Even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:3

One of the toughest areas of prayer is introspection – looking deep into my heart and trying to determine what are my motives. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” If you are a Christian wife and are praying for your husband’s salvation, why are you praying? Is it really to see him come to know the Lord, or is it because your life would be so much easier if he were saved and pulling with you instead of against you? If you are struggling with difficult circumstances, are you praying to be delivered? Why? Would you want God to be glorified by your deliverance, or are you just tired of hurting? When you pray publicly for the salvation of the world, is it because it is heavy on your heart or because that’s what you’re supposed to pray for? You can tell which it is by how much time you spend after praying actually trying to bring it about. How often have you witnessed?

Do you see what I mean? There was a time in my life when I prayed daily with a small group of men. We purposed that we would be absolutely, brutally honest with each other and with God. We vowed to actually pray. We did not want to just meet in a room to mutter some words for a given amount of time. We discovered that it sometimes took forty-five minutes just to get our minds to quit thinking about all the stuff in our lives and focus on praying. Then it took several attempts at prayer before we felt we were praying to God rather than to each other. I remember praying once “God, help me want to want to open my heart to you.” I had come to realize that my motives were so twisted I couldn’t even figure out if I really wanted to pray and meet God. After a while, it took less time to reach that point of contact. We were able to more quickly achieve the focused awareness that is so necessary to prayer and meditation as our minds became more disciplined. This is what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 10:5 when he referred to “fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ" (The Message).

So take some time to quiet your heart; still your mind from the day’s activities. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts to whatever might keep you from being fully reconciled with God. Check out your heart longings, your motives and impulses. Try to bring them into subjection to Christ’s will. Then step back and watch God do amazing things.