James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
After the doctor examines the symptoms and comes up with a diagnosis, he usually prescribes the cure.
Before we jump into the issues with our prayer life, I want to focus on the end of verse 3. James says we often don’t receive the answers to our prayers because our motivation is wrong. If God granted every prayer request, we would spend it on pleasure. One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bruce Almighty is when the man who was given the duties of answering prayers just “replied all” with a yes. Suddenly, everybody won the lottery, was driving nice cars and had an abundance of stuff. It was Hedonism on full display. Hedonism is the playboy philosophy that says humankind’s chief end is pleasure and happiness. NO! The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 fits here.
Life is not about us.
James identifies two problems with our prayer life:
1. We don’t pray. When James says you don’t have because you don’t ask, he is describing prayerlessness. Prayerlessness results in failures to receive blessings. Bringing requests to God can have a purifying effect on our desires. Take desires to God. He responds with “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” One of my favorite Country songs is “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. I like the story, but it is not even close to being theologically accurate. There is no such thing as unanswered prayers. When He says yes, He satisfies our desire. When He says no, He denies them. When He says wait or change, He is refining them. We must learn to accept His answer.
You may say, “But I’ve been praying…” and God must answer my prayer the way I want Him to. Oh really, then let me ask you, do you give your kids everything they ask for? I didn’t think so.
2. We pray with the wrong motives. Are you asking for God’s glory, or yours? Are you asking God to do what you want or enable us to know/do His will? Are you asking for God’s mission to advance, or for yours?
Ask for God’s wisdom, not humanity’s.
Prayer is a privilege; don’t squander it.
Real joy, real happiness, in the Christian life is derived from close fellowship with the Savior through sincere, unselfish prayer.
Some questions to consider:
-Peruse the prayers in Scripture. How many of them talk about material things?
-How much of the Lord’s prayer is asking for worldly things?
-How much better would our prayers for others be if they focused on meeting spiritual needs, THEE spiritual need of others?
-Ask God for your heart’s desire, and then tell Him how you will use it, and then trust His reply.