Philip Yancey Quote – 5 Signs of Selfish Prayer

“If God doesn’t want something for me, I shouldn’t want it either. Spending time in meditative prayer, getting to know God, helps align my desires with God’s.”

– Philip Yancey

Devotional: 5 Signs of Selfish Prayer

There are many biblical truths that really make people smile. There are many messages of hope and joy and power in the Bible. It’s not surprising for people to get excited about this. However, we have to look at the Bible as a whole. There are other truths in the Bible that aren’t so pleasant and one of those truths is that we can pray in such a way that is selfish which, not surprisingly, can lead to prayers not being answered. The best way to truly understand Phillip Yancey’s quote is to get a clear understanding of what kind of a prayer is selfish and what God doesn’t want for us. Here are the five signs of selfish prayer.

Focusing on Your Comfort

When you’re praying because you are just trying to get out of a tough situation and gain your own comfort, that’s a selfish prayer. The focus of that prayer is not in God’s plan for you. It definitely isn’t on his will. The focus is on you. Don’t be surprised if the prayer isn’t answered because God only wants the very best for you and in many cases, the very best situation is something that you need to realize through discomfort and challenges.

Focus on What Makes Your Life Easier

At times it can be easy to look at God as some sort of genie that we call on to grant our wishes and it can be tempting to look at the Bible as a set of incantations that we just claim and the promises are turned to life. But if that’s how we look at our prayer and relationship with God, we are not really looking at it in the right way. The true relationship with Jesus is to cut him front and center. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our life becomes easier and doesn’t necessarily involve comfort and convenience.

Focus on Things

When we focus on material things in our prayer, we tend to look at those things as the solution to our problems and then we can easily confuse those things with the solution. The reality is that those things are really just an outward manifestation of the solution. The real solution is our relationship with Christ. But focusing too much of our prayers in things, we end up confusing ourselves as to how we should really pray which is to first seek God’s kingdom.

Focus on Status

When we focus our prayers on status and how it impacts our social or church status, what we are really focusing on is our pride. This is the ultimate form of selfishness. Instead of focusing on status, focus on our standing with Christ because it’s only his opinion of us that truly matters in the end.

Focusing on our Fears

When we focus on the thing that we can lose, by necessity and definition, we stop focusing on the things that we have to gain. A relationship with Christ is all about gaining him and by changing the focus of our prayers on letting his will become more manifested in our lives and we change the direction of our prayers.


Make no mistake about it, when you pray based on what you need, God is often set aside. God’s will is often overlooked when we focus on ourselves in our prayers. Keep the five signs above in mind so that you can start praying in the way that God wants you to pray.

Original image source: cc-by Justin Jensen modifications: overlay texture, added text, cropped image