As time went on and my prayer life got more regular I had to learn a tough lesson about prayer. That lesson can be summed up like this:
Prayer is always beneficial but in order to grow into deeper prayer lives we must examine our motives for praying. The motive of prayer has a great effect on its authenticity, depth and ability to please the Lord. Many times people will relate to me different problems in their prayer life and more often than not those problems seem to come from the motive they bring to prayer. Lets look at a few of the common motives for praying and see why they need to be purified.
1. To remain free from sin: This is a laudable goal to be sure. Indeed a person will never conquer sin without a strong prayer life. These people find themselves praying most fervently during times of great temptation.
2. For a special request: This should call to mind the times in high school when you decided to go to mass for help on a big math test or something like that. while this kind of prayer could be a window to a beautiful prayer life it tends to be very hot and cold and very self centered. Its also usually very transaction oriented.
3. For Healing or Intercession: Similar to the former motive this one is usually very one sided. We ask but we do not listen. When we think our prayer is not answered we ask more or harder or another way. People praying for physical healing oftentimes completely over look the true miracle of inner healing and liberation.
4. For protection from evil: Similar to the first motive listed this can be the most challenging to overcome. Those who find themselves in a battle with evil often begin their prayer lives because of this battle. They often see prayer like an incantation. "If I pray this prayer...Evil will depart." While prayer is the weapon in our battle against evil when this is our only motive it can be very destructive because it can easily become superstitious.
5. For any outward benefit: In this case it is usually an all or nothing kind of thing. If you suspect your prayer is for outward appearance even a little bit then it probably is totally for outward appearance.
So what motive do we want in prayer? Prayer is in essence a loving communication with God. As our prayer gets deeper the motive should also change and become more pure. We should go into each prayer time with the sole motive of growing in love for God. All of the other motives will not go away completely but they will eventually be subjugated to the primary reason for prayer.
Look to Jesus to cleanse your motives in prayer. He wants to speak deeply to your heart. He wants you to come to Him for love alone. In this purified loving conversation He will meet all our needs.
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.