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Prayer

Why You Should Not Pray for Happiness

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Are you confused by the title? God is a loving Father who wants His children to be happy, isn’t He? Why should we not ask God for something that is in agreement with what He wants for us? Well, let me clarify for you what I mean when I say that you should not pray for happiness and let’s learn what we should be doing instead!
An image of a mug filled with coffee beans and the word happy written in script on top of it with a text overlay that says Why You Should Not Pray for Happiness and a link to worthbeyondrubies.com

Let’s Begin With Asking, What Is Prayer?

What is prayer? What does it mean for us and for God?

I have often said that prayer is a conversation we have with God and that is completely true! We have a unique opportunity to come before the Throne of God and speak with Him.

But prayer is more than simply a conversation. Prayer is worship. It doesn’t matter whether your prayers are liturgical or just you simply speaking with God (and a good, balanced prayer life includes both to be honest…the Lord’s Prayer is in fact liturgical), it is a form of worship.

Rabbi Dr. John Fischer of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, whom I was blessed to have taken a class with, says that there are three keys to prayer:

  1. Kedusha – Recognizing the Sacredness of Prayer
  2. Keva – The Order of Things
  3. Kevanah – Intentionality in Prayer

We are going to look at each one a bit and then discuss why happiness is not what you should be praying for.

An image of a crown on a black background and text that says Kneel Before the Throne - Exploring Ephesians With Verse Mapping and Bible Study

Sacredness of Prayer

As I said, prayer involves coming before the Lord of All Creation. We need to do so with reverence. You are entering the presence of the King. 

Sometimes when we pray, we do so with either a sense of obligation or hastily with a list of petitions. But are we stopping to be in awe of the privilege we have in approaching the Throne of Grace?

We need to stop and enter this sacred space with awe and reverence.

The Order of Prayer

If prayer is a conversation, why are we discussing order? 

Well, did Yeshua Himself, in giving us the Avinu (‘Our Father’ or the Lord’s Prayer) not give us an order to prayer?

He began with praise for His Father in Heaven. He said “Our Father in Heaven, sanctified is Your Name”. He ascribed to Him all power and authority when He said “Thy Kingdom come and thy will be done”.

He then asked for provision (our bread of tomorrow) and made penance (forgive us our debts) and asked for protection (lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one).

And then He praised Him yet again!

He began with recognizing His Father’s sovereignty and power and ended with the same.

Praying With Intention

I went into this in some detail in my post on praying with kavanah, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But praying with intention is being present and not just reciting the same words you say over and over. 

And that is not just regarding liturgy but also our personal prayers. We can fall into repetition even when we are speaking our own words.

We need to have intentionality in prayer, and that begins with step one!

Why You Should Not Pray for Happiness

So with ALL this being said, why not pray for happiness? Why not pray and ask God for happiness in your life, your marriage, your children’s lives? How could that POSSIBLY be wrong?

Well, we could pray for an abundance of blessings and God could give us everything we ask!

We could be blessed with health, with finances, with love. We see many people in the world with all these things.

And yet we see some of those same people turn to drugs, to alcohol, to other addictions and vices and yes, even to suicide.

Why? Because it is not up to God to make you happy. Yes I said that! It is not God’s job to make you happy!

God can bless you but happiness lies with you.

Still confused? 

True Happiness (Joy) Comes With Gratitude and Thanksgiving

As I said, God could give you every single blessing this world has to offer and you could STILL be a miserable soul.

People all over the world are blessed with more (and not just material but with love and even in ministry) and then it is not enough. They have a wonderful wife but then cheat because they think the grass is greener. They have a successful ministry but then they focus on building more campuses and getting bigger numbers.

Contentment is missing. Gratitude is lacking. Happiness will always elude them because they are always looking to the next thing to make them happy! When we pray for happiness we are missing the elements that help us experience true happiness or joy!

Until you learn to have contentment and gratitude for what you have and learn to be content in whatever your circumstance, all the blessings in the world won’t make you happy because you will always be longing for the next biggest thing.

Each and every time you face disappointment or a lack of satisfaction in life you will feel as though you suffered some epic failure and your unhappiness and dissatisfaction will only increase because you have come to rely on the feeling of happiness as your yardstick.

You should be thankful in ALL things because the truth is, we are not here to serve ourselves but to serve the Lord. Period!

God did not give us this world as our own personal amusement park where our happiness is the goal. We are servants of the Most High God.

And this is where the sacredness of prayer comes in and where gratitude and contentment are key.

Gratitude

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always,

“…pray constantly, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua.” TLV

This verse says IN everything give thanks. It does not say FOR everything. 

An image of a woman's hand holding a pink rose and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 quoted on an overlay from the Tree of Life version - Why You Should Not Pray for Happiness

You see, we will experience things we are just not FEELING thankful for.  Maybe we lost our job. Maybe our marriage is crumbling. It could be that our health is failing.

