals the true desire of our hearts.

It is true that we can have wrong motivations, selfishness for both good things and not so beneficial things.  Saving money, buying a car, buying a bigger house–are the kind of decisions that require ruthlessly honest self-evaluation.

Some want a new car or bigger house–for status, sense of significance, self-exaltation (so other people think they are “something”).

So first you have to ask yourselves the questions,

 Why do we want a larger house?

This will require that you drill down to heart motivations.

Then you need to ask yourself–can we be content without it?  That is not to say you shouldn’t get it, if you would be content without it.  But more, that you understand that possessions are not where contentment comes from.

Another helpful line of questions or means of self-diagnosis are related to generosity.  As you seek to save (which is a stewardship issue) the question is,

“Do I remain generous”
or “Does my goal make me stingy”?

The following passage is also helpful in guiding your thought pattern.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (ESV)

Notice, it’s fine to enjoy God’s blessing—the command is not, “give it all alway” but to be rich in good works—to be generous and to share, with an eternal perspective.  Finding the balance between owning something and being owned by it is always a challenge.  Life is about stewardship not ownership.

Author: Steve

I love to study the Bible and I love to engage with others in learning. I had been privileged to do this on a regular basis through church ministry and through part-time teaching at a local Bible colleges. Helping individuals learn to feed themselves through their own study of God’s Word is joy-giving to me. Influencing groups to do life and church from a biblically grounded, theologically faithful perspective is my passion.


  1. I resonate with the challenge of owning something vs. being owned by it. Our things can easily consume our time, and I am seeing the blessing in learning to live with less.

  2. Very true. Learning to live with less challenges not only our cultural preoccupation with comfort, but probably more with easy tendency to compare.

    And don’t we normally compare ourselves to those with more not less?

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