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.”
Over the several past blogs, we have seen James examine the symptoms of spiritual problems, diagnose the disease, and provide the cure. Part of the therapy is prayer. I’d like to go a bit more in-depth into this aspect of the treatment.
There are Five Keys to Powerful Prayer:
1. In accordance with God’s Will: Matthew 26:39-“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” For example, I have heard married men and women pray, “Lord, let me out of this marriage.” NO! That is not a prayer that is in line with God’s will. Instead, we should pray, “Lord, change me, so I’m the right kind of mate.” Now He’ll start talking with you.
2. Offered in faith: Matthew 21:22-“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Do you believe? This isn’t looking at God as a magic genie or Santa Claus. This is genuine faith where you consider who God is, what God has done, and what God is capable of. If you are praying for God’s perfect will, you can have faith that He will answer that prayer.
3. From a pure heart: Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” -Hearts are purified through Christ. It is tough for me to hear non-Christians say, “I’ll be praying for you” or “Our thoughts are with you…” These phrases are meaningless without God behind them.
4. In the name of Jesus Christ: John 14:13-14-“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” There is no other name more powerful than that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Ask the question: What glory is God going to get from answering this prayer? If the answer to the prayer only brings you glory, that isn’t a powerful prayer. It is a selfish prayer.
The root cause of every conflict in the church, our marriage, our country, the world, is SIN. It is worldliness. It is sensuality. Even those of us who have been redeemed by Christ still live in a fallen world with temptations all around us. In the next blog series, we are going to see how the encouragement that James gives about pursuing a friendship with God fits into this idea of prayer and living a life that brings glory to God.
Here are some action steps for this week:
1. Go to God in prayer first.
When we experience conflict, often we spend 3 hours fuming and only 30 seconds praying. No! This should not be. It should be the other way around. God is a heavenly Father that delights in hearing from His kids. We need to ask God for wisdom in dealing with conflict. How much of it is our fault? What can we do to help the situation?
2. Receive the diagnosis.
Don’t be afraid to cry out to God for help. A lot of men have trouble asking for support for the simplest things: directions. But what about when eternity is at stake. Look at Romans 7:23, “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” The next two verses are key: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” A diagnosis of a problem is only useful if it is received. You don’t get a diagnosis and then ignore it and hope it goes away.
3. Pursue reconciliation at all costs.
We learn 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 how we can be reconciled to God first through Christ’s forgiveness. As Hebrews says, there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. Then we are to pursue reconciliation with others. Romans 12:18 teaches, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
There you have it. The spiritual problem is sin with a variety of symptoms. The cure is Christ. The on-going treatment is prayer.
Some questions to consider:
-What are the missing keys in your prayer life that are sapping you of power?
-What are you dwelling on that you need to give to God through fervent prayer?
-Do your prayers seek the glory of God or the fulfillment of your earthly wishes?