Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  – Psalm 37:4

If you don’t take delight in the Lord, you’ll have the wrong kind of desires. You can name it and claim it all day long, but you won’t have power in prayer, because you “believe God” for the wrong stuff. Take delight in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. He’ll cause you to desire the things that He wants you to have. Then, you’ll say, “I want your will, God. I want what you want, Lord.”

In John 15:7 Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” If you don’t remain in Jesus and His word is not in you, your prayers are ineffective.

God isn’t asking you to be God and decide what you want. When the Pharisee asked Jesus, “Where do you get the authority to do these things? How are you able to call the dead back to life? How are you able to give hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind? How can the lame walk?” Jesus said that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, and He only says what the Father tells Him to say.

If we have the wrong motives in our prayers, and we’re asking God to come work for us and be our servant, we don’t have God’s promises concerning asking whatever we will. But, if we spend time in God’s presence seeking His face, we will get on board with His plans. We’ll know what God is telling us to say and what He’s asking us to do. Jesus says that if God speaks through you to a mountain, the mountain will have to obey.

One of the things hindering our prayers is our wrong motives. But, how do we change our wrong motives? Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. Abide in Him and let His word abide in you. As you allow God’s word to change the way you think, as you start desiring what He wants, then you will begin to see effective prayer in your life. The change will be gradual, requiring a lifetime of devotion to prayer: speaking, meditating and listening. We will go from wrong motives to mixed motives. God desires to work this change in us. And, the change will be complete when we see Jesus face to face.

In James 1:5-8 we read: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

If we ask God for wisdom, He’ll give us wisdom, and He’ll give it generously, as long as we don’t doubt. In the context of this passage from James, we learn that the main hindrance to receiving wisdom from God is our own lack of trust in the goodness of God and the wisdom of God. If we doubt God’s goodness and His wisdom, we shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God, because we are double-minded and unstable in all we do. We must start our quest for wisdom with a childlike trust in the goodness of God. God does not want to trick us; He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. He loves us and wants to give us what is good, pleasing, and perfect. We must learn to trust God; otherwise, asking for wisdom from God is futile.

Therefore, if we want God to show us His will for our lives, we must first be committed to doing His will, whatever it may be. If we want to know the will of God, we must start by deciding that we will do whatever He says. All each of us needs to know is as much as He shows us. When He shows us, we must act.

Remember, God’s will for your life is ultimately good, pleasing and perfect. God never promised His will would not be hard at times, but He did promise that His will is good, pleasing and perfect.

God can do whatever is necessary in order to make His will clear to you, as long as you’re committed to doing whatever God says. But, if what you’re doing is what so many of us do, saying, “I really want to know the will of God, so I can evaluate it and consider it as one of my options,” don’t expect guidance. Don’t expect God’s wisdom and insight, because God’s not going to give you direction so that you can consider His will and in your infinite wisdom make your own decision. If you aren’t committed to obedience, then it would not be kind of God to show you His will; He knows that you will disobey, thereby adding to your condemnation. He wants to show you His will, but He wants to show you so that you will obey! God does not want to add to your condemnation. Don’t be double-minded.

Jesus said that He spoke in parables so the people wouldn’t understand. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”  Sometimes God doesn’t answer our questions, because He knows that we’re not ready to deal with the answers. There are times when I think I need to know what’s coming. God doesn’t answer, because all that really matters is whether or not I’m going to do what God has already told me to do. If I’m not doing what God’s already told me to do, I’m blessed in not knowing about the future. God offers repeated opportunities for me to repent and obey Him.

James 4:2,3 tells us that another reason we don’t pray effectively is because we don’t pray at all: “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

He says, “You have not because you ask not.” You’re too busy trying to make things happen yourself to stop and say, “Lord, I’m submitting this to you. If you want me to have this, you make it happen.”

James follows by saying, “When you do ask, you ask with wrong motives.” If your concern is not for the glory of God, you’re asking selfishly. God’s goal is not the comfort of your flesh.

Meaningful prayer is a lifelong process of speaking, meditating, listening and obeying. To become effective, prayer must be practiced daily, hourly, all the time. Communication with God and from God requires time. The priority of prayer in our lives reflects our devotion to God. And, as we spend time in prayer, we become more and more like Jesus, sincerely desiring what Jesus desires. This is the purpose and power of prayer.

Several years ago, I was invited to be part of a group praying for revival in America. I was excited, because I’m all for revival — not just in America but I want to see revival among God’s people all over the world! But, as I began to read the materials about the vision and purpose of this group, I was distressed.

What was communicated was that if I didn’t pray for revival in America, our economy and our position as a world power would be lost. It was as if God is a means to another end. “Honor God and we can keep the mammon coming.” Revival is not about getting God on our side; revival is God’s people waking up and saying what He says to say and doing what He says to do. Are you earnestly praying for His kingdom to come? Do you really want His will to be done, or yours?

This post is an excerpt from “Hearing His Voice: The Life of Prayer-Book 2” by Jim Wood.