If my goals in life are to be happy, comfortable and popular, my prayers will show it. If my goal in life is to glorify Jesus, that will also affect my prayers. Tozer says if my goal is just praying, then I could be substituting prayer for obedience and that will not work . . . unless of course God is telling me to pray.
Even then, there are ways to pray that are not going to work. I cannot pray with known sin in my life. God wants that cleared up first. Unfortunately, I can be in sin and not realize it. Some things are obvious but there are attitudes that creep in and go unnoticed, at least until they show up in actions. One of those is as already mentioned — having unbiblical goals that interfere with serving the Lord. James describes the result:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:1–4)
What does it mean to be a ‘friend of the world’? It is a common problem and can go unnoticed. Here is one description:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17)
This is about putting my human and sinful desires in first place. These ‘I-wants’ can be obviously sinful or selfish, but also can look good on the surface but inside have ruined my heart for God. Most of the time worldliness can also be defined as a great preoccupation with temporary things to the point that I no longer want what God wants. As the first Scripture passage says, this can result in conflict with others. No matter the external manifestation, my love for Him has grown cold.
Tozer says the only ‘cure’ is to recognize this for what it is and confess it as sin. I cannot renew myself; only the Holy Spirit can do that.
Tozer also notes that people can be in bondage to inconsequential matters rather than real sin, like worry about wearing the right clothes. For this and all other attitudes, God’s Holy Spirit is my prompter and guide, giving “good sense” along with my conscience. He wants me to pray about everything, asking for clarity and wisdom, not for stuff that merely makes me look and feel good.
Jesus, You teach many practical things and remind me over and over that You care about all details, all attitudes and actions of my life. I want to glorify You and know how easily other motivations for life can creep in and take over. I’m so thankful that You are my Savior!