Prayer Barriers: Wrong Motives

Daily Devotion | Day 298

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NKJV). 

God cares about motives. He cares about the motives behind our prayer, our words and our actions. We can hide our motives from people, but not from God. As we will find out today, motives affect the outcome of our prayer. The Lord wants our motives to be clean and genuine. He cannot participate in wrong motives. Therefore, when we ask Him for something, it matters why we’re asking.

We’ve previously identified four barriers to prayer. Today, we’ll talk about a fifth barrier: wrong motives. We’ll focus on what James says in today’s opening passage and find out what God wants to teach us. As always, remember that the purpose of this series is to help us become aware of obstacles to prayer and to be able to prevent their occurrence or to remove them if they occur.

James says, people ask and do not receive because they ask wrongly. It’s about motives. They ask so that they may indulge in worldly pleasures and satisfy their unbridled lusts. In 4:1-2, James tells us that these ungodly lusts are the underlying cause of envy and strife. In his own words, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (4:1).

James is writing to Christians. But let us not be surprised. We know that in some of our churches people quarrel and fight for money, position, attention and status. This phenomenon is fueled by greed, selfishness and wrong motives. God knows about this, and He doesn’t answer prayer requests which are associated with what James describes. Sometimes people think they can use God as a tool to further their ungodly lifestyle. They’re wrong.

Before we conclude today’s message, let’s look at an example from Jesus’ ministry. One day, as He was teaching someone pleaded with Him, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses”’ (Luke 12:13-15). Jesus declined the man’s request because He knew that he was motivated by greed and envy.

To sum up, God is happy to answer our prayer. But He will not sponsor requests based on wrong motives. Let us, therefore, keep our motives clean and genuine.

BlessingMay the Lord keep you from stumbling. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyMark 10:35-45

A Lesson from Elisha and Gehazi

Daily Devotional: Day 153

“But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him’” (2 Kings 5:20-21, NKJV).

July, 2007. I had just been ordained a Roman Catholic priest. Before I began my assignment as Associate Pastor, I needed to take driving lessons. My driving instructor was a young man, probably in his mid-30s. He was preparing for ministry in an evangelical church. One hot afternoon, while we were on the road, he sought my advice regarding the integrity of a man of God. His question was: “So, what should a man of God be more careful about, women or money?” “Money,” I replied. Surprised at my answer, he said, “Oh, I thought it would be women.” “No,” I replied. “Women are visible and human like us, so you can easily tell if a problem is approaching and advice yourself. But money neither talks nor walks. It has no face; it controls people through its invisible yet seductive power. You won’t even know you’re in love with it. Love of money is the greatest threat to the integrity of a man of God.” Our conversation continued, but I’ll spare you any further details. 

In today’s passage, the prophet Elisha heals Naaman, the commanding officer of the Syrian army. In gratitude, he offers Elisha a gift. Elisha declines. But Gehazi, unable to control his greed, pursues Naaman and takes gifts from him under the pretext of acting on the orders of Elisha. That was the end of Gehazi’s ministry. As further punishment, he was inflicted with the leprosy of Naaman. This story teaches us a lesson about greed and integrity in the service of God.

Greed is idolatry (cf. Colossians 3:5). Whatever a person is greedy about, that is his god. Greed is unbridled desire to pursue or possess things of the world. When it takes hold of people, it’s like a drug; people can’t let go, except by sincere repentance. Over time, if people don’t change, they become numb to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Recall the story of Judas. People will kill because of money. They will betray friendship because of money. For the sake of money, people will even make a covenant with satan. Inside the Church or outside it, the god of greed has many victims worshiping at its altar. 

Today, God wants you to be like Elisha, and not like Gehazi. He wants you to remember your calling in Christ Jesus and keep your focus on serving God with integrity.  No matter what your needs are, resist the temptation to compromise your relationship with God. Trust the good Father to provide for your needs. 

 May the Lord supply all your needs in accordance with His riches in glory in Christ Jesus! Amen.

 For further study: 2 Kings 5:1-27

The Eye-Body Connection: Part II

Daily Devotional: Day 120

Today’s message is a continuation of yesterday’s. We saw that the problem of a bad eye can be traced to the garden of Eden, where the serpent tempted Eve to look lustfully at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That look was so strong that it caused Eve to sin, followed by Adam. Soon after they sinned, the Bible says their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and fear gripped them upon hearing the voice of God (cf. Genesis 3:7-10). The first human sin occurred through lust of the eye. That should tell us something. Think about it: Jesus says the lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if the enemy wants to destroy you, one effective way is to put out your lamp.

