Whenever Charles Finney writes about prayer, we should listen attentively. He knew what he was writing about, not as theory but from practice. And always with Finney, the motive of the heart is central. Here’s how he connects the two in his Revival Lectures:
Prayer, to be effectual, must be offered from right motives. Prayer should not be selfish, but should be dictated by a supreme regard for the glory of God. A great deal is offered from pure selfishness.
Women sometimes pray for their husbands, that they may be converted, because, they say: “It would be so much more pleasant to have my husband go to Church with me,” and all that. And they seem never to lift up their thoughts above self at all. They do not seem to think how their husbands are dishonouring God by their sins, nor how God would be glorified in their conversion.
So it is very often with parents. They cannot bear to think that their children should be lost. . . . They do not think how such . . . children are dishonouring God by their sins; they are only thinking what a dreadful thing it will be for them to go to hell. Unless their thoughts rise higher than this, their prayers will never prevail with a holy God.
The temptation to selfish motives is so strong that there is reason to fear a great many parental prayers never rise above the yearnings of parental tenderness. And that is the reason why so many prayers are not answered and why so many pious, praying parents have ungodly children.
Do you find that at least a little convicting? Or a lot? That’s the Holy Spirit just doing His job, leading us into a right heart in prayer.