A question I have recently received asks if it is wrong to pray for personal gain? The theologian part of me make wants to give a lengthy, wordy, and complex answer that raises as many questions as it addresses. But the short answer to the simple question is, "no."
Some will be shocked to learn that a minister would endorse praying for personal gain, but the truth is that one can't help but praying for personal gain. If I want to improve my health, and I drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, watch my diet, consult my physician and so on, aren't I asking Life to be more fully present in my living? Aren't I hoping and wishing and affirming (and therefore praying) that it is possible to feel better? Aren't I saying that I want to feel better? So whether I say, "Dear God..." or not, I am praying for improved health, aka personal gain.
If I apply for a job, aren't I hoping to get it? If I get it, won't I benefit from it? Isn't the very act of applying saying with my embodied self that I want something? Isn't that a prayer?
So, I don't think its wrong to pray for personal gain because I believe it is inevitable that we each in some way express hope, desire, longing and to express these things is to pray. It is no more wrong to pray for personal gain that it is to sleep when we are tired or eat when we are hungry. It is natural, normal, and we're bound to do it.
As long as we want everyone to have their needs met and their good desires fulfilled and as long as we don't think that our Good can only come by someone else being denied theirs, then praying for fulfillment and well-being is as spiritual and high minded as any other prayer. And, if our prayers prove effective, then our lives become a witness to the power of prayer, which can then encourage and help others.
It isn't selfish to want life to be joyous and worthwhile. In fact, the more blessed we are the more we are able to bless others. And when we not only seek blessings but also seek to share them, we are actively contributing to a better world.