Attitude Check: why do you pray? (1 Sam 2.20)

This continues the story of Hannah, praying for a child from God. It’s a great opportunity for us to look at our attitudes about prayer. God granted Hannah’s request for a child, and, keeping the vow she made to God, she gave the child into the service of God, and sent him off to be trained by the prophet Samuel. In that world, being a barren woman was shameful. So even though she sent the child off to be trained, and could only see him occasionally, she now had the honor of having brought a child into her family.

Why do you pray? It’s easy for all of us to fall into a pattern of praying mostly petitions. We want stuff, so we ask God for it.

A friend of mine used to teach religious studies at a university. In a class on world religions, he took them to a synagogue. A rabbi said to them, “Christians pray to God and worship him so that they get the benefit of heaven. But we Jews pray to God because he is God.”

Certainly, neither is true of all Christians or all Jews. But he makes an interesting point: do we follow God, worship him, and pray because we hope to get good things from him? God wants us to be happy, and he wants us to tell him what we need or want. However, “getting our wants” should not be the primary reason. We should be talking to God and following him because he is our creator and sustainer and salvation. Whether he gives us good things—or not (see Job, Jeremiah, Moses, for examples). He is the potter, and we are merely clay which he can work with. What an honor for the clay, to be molded and used in whatever way the divine potter sees fit. This is what should inform our prayers.

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