I woke up this morning with this thought going across my mind; "You have not because you ask not." I got up and started looking for this passage of scripture and it is found in James 4:2;
2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (ESV)
I know I have heard it preached time and again and James is rather direct about why we fail to get what we ask for. It comes from having the wrong passions when we ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 (ESV)
We often ask for things not out of our need but out of our desires and wants. James explains that much of the evil and sin we see in the world comes from these passions of the flesh. As I think about this Jesus provided us with the model prayer and as I think about it more there are some critical points that I need to change in my own prayer life and maybe you do to. The first issue I realized was whose will am I praying?
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
Do you have a laundry list of things you pray for? I do sometimes it causes me a lot of stress waiting on God to respond to my wants. I think one issue that causes this is because there is another passage of scripture John 14:14;
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV)
That is often thrown out there when we teach people to pray. After all this is a direct quote from Jesus Himself. However, like all scripture we need to examine the rest of those passages around this statement. Verse 13 is critical to a right understanding of how we are to pray.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13 (ESV)
Jesus has promised to do what we pray for IF it brings glory too the Father. How many of our prayers are focused on glorifying God? Trust me when I say that one truth will change how you pray. The discipline of prayer is something that requires humility as the center focus of your prayer life Jesus warns the disciples time and again that those with haughty hearts and worldly passions were only fooling themselves. He instructed them to:
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6 (ESV)
There is a little prayer found in Proverbs 30 that I recommend ever believer learn as part of their prayer life;
7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9 (ESV)
As we learn to pray it is desirable to approach the throne in humility remembering that without the humble sacrifice of Jesus Christ we would not even have the opportunity to go before God with our petitions. Ask yourself when you pray; who will get the glory out of what you're asking? If the prayer you pray is answered will people see God at work or will they only see you? The answer to that question will help you determine if you are praying with the right passions. I pray God is glorified in all that you pray as you walk in the light of His word.
Rev. Brian H. Mathis CSC
Ordained Minister Church of God, Cleveland TN
Currently serving as the Associate Pastor of Discipleship at Westminster Baptist Church
Graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary MDiv in Chaplain Studies