But it doesn’t say be thankful FOR the things in life we have or experience, whether good or bad! 

It says be thankful IN everything.

Be thankful even when you are experiencing difficult times. Why? Because you know God is in control! We can be thankful He has us in all our circumstances.

Be thankful He hears your prayers!

Be thankful that no power under Heaven is greater than He!

Hebrews 12:28-29 says:

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude—through this we may offer worship in a manner pleasing to God, with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” TLV

Let us show gratitude because we have received this Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

It cannot be shaken by our job! It cannot be shaken by our health issues. God is on His Throne and He is in control!

Contentment

1 Timothy 6:6-7 says:

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, So we cannot take anything out of it.” TLV

Contentment is being satisfied with what God has given you but it is also being willing to let God give you more, if it is His will, in His timing and not as a means to make you happy.

A field of lavender out of focus with a bumble bee in focus in the foreground and 2 Timothy 6:6-7 quoted from the Tree of Life version

It is accepting where God has you placed, knowing it is for HIS glory and not to build up your own!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says:

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me.

For Messiah’s sake, then, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” TLV

Do we boast all the more gladly in our weaknesses? Are we content in what God has given us knowing that in Him we are made stronger and better people? 

Or do we base God’s love and His goodness with how happy we feel in any given moment?

Happiness is Merely a Feeling

Happiness is a FEELING! Feelings are fickle! When we pray for happiness we are praying for a fleeting feeling.

When you rely on a feeling you will always be disappointed in the long run because feelings change with our circumstances. Actually I will go one step further and say feelings can change with the day!

Just ask the person who wakes up one day feeling happiness and the next day they don’t know why they feel miserable.

I have experienced this in my own life! I wake up some days feeling down and can’t explain why from an experiential sense. If I relied on that feeling of happiness I would be like a yo-yo; up one day and down the next.

Rather than pray for happiness we should be praying for the joy that comes with gratitude and contentment. True joy comes in serving God and doing His will, not on an elated feeling we get from ‘more’ and ‘better’.

As we experience true contentment that comes from faith, we will know a type of happiness that the world cannot provide and that is the joy of the Lord.

Faith bloggers, don’t forget to link up below!

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

20 Comments

  1. I’ve often heard that it’s better to seek joy instead of happiness, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the point that happiness is up to us and is an outgrowth of gratitude and contentment. So thanks for that!

  2. Diane, your thoughts apply in many areas—not just happiness. We pray for peace of mind, but we must take our thoughts captive and trust God. God hears our prayers, but we must also do what He’s told us to do. Great wisdom here.

    1. Amen to that Debbie! You are 100% right. We rely so heavily on feelings in this life and feeling good in this world is not what we are here for. In fact, the Bible says we WILL face trials and persecution. We need, as you said, to pray and obey! That is our job! Thank you so much!

  3. This is SO good! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more content with my current circumstances. I went back to my retail job (after stay-at-home orders were lifted), but I just really wish I could keep working on my business full-time. I sure need the reminder to continue to be grateful for where I’m at in this moment.

    1. Yes we are in a world that tells us to focus on how we feel…rather than focusing on contentment with what God is working in our lives. Paul praised in prison! I am sure he didn’t “feel” happy about it but he praised God in it all the same recognizing his happiness wasn’t what it was about! It was serving God wherever God needed him.

  4. I am going to agree and disagree politely. I love all that you said about gratitude, contentment, joy, etc. Your post is rich with wisdom.

    However, we have such a loving, kind God, and if we are struggling to find happiness in our everyday life – I do believe He wants us to pray about it. He wants to hear whatever is on our hearts even though He already knows.

    Although joy is most important and an ingredient to finding the feeling of happiness – I do believe God wants us also to feel happiness. He can show us how. The Lord has many times pointed me in that direction. He points out the birds chirping on a walk on a day I may be finding it difficult to find happiness or remind me I have been skipping my time with Him and that might be a reason.

    1. I don’t think we disagree at all. If we are struggling to find happiness we SHOULD pray about why but not just pray for the emotion. Too often we think of happiness as a feeling and it is usually something else in life that we are lacking that we assign as happiness. So some people may say well, if I only had more money I would be happy. But then they have money and are still unhappy. If we rely on that feeling of happiness then it will fluctuate daily or even moment by moment. But at the end of the day, happiness as we know the word is a feeling and feelings can change with the wind. So I dont think we dont agree…I think it is a matter of semantics because I see that more as joy and not happiness. Paul had joy in prison but I am certain he wasn’t happy about it LOL But he knew God was in control so he could feel joy and praise! But if we do disagree, that is ok too 🙂

      1. Thank you for your further clarification. Yes, we do agree. Many times I have had joy without happiness but very seldom happiness without joy. If I did, it was fleeting. Thank you. Maree

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