Back to Prevailing Intercessory Prayer Page: Motives in Prayer

Charles Finney
Motives in Prayer

These thoughts come from Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals in the chapter, “Agreeing on Revival.”

Wrong Motives When Seeking Revival for Children

blessings, as are not right in the sight of God. Such reasons, if they are the true ones, and if Christians are actually excited by those reasons, would render their prayers unacceptable to God, because their motive was not right.

There are a great many things often said in favor of the cause of missions, which are of this character, appealing to wrong motives. How often are we told of six hundred millions of heathens, who are in danger of going to hell, and how little is said of the guilt of six hundred millions engaged and banded together as rebels against God, or of the dishonor and contempt poured upon God our Maker by such a world of outlaws. Now I know that God refers to those motives which appeal to our mere natural sympathies, and compassion, and uses them, but always in subordination to his glory. If these lower motives are placed foremost, it must always produce a defective piety and zeal, and a great deal that is false. Until the church will look at the dishonor done to God, little will be done. It is this which must be made to stand out before the world, it is this which must be deeply felt by the church, it is this which must be fully exhibited to sinners, before the world can ever be converted.

Parents never agree in praying for the conversion of their children, in such a way as to have their prayers answered, until they feel that their children are rebels. Parents often pray very earnestly for their children because they wish God to save them, and they almost think hard of God if he does not save their children. But if they would have their prayers prevail, they must come to take God's part against their children…. I knew a woman who was very anxious for the salvation of her son, and she used to pray for him with agony, but still he remained impenitent, until at length she became convinced that her prayers and agonies had been nothing but the fond yearnings of parental feeling, and were not dictated at all by a just view of her son's character as a willful and wicked rebel against God. And there was never any impression made on his mind until she was made to take strong ground against him as a rebel…. And then he was converted. The reason was, she never before was influenced by the right motive in prayer, desiring his salvation with a supreme regard to the glory of God.

Praying To Advance Personal Agendas

Or perhaps they may not be agreed as touching the salvation of their children. Are they sincere in desiring it? Do they agree to desire it, and agree from right motives? Do they agree in regard to the importance of it? Are they agreed how their children ought to be dealt with, to effect their conversion —what shall be said to them—how it shall be said—when—by whom. Alas! in how many cases is it evident they are not agreed. Probably few cases will be found, where children remain unconverted, but what it will prove that the parents were never truly agreed as touching the things they should ask for the salvation of their children. Often there is such disagreement that we could not expect any good to result, or any thing but ruin to the children. The husband and wife often disagree entirely and fundamentally in regard to the manner of bringing up their children. Perhaps the wife is fond of dress, and display, and visiting, while the husband is plain and humble, and is grieved and distressed and mourns and prays to see how his children are puffed up with vanity. Or it may be that the father is ambitious, and wants to have his daughters fashionably educated and make a display, and his sons become great men, and so he will send his daughters to a polite boarding-school where they may learn any thing but their duty to God, and will be all the time pushing his sons forward, and goading their ambition, while the mother grieves and weeps in secret to see her dear children hurried on to destruction, and all her given influence counteracted, and her sons and daughters trained up to serve the god of this world….

Hypocrisy of Praying for Revival While Doing Nothing to Promote Revival

We see the hypocrisy of those who profess to be praying for a revival while they are doing nothing to promote it. There are many who appear to be very zealous in praying for a revival, while they are not doing any thing at all for one. What do they mean. Are they agreed as touching the things they ask for? Certainly not. They cannot be agreed in offering acceptable prayer for a revival until they are prepared TO DO what God requires them to do to promote it. What would you think of the farmer who should pray for a crop and not plough nor sow ? Would you think such prayers pious, or an insult to God?