If you want to walk with God, it is necessary that you learn to discipline your eye and restrain it from lustful affections. You can’t allow your eye to lust after everything ‘nice’ that flashes across you, because not all nice-looking things glorify God. You should be aware of the difference and steer your eye away from whatever can lead you into sin: sin of envy, greed, idolatry, jealousy, fornication, adultery, pride, hate, rivalry, etc. If the eye is left to lust after the wrong things, darkness will take over the body. From that point on, your body becomes vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Why? Because satan is attracted to darkness. In fact, he thrives in an environment of darkness.

In general, as Christians, we have underestimated the supernatural importance of our eyes and have given too much room for our eyes to flirt with the sinful pleasures of the world. The Bible calls this “the lust of the eye” (cf. 1 John 2:16), and says it is not from the Father, but from the world.

Listen to something else Jesus said about the eye, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29, bold emphasis added). If a simple lustful look aimed at someone who isn’t your wife (or husband) means you have united yourself to the person and committed adultery with her/him, it tells you how powerful the eye is, and why we need to keep it in check. Jesus isn’t asking you to physically pull out your eyes. The point He is making is that you should discipline your eye and bring it under total submission to the law of God, for it is better, if necessary, to lose an eye and be saved than for you to lose your whole body to hell.

There is one man in the Bible who understood the wisdom of this teaching and went so far as to make a covenant with his eyes. His name is Job. In his own words, “I have made a covenant with my eyesWhy then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1, emphasis added). Job was not a ‘Christian.’ Nor did he experience the measure of New Covenant blessings we have today. Yet, he had the wisdom to make a covenant with his eyes. This tells us that we, too, can make a covenant with our eyes: to dwell only on things that glorify the Lord and to look away from things that can lead us to sin. This isn’t just about our relationship with people of the opposite sex. Lust of the eye covers everything within our field of vision; everything that attracts our eyes: the flashy vehicles, the big houses, the latest fashion in town, the latest gadgets, the latest phones, the glamor of entertainment and sports, the obsession with shopping, etc. Whatever you lust after, you become its slave.

From today, use your eyes to glorify God. Keep your eyes pure and you will enjoy the blessings of a light-filled body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Pray to the heavenly Father about today’s message.

For further study: Proverbs 4:1-27

“Money, Come to Me!”

Daily Devotional: Day 101

“And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Luke 12:15, NKJV).

Jesus made the above statement about 2000 years ago. Yet His statement is extremely relevant for today’s generation. Our society makes a big deal of people’s net worth. Gradually, the trend is to measure people’s value by their material possessions. Fascinated by celebrity lifestyle and driven by our consumerist culture, young people (and even some older people) are increasing seeking validation through material possessions.

Our society is constantly pushing the false notion (via movies, TV shows, magazines, books, the educational system, peer pressure, etc.) that a person’s worth is primarily measured by the material possessions he has accumulated.

Even more disturbing is the growing obsession in our churches with the so-called ‘Gospel of Prosperity’ and its persistent emphasis on ‘sowing seed.’ Instead of being an example to the world, churches are also falling for the lie. The effect is that the poor among us and those who are struggling financially are made to feel  awkward in the house of God.

That is what happens when you’re made to feel that your lack of financial prosperity is probably a sign that you don’t have enough faith, or you don’t sow enough seed, or you don’t pray enough, or you don’t pay your tithe, or you’re under a curse, or you just don’t ‘confess’ the right things.

In fact, on some occasions Christians are even encouraged to confess by faith: “Money, come to me! Money, come to me!” But this is a different Gospel – which is no Gospel at all. It is not the Gospel preached by Jesus, the Apostles or the Prophets.

True, the Bible talks about ‘sowing and reaping’ to describe the blessings of giving (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15). But like everything in the Bible, one can pull passages out of context or capitalize on biblical concepts, blow them out of proportion and create ungodly practices or doctrines out of them. We all need to carefully examine Jesus’ statement in today’s Scripture reading. He says, “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (emphasis mine).

Jesus is not against material prosperity. But He is against obsession with material possessions and the giving of the impression that people’s wealth – or lack thereof – is the measure of their worth. Don’t give in to the ungodly pressure to prove your worth. Your true worth as God’s child is measured by your standing with the Father and how much treasure you have stored in heaven through your faithfulness to God’s calling. 

Your worth is not about what you have, but who you are in God’s sight. God sets your true worth, not Hollywood, not Wall Street, not your bankers, and certainly not your friends. 

Prayer:

Lord, I am what I am by your grace. I give you all the glory and honor. Help me to always realize that my true worth is based on your love for me and your divine calling upon me. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

For further study: Luke 12:13-34