The unselfishness of praying for yourself

Prayer for ourselves not only forwards our own progress but benefits others as well.

A Friend and I were discussing prayer. Although our religious convictions differed, we agreed wholeheartedly on the value of prayer. But as our conversation ended, I was startled to hear him say, "I would never pray for myself. That would be selfish." Since I pray for myself daily, and consider it an indispensable way to set the tone for the day, his remark caused me to do some inner searching of my understanding of prayer. Is it selfish to pray for oneself?

Certainly Christ Jesus taught that communion with God must go beyond oneself to include others. In the Lord's Prayer there cannot be found one selfish element. This prayer acknowledges God as our Father, humbly beseeches daily sustenance, forgiveness, and salvation for mankind. It includes all in one powerful kingdom of God. It is the epitome of unselfish, healing prayer. Yet it does not exclude one's self, and as I was searching the Master's example to understand the unselfishness of prayer, I remembered the garden of Gethsemane.

It was there that Jesus and his disciples spent the night preceding the ordeal of the crucifixion. This Godlike man who had healed leprosy with a touch, who had brought sight to blinded eyes and regeneration to sinful mortals, meekly prayed for himself. He prayed that this cup of bitterness with the appearance of defeat might be taken from him. He urged his disciples to watch and pray with him. Then Luke's Gospel records a statement that, for me, establishes the profoundly unselfed love of his prayer. Jesus prayed, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (22:42).

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December 20, 1993

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