I saw Bruce Almighty last night, and it seemed to make a pretty powerful case for selflessness as regards prayer. The case rests on two main contentions:
1. Things given that are not worked for or reflected on are things abused, as we fall in love with the fact of having power simply, and do not care to stop and think about for what we might be aiming.
2. To be wholly selfless in prayer is to posit an ideal that you yourself can try to live up to. Sincerity in positing the ideal and working towards it means that even if the prayer isn’t fulfilled, at the very least one is giving oneself the best chance at having it fulfilled, and making oneself far better than one was in the process.
I do have complaints with this line of thought, ultimately, but it does seem to reflect the Biblical teaching at Mark 11:24 – “Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them” – and it is a most beautiful vision uniting self-sacrifice and the giving of graces, which sometimes don’t seem to be terribly compatible.
I do want to ask if there are other essential points to “selflessness” that I’ve missed here, that you post them in the comments. I want to post on the whole topic again later, when I have more time, with my complaints.