A roadblock when it comes to prayer, is to focus too much on our own desires and self. The worst case would be to only pray for money or material possessions. Sometimes it can be more subtle however. For example, requesting prayer for God to simply send you a mate. For this example if we could really hear what God is speaking, he would be revealing areas in you to improve so that you could be a more worthy partner and able to make the other person happy! We would rather focus on 'getting' the right partner than making sure we have something to offer that person. To pray God’s will requires as receptiveness to what he is speaking. This is an open-mindedness to perspectives we may not have considered. Remember in the gospels when the Pharisees tried to trap Christ with their either-or dilemmas, he turned to a third option. His connection to God’s wisdom and receptivity to the Holy Spirit allowed him to see past the initial limited perspectives shown. We often limit God in our prayers. We are thinking with our brain, not in tune with the Spirit. What is the “carnal mind” Paul speaks of? The word “carnal” means “meat.” The carnal mind in our physical brain that is at war with God’s Spirit speaking to us. When we are in prayer, God will often show us a different perspective to the situation, but we block out and dismiss it; perhaps assuming it was a mere human thought and not realizing it was God speaking.
Lets take the money prayer as an example. Praying for money. It is not wrong for a destitute person to pray this. The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) includes the line “give us our daily bread.” When you already have enough to cover basic needs and bills however, then the prayer needs to change to a thanksgiving instead of request for more. At this level, you should be praying for God to reveal any person or ministry for you to give to financially. Also, rather than simply praying to be “blessed” with more money, pray that God will help you develop a strategy to gain more income and that he will lead you to resources so you can learn how to achieve this. Praying to be blessed materially is a lazy and mindless prayer. It may be answered by you getting unexpected access to more credit, which ends up being more of a bad thing than a good thing (“asking for quail”).
Then there are prayers which are not obviously selfish, but are not exactly God’s perfect will either. This can often be prayer for relatives. Suppose you have an uncle or cousin who is stubborn in refusing the gospel. You may pray over and over that God will bring them to salvation. The problem with this is that these can be false burdens and if you focus too much on them, you end up missing out on praying for the people God is actually trying to minister to. Just because someone is your friend or relative does not mean God is trying to reach them harder than anyone else. Its important to look out for where God is actually trying to work and pray over this. Maybe it is a person you don’t value or care for and never will.
On earth as it is in heaven
Praying God’s will is about praying earth’s order to match heaven’s pattern. What are some examples? On a global scale, a prayer that God will restore the apostolic like in the early church and take away confusion is an example. There has been plenty of confusion related to the apostolic. It sometimes happens that a senior person in ministry will title themselves as an apostle. The office of “bishop” is often used as a surrogate for the apostolic. In reality, a bishop’s only authority is to oversee finances in a local church, not to have authority over multiple churches. So this is an example where earth is misaligned with heaven’s pattern and is worth praying over. 1 Peter 4:17 says judgement begins with the house of God before the world. Praying for the church to come into alignment with God’s pattern is crucial if we want to be in step with God’s heart.
Praying for our ‘needs’
Suppose you go into a prayer meeting. They ask for what request people have. These will often be personal items. Perhaps someone is not feeling well, they have an unsaved child, or have exams coming up. A prayer meeting will be powerless and bogged down by all of this focus on our personal needs rather than praying God’s will. We should be praying for the revival to come, for Pentecost, for souls to be brought in, and for the kingdom to be established in our city. We need to learn to take authority over the events in our life, rather than always asking for someone to pray over it. You notice when you read the gospels, Christ never prayed for anyone to be healed, he spoke the word and watched it manifest. When it comes to personal needs, it is better to speak the word and take authority over the situation rather than pray and hope. The more “self” that can be removed from the bulk of prayer, the more powerful it becomes. Personal requests should be a low minority of time in prayer. In Acts 2, the apostles were with one accord praying to receive the power from on high. Imagine what would have happened if they were praying mostly for each others needs instead of for the Holy Spirit? Acts would have been a short uneventful book of this were the case. Likewise, in modern times we are missing out on a lot of power by cluttering our prayer life and prayer meetings with personal requests and needs, taking our eyes off the mission of establishing the kingdom.
The get an idea of the self-centeredness our religion has become, look at the revelation of the power of faith. It is always taught with a material focus such as if you have a high level of faith you can make large material purchases and God’s provision will come. It is this welfare idea of wanting material things for “free” or cheap without wanting to provide value to society. Imagine how much more powerful this would be if faith and persistence were taught to receive spiritual gifts, a close relationship with God, Holy Spirit power. What if instead of having faith God will give you finances, you instead prayed in faith that he would make you a great giver of finances? We need to use the power of faith first for ministry before trying to use it for our personal lives. Many of the megachurch leaders like to boast of how their wealth has come from their level of faith. It is easy to have faith when you have an audience of millions which is hungry to buy your books and donate. The book of James says faith without works is dead. That means if you are wanting “receive” a house/vehicle and not willing to work for it, your faith is powerless. We need to get out of thing mindset of wanting to be blessed and instead have faith to become empowered in ministry and also as a person. It is true, God does not want us to be poor. When we are poor we are dependant on taking other resources and unable to give back as much. When a person has a higher income, they are paying more to society in taxes compared to what they get back, thus fulfilling the principle “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Rather than expecting heavenly handouts however, have faith that God will help you improve and develop a skill to offer the world in exchange for more material success. Faith is to receive empowerment to bless and minister to others according to your own gift. Putting our own material needs and wants first leads to an imbalance where we begin to seek and do the opposite of what Christ taught. Everything in the gospel is about how to serve and put others first. Wanting to be blessed with the fruits of others labour for “free” means you expect others to be your servant. This is the problem with the faith movement the way it is commonly taught. It is a man-centered religion based on trying to figure out how we can access God’s power to benefit our personal desires. We need to spend more time looking for what God is doing, what is on God’s heart, what bothers or offends God, what is God wanting you to change in your life or ministry? We need to get less caught up in our “needs” and start chasing after God’s heart and his priorities.