I was reading an article about unanswered prayers. In that article, the author attempts to suggest some reasons why prayers remain unanswered, and how we should pray in order for our prayers to get answered. The author cites the Lord’s Prayer and attempts to distill some principles from it as a model. One key principle the author claims is that we should hallow God in our prayers, otherwise we will be praying self-centered prayers, and that may be the reason why a person’s prayers does not get answered. The author cites the passage of James 4:2-3 where James writes in his epistle to his audience that even when they ask, they do not receive because they ask with wrong motives. The author makes the point that even seemingly godly prayers like the author’s own asking for God to change his children could be self-centered in nature as it does not focus on the kingdom of God.
I have mixed feelings when reading the article. On the one hand, I am desperate for God to answer my prayers, especially with regards to physical healing of some of my chronic illnesses. Thus, I just hope to apply whatever the author is recommending so that God will answer my prayers for healing. I figure also that it couldn’t hurt to focus more on the aspect of hallowing God when I pray. I believe that I do indeed try to hallow God’s name when I pray. I would ask God to heal me because I believe that he is an all-powerful, merciful, and loving God. But perhaps I might have left out the part about asking for God’s kingdom to come, and that his will be done, or something like that. If praying that would make my prayer more effective, I would certainly do it.
On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that this suggestion of having to pray for God’s kingdom or otherwise my prayers are self-centered is legalistic and artificial. I hope I am not being overly-cynical, but it sounds to me that God is scrutinizing my prayers such that if I don’t add a particular phrase or clause, he will foul me and not consider my prayer requests. It doesn’t matter whether my prayers are heartfelt, or sincere, or whether I am pleading with God most earnestly, because if I haven’t hallowed God’s name, or asked for his will or kingdom to come, I am being self-centered in my prayers.
Personally, I have a different conception of how God is like, or how I think he should be. I conceive of God as loving and sympathetic to our needs, and even our desires. I like the idea in the bible of how we should think of God as our Father, and we his children. Some of the bible passages I favor about prayer are those like Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus was telling his audience that just as we as human parents know how to give good things to our children, so much so will God, the Father give good things to those who ask of him. As such, rather than a legalistic God who would make such demands on the way we pray, I would believe that God is keener on trying to meet our prayer requests for our needs, even if they may be self-interested (or more negatively put, “self-centered”). I can accept the point about how God desires that we as Christians should want to advance God’s kingdom and do his will, but I am quite adverse towards the idea that I must have such desires first before God will consider meeting my needs. And to be honest, I often don’t feel that the advancement of God’s kingdom or doing his will is at the topmost of my mind. I don’t even feel like praying for this actually, because the concerns for my own needs or wants can be pretty overwhelming. It can seem forced for me to have to conform to this idea that I have to do those, so that God will answer my prayers.
Perhaps I might be overly-cynical by saying that the God that the author describes is legalistic and demanding. I know the author means well with his article, but this are my thoughts about it at the moment.