God First: Praying God-Centered Versus Man-Centered Prayers
In my 10 years of discipling women, one of the biggest concerns on their hearts is always their prayer life. Most of them feel inadequate. They want to be sure that God hears them and that they are approaching Him in the right way. If we are being honest, most of us have probably wondered the same things at some point in our Christian walk and if we are putting God first.
One of the things that the Lord has graciously taught me, and I have tried hard to impress upon the women I disciple as well as my four children, is for us to be sure we are praying God-centered prayers versus man-centered prayers.
For the sake of clarification, God-centered prayers are God focused and put God first and His will first. Man-centered prayers are focused on self and put our earthly desires first.
“Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. The great purpose of prayer is to come humbly, expectantly, and – because of Jesus – boldly into the conscious presence of God, to relate to him, talk with him, and ultimately enjoy him as our great Treasure.” (C.S. Lewis)
God-Centered in the Scriptures
When we look at the famous Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), in which Jesus used to teach His disciples to pray, we see the focus solely on our Lord.
He starts out with praising God’s holy name, asking His will to be done, and closes with adoration to the Lord. The only petitions are for Him to provide the needs for the day, to forgive us of sin, and to keep His servants from temptation.
I am not purposing that we are never to pour out our hearts to God or ask Him for anything because we are told to “cast all cares upon Him because He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7) and we are encouraged by Jesus to “ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7).
God-centered prayers are not so much about what we say but more about what is in our hearts.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ’God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.’” (James 4:36)
4 Questions to ask ourselves when trying to put God first
Based on this text in James 4, we can examine whether or not our prayers are God-focused by asking ourselves for questions.
- What is our motive? Do we go to God as C.S. Lewis says, “just to enjoy Him as our great Treasure” or are we only rushing in and out of His presence hoping to gain something for our own pleasure? Preacher Charlie Dates explains, “Prayer is not merely a way to get more things from God, but prayer is the way to get more of God Himself.” Our purpose in prayer should be just to spend time with our Savior and to draw nearer to Him.
- Are we putting other things before God? James uses strong language when he calls his audience “adulterous people”. However, this is a familiar term in the Bible meant for anyone engaged in idol worship. These days, we probably don’t have a tendency to bow before a statue. But, idols can creep up anywhere because an idol is anything we choose over God. Later on, in the same chapter of James, he encourages believers to “cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, and to mourn and weep over sin.” (4:8-9) A good way to be sure that idols aren’t creeping in and that we aren’t putting anything before God, is to pray with the Psalmist in Psalm 19, “ Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (How to Keep a Clean Heart-Psalm 19)
- Are we praying in the Spirit? Praying in the Spirit is praying in complete submission and acceptance to the will of God. Paul says in Romans 8:25-28 that often in our weakness, we don’t know what we ought to pray for but that the Spirit searches our minds and hearts and makes intercession on our behalf. If we are praying in the right motive, we are not praying as friends of the world but know we approach in complete trust and confidence in a God who “jealously longs for the things of the Spirit.” Sometimes, this is a quiet, still sitting in the presence of God and sometimes it’s just us praying scripture back to God. However, it looks, it is completely God focused, because it is the Holy Spirit in charge of our prayer life.
- Are we approaching God with humility? God is a loving Father, but He is also a Mighty King. He deserves us to humbly approach Him with an attitude and posture of confession, praise, and thanksgiving. The good news is that our Lord is full of grace. He knows our struggle between spirit and flesh. He is always “giving favor to the humble”. So, if we have had wrong motives, all we have to do is confess and He is “faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Closing thoughts on putting God first
The best thing about prayer is that we are communicating with a forgiving and merciful God. He longs to commune with us in prayer and will correct us through the power of His word and Holy Spirit. So, don’t worry so much about the prayer as you are focused on the One you are praying to, that after all, is God-centered praying!
And, since prayer is a spiritual discipline, just do it, and do it often. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is a spiritual commerce with the Creator of heaven and earth.” — Charles H. Spurgeon
A Prayer for putting God first
Lord, keep our hearts and minds focused on You. Forgive us when we approach prayer as a means to get our way and not just to spend time in Your presence. We want more of You, God. We want to grow a prayer life that pleases, honors, and glorifies you by keeping You central. Amen.
Arrica is a follower of Jesus, church planting wife, and homeshooling mom of 4. Her passion is discipling women and in particularly moms. She writes at a http://www.achildshallleadthemblog.wordpress.com and prays she can help other Mommas find joy in their motherhood while serving their Savior.