Here are some ideas on how to refocus our prayers when we find ourselves always telling God the latest thing we really want.

How to do this prayer practice:

1.  Ask God to help you see the difference between your wants and your needs.

When we go to God in prayer what are we praying for?  Our wants?  Our needs?  Stuff we really don’t need?  Ask yourself these two questions.  Are we being selfish with our prayers?  If what we want is at the store with a price tag on it, why are we praying for that thing…when praying for others is so much more important?

In 1990 my dream came true…well, what I thought was the ultimate dream at the time.  It was time to buy a new car, my first brand new car, and I headed to the car dealership with one thought in mind: I will own a Chevrolet Cavalier.  Yep, I had it all figured out.  That was the car I could afford and I was going to own one.  When I got to the dealership my life was changed.

At the dealership, a place where my parents had traded cars for a number of years, the owner’s son gave me this life changing sentence: “For the price of a Cavalier you could have a Camaro.”  The Chevy Camaro; my personal definition of a muscle car.  The Camaro was sleek, powerful, rock solid in corners at 60 miles an hour, and a rocket sled on wheels.  On top of that I could get the car in Metallic Blue.  A Metallic Blue Camaro.  My car.   Wow!  I was in my 20’s and driving a sports car paid for with my own money.

I only kept the car for a few years.  It was necessary to part with the vehicle I had dubbed the “Drum Machine” (because of its unique license plate “DRUMIN 7”) because of changes in life.  I missed that car and gave up hope of ever owning another one…until 2009…when the secret from the Transformer’s movie was revealed.  The Camaro was coming back!

So here I sit.  The 5th generation of the Camaro has been reintroduced and I want one.  Recently, my 13 year old Honda Accord coughed up her transmission.  Yep, “Gertrude” has since slipped into a coma because she won’t shift out of 2nd gear on her own.  (Here’s where the prayer stuff comes in.)  Being a believer in the power of prayer and the fellowship with God that it brings, I started praying for another car.  I had to have another car.  There is no way my wife and I can survive on one car because we go in complete opposite directions first thing in the morning.  Kelly heads south and I go north.  We have to be on opposite ends of the city at the same time.  As I started to pray for another car the Spirit convicted me on how to pray.  I started praying for God to provide for our need.  I want a 5th generation Camaro.  God provided a ’93 Buick LeSabre…with 64,000 miles on it.  Dave Ramsey would be proud.

I’m like most Christians in the West.  I went to God and prayed for what I perceived to be an important need.  God gave me an object lesson when I was praying for car needs versus car wants.

2.  Instead of praying for wants, pray that God to be at work in your life and in the lives of others.

Let me introduce you to Wade and Katie.  Wade and Katie, friends of my wife Kelly, are missionaries in a foreign country and post reports about their lives on the mission field to their friends and prayer partners.  The following is an excerpt from one of their posts.  This is a clear example of praying for needs versus wants.  This event occurred on the last night of a week-long mission trip outside of their village into neighboring towns:

“The last night we were there, it was the biggest crowd yet.  The students boldly testified to those present to follow Jesus and how God has changed them.  During that time of testifying we told people who were sick or in pain to come forward that we could pray for them.  To my knowledge all were immediately touched by God.  When asked who was healed by God that night about 10 or so hands shot up for the glory of God.  We then called for those who were of the church or had given their lives in our time with them to come forward that we can pray for them.  About half came forward.  We laid hands on them praying for God’s fire on their lives, His glory to be revealed and for them to follow Jesus with all their hearts.  I was touched by people as many times they would grab my hands and put them on their foreheads to be prayed for…. such a breakthrough we saw in the hunger, and the spirit of fear being broken.”

Another posting:

Yesterday, we (the students, Lalas and I) went to the hospital.  I took Caleb who has so been wanting to come for some time.  He was praying and praying for this time that ” a hundred people would be healed!”  I had to inform Caleb that I didn’t think there’s a hundred people in the hospital (then again maybe it’s close 🙂 ).  God indeed showed up and honored Caleb. He laid hands on an elderly woman on her chest who testified of pain (at that moment) in her chest and head. After he prayed for her, she said it was all gone and smiled!  We said we wanted the truth, she said again, the pain was gone.  Caleb smiled.  We went to another man, Caleb prayed over him, he said the pain in his head went down.  We saw a group of people who we had prayed over last week, they were smiling and testifying of what God had done, waiting to be released.  One woman was beaming, it was the one Abigail prayed over, her leg was probably two times bigger last week now it was normal and she was full of joy, showing us by giving a little run.  Another woman we’ve prayed over was also getting up and walking just to show us (she was bed ridden unable to walk for weeks before in chronic pain all pain left in prayer and hasn’t returned). 

Let me ask the question again, “What are you praying for?  Try the question this way, “For what are you praying?”  The miraculous, healing power of God has not departed this world.  The powerful prayers of the saints of God are heard by the One who created us and can heal His creation.

I can tell you that I am not praying for a Camaro.  I am praying for God to work; to heal, to provide for our needs, to deliver us from evil, to give us opportunities to minister to others and to continue His work on changing our hearts.   After reading what God is doing in the country where Wade and Katie are working I cannot bring myself to come anywhere near praying for a new Camaro.  An inanimate hunk of metal, plastic and rubber cannot satisfy me.  Seeing the power of God at work in the lives of other people brings the satisfaction that only God gives.  Seeing God move and heal the sick and broken makes more sense than praying for something I can live without.

3.  Pray that God will be glorified.

Wade made this comment about their students: “The students as well saw many healings, their faith has increased dramatically.  They are determined to see God be glorified in this way.”  What about you?  Are you determined to see God be glorified for answered prayer?  Or are you determined to get what you want from God?  Are you praying for you or are you praying for others with the assurance that God knows what your needs are and will “supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory”? (Philippians 4:19, HCSB)

The Apostle Paul gives a command regarding prayer, and it comes with a promise: Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, HCSB)

God’s promises are true.  He keeps His promises and none of them have been broken since the beginning of time.  Notice that Paul doesn’t say that our prayers will be immediately answered, but what is promised is “peace”.  The peace that comes from God and says “Your petition is before God, you have poured out my heart to Him, and you know He will answer.”  With that knowledge we can go on with our day resting in His peace, knowing that He is in charge.

4.  Change the “what” to “who” in your prayers.

So…what are you praying for?  For what are you praying?  Take a long, honest and hard look at your prayer life.  Look at what you are praying for and think about changing it over to “who” instead of “what”.

Change “what” to “who” and begin to give God the glory for the great things He is doing.  Begin to walk closer with God and some day we may post your story here about God’s miraculous wonders that were performed in the lives of others because of your devotion to prayer.  Walk closer with God.  Get to know Him.  You will then know what you are praying for.

Copyright David Shelton 2011 all right reserved; Quotes from Wade and Katie used by permission.