By Dr. Stephen Phinney 

My family has been living on “missionary support” off and (more) “on” since 1980, when I went on staff at Grace Fellowship International in Denver.  We have become so dependent upon the Lord for our food, gas, clothing, and lodging that it has almost become a way of life.  You would think that this would be a great benefit and become easy after all these years – BUT, it has not.  Depending on God never gets easier. In fact, our experience is that the longer we live on missionary support, the harder it gets, because we struggle with the issue of man being our provider vs. God Himself. 

God blesses the just and the unjust with prosperity to a certain degree.  Remember when He said:

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Before praying for money, food, and lodging and expecting a response, we have to be an indwelt born-again Christian.  God does not answer the prayers of unsaved people – unless it is a prayer of Salvation.  If He did – He would be prospering their way to hell.  We don’t serve a God who rewards demonic, good flesh.  God hears the petitions of His babies, the Bridal members of His Son.  If you’re not saved, you have no mediator to deliver your prayers unto the Father – plain and simple.  The first thing an unbeliever should ask for is the Holy Spirit!
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13).
You and I have heard hundreds of unsaved people pray over food, sick children, and even plead to God for money. Does God hear their prayers?  The odds are – yes. But He will not give unto an evil dweller.  All unsaved people are evil dwellers – that is why they go to hell.  The reason why the Emergent movement is so acceptable and popular is because these groups of “self-proclaimed Christians” allow unbelievers to pray like children of God.  It confuses the pathway to Salvation and it robs them of the need to beg for Salvation and Deliverance.  
We become children of God, members of God’s holy family, by faith in Christ Jesus.  This cannot happen without a truckload of trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trust is not going to manifest until we are broken and crucified with Christ – which is our personal Salvation.  Only then, do we have the privilege to pray and expect God to give us His answer.
Secondly, once we know we are truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (saved), we must pray with the right motive.  Most prayers that I hear come out of the mouths of believers are so they can spend on their own pleasures or because they don’t want to suffer with their particular thorn. 
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
If we were to be truly honest, most of our prayers are for selfish motives or minimally, to stop the suffering of another loved one.  How often do you hear Christians pray to be well content with problems, adversity, or being hurt by another?  After being a counselor for 30 plus years – I can say that I know few.
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
How in God’s name was Paul able to pray such a prayer?  Aren’t we supposed to pray against weaknesses, insults from others, stress in our lives, and certainly against pain inflicted upon us by others?  The answer is NO!  Paul was so troubled by this “thorn” in his flesh that he appealed to the Lord “three” times that it would part from him.  First of all, the “it” is a demonic being. Check this out:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Corinthians 12:7, bold mine).
The Greek for “messenger of Satan” translates out as “worker of the abyss, which translates in the English as – demon.  It was a demon sanding the edges of Paul’s flesh – buffeting him.  The most interesting note here, at least for me, is that Paul only appealed to the Lord “three” times.  That means he only brought it up in his prayer life before God three times throughout his entire service to the Lord.  Most indwelt Christians pray about harassments like these three times an hour.  I certainly have!  Not Paul; we learn from the Scriptures, he was such a man of faith that he typically spoke to God and believed God would answer according to His Divine manner.  Paul was so known for being a man of faith that the demonic world knew him right along with Jesus.
“And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"  (Acts 19:15).
Are you known by the spirit world like Paul and Jesus?  How does one gain such a status?  Easy – ask once and trust in God for His time and answer.  That is what faith is!  Badgering God like some kind of spoiled child is not faith.  Don’t get me wrong, you can badger God and He will still love you. But don’t expect Him to “kowtow” to your appeal.  The truth of the matter is – we all do this from time to time – even Paul.  Now mind you, he only asked three times for a particular thorn that just happened to affect his daily living, but that still was outside of his norm.  He was really hurting!  Did God take this thorn in his flesh, “messenger of Satan,” from Paul?  No, I am afraid He didn’t!  In fact, this was such a significant moment for Paul, Jesus showed up personally 60 years after He ascended. What does He say to Paul?   
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, bold mine).
Let’s get this straight. Paul asks a simple request to be relieved from some pain and suffering and Jesus comes back with “My grace is sufficient?”  Then Jesus has the boldness to go on and say that “power is perfected in weakness.”  Wow!  I would think that if any human deserved a little relief, it would be Paul.  BUT no,  he is asked to embrace his weakness.  The reason why Paul was able to say he is “well content” with the very thing he was asking Christ to remove was because he accepted the simple one liner “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 
Self-proclaimed Christians today have been trained to stand against Satan and rebuke all their infirmities.  Many times I really do wonder whom they are really rebuking.  Is it really Satan they are coming against?  Would that “name it and claim it” theology have worked for Paul?  I think the answer should be obvious.
Let’s face it – we live in a generation that treats God like He is some kind of “sugar daddy.”  We have been duped by the enemy to rebuke him, when in reality we are coming against the sovereign doctrines of God – if not God Himself.  When we ask of the Father, it is critical we ask with the right motives and not to have it benefit ourselves.  We should be willing to suffer for the sake of other people’s sins, just as Christ did.  If Christ truly does live in us, then isn’t it feasible that He would still want to do that through us?  If you are a believer of the Exchanged Life – the answer is yes!
Another critical factor is that when we pray, we must pray based on the name of Jesus Christ.  Praying in one’s identity is just as important as praying with the right motive.  When Jesus asked us to pray in His name, He was saying to pray in our identity in Christ.  From our identity we find motives and without Christ as Life identity, we have wrong motives.  Therefore, the reason why we have so many self-life prayers in the world today is because they do not understand their identity (name) in Christ.  Character, behavior, and function come from one’s view of his identity.  This is why self-proclaimed Christians pray for God to bless ridiculous things like divorces and dishonest gain - all in the name of “God wants me to be happy.”  Really? Try to sell that one to Paul, Peter, and all the rest of the disciples who died a martyr’s death.  What has happened to Christ’s Church (true believers)?  This, I can say - The body of Christ is a long distance away from knowing who she is in Christ.  And the body of Christ will continue to ask for things from God in order to spend it on her own pleasures.  She will go on quarreling/having conflicts/ waging war with her own flesh, lusting, and being upset because she does not have what her neighbors enjoy.  I am not trying to be a downer here, but the Church has become friends with the world and does not realize that those who become friends with the world and its pleasures – become an enemy of God.  In fact, she is setting up a hostile relationship with God. 
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
One of the greatest dangers of a Christian’s prayer life is praying for worldly things.  Not to say we can’t, but one must be very careful.  Praying for material things, including money, needs to be for the Divine purpose of progressing the kingdom of God. Yes, nice homes, cars, and even jewelry can actually be used to glorify God.  But realistically, I have met few who can find that balance.
Let us commit to praying for one another to stay focused on asking with righteous motives – for all of us can fall into the temptation of asking God for money, things, and healings that are not of the Lord’s Divine calling.
Scripture  taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.