Is it bad to pray for material wealth?

There’s one question that I think most believers ask themselves at some point — especially those of us who are responsible for the “breadwinning” in a family — and that question is “Is it bad to pray for material wealth?”

What do the scriptures say?
At first pass, the scriptures can seem somewhat contradictory. Jesus taught “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” and that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-25) On the other hand, Amulek taught that we should “Cry unto him over the crops of [our] fields, that [we] may prosper in them.” and “Cry over the flocks of [our] fields, that they may increase.” (Alma 34:24-25)

After lots of study and prayer on this topic, I’ve come to the belief that God doesn’t care so much about our actual wealth, but rather how we feel towards money. I don’t believe that money is good or bad in and of itself — it’s our attitude that matters. This is further supported by something Dallin H. Oaks said recently: “The possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor.”

My prayers for material wealth have been answered
A couple of years ago, I was working really hard to get my web development business off the ground. As anyone who has started a small business knows, there can be some REALLY long days and weeks — especially as employees are hired and payroll needs to be met. I remember one month in particular when I had been working really hard on sales but it just seemed like the deals weren’t coming in. Typically we’d get a lead or two each week, but for some reason it had been a couple of weeks with no real prospects and I was starting to get worried.

I remember kneeling down to pray one morning after scripture study and having the distinct impression come to my mind that I needed to “Pray for FIVE leads today.” At first this seemed crazy.. first, why such a specific feeling? Also, I couldn’t remember ever getting five leads in a single day. I doubted whether or not I had heard the prompting right, and I was hesitant to ask for a material blessing. But as I pondered asking the question, I felt peaceful and decided to go ahead with it. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

As the day progressed, I had a lead or two come in fairly early and then another one after lunch. I was pretty satisfied at that point, and said to myself (and to God) “Three leads is fantastic!! What a blessing. I don’t need any more.” Towards the end of the day, another lead came in and I thought “Wow, FOUR leads! This is amazing. Thank you, God” and was ready to go home content that I had seen a miracle. Literally seconds before I closed my laptop lid for the day, an email came in from an old friend of mine indicating that she needed some web work done. My eyes welled up as I realized that my plea for material wealth had not only been inspired, but had been answered in a completely miraculous way.

Does God care about our material well being? Absolutely.

My pursuit of material wealth has also gotten in the way of my spiritual growth
I’ve also had experience teach me that the pursuit of wealth is definitely NOT always a good thing. Again, in the process of getting my business off the ground, I had to work some pretty late nights. On one night in particular, I had just logged a 16 hour+ day and I was exhausted. It was dark outside when I left the office and I knew my wife and kids were already in bed at home. I had spent the ENTIRE day at work. As I got on to my motorcycle and headed for home, I wondered to myself “What am I doing? This is no way to live.” At that moment, the Spirit confirmed my feelings.. I was indeed pushing too hard, and the Lord was not pleased with my imbalance.

I have since had that experience called to memory by the Spirit on a number of occasions. I believe it’s God’s gentle way of remind me not to get too consumed by wealth. Perhaps the reason we are cautioned so strongly against riches is that they can and will corrupt.

At the end of the day, wealth is neither good nor bad. If you think about it, money is just a tool — something that comes automatically when value is created. I love the way my business is able to help people. A natural consequence of us getting really good at offering that help is that we’re paid money in exchange for the value add.

I believe that God doesn’t want us to have money necessarily, but that it’s part of a larger concept that he does very much want us to have — Righteous dominion. In the parable of the talents, the first steward is praised for having taken what the Lord gave him and turned it into something greater. To me, gaining righteous dominion means building reputation, experience, knowledge, relationships and yes — wealth. I believe that the most important part of obtaining material wealth without losing our souls is to carefully listen for God to tell us when we’re taking it too far.

What are your thoughts on praying for material wealth?

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