Prayerlessness (James 4: 2b–3)
“You don’t have because you don’t ask. 3 You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.”
I love this quote from John Piper on prayer. “God has established prayer as the means by which we receive his supernatural help. And without supernatural help, we cannot live a life worthy of the gospel. Everything that distinguishes Christians from the world in a Christ-exalting way is a work of God’s supernatural grace. And God has ordained that this grace flows to us through prayer. That’s why prayer must be central, not peripheral, in our lives and families and ministries.”
James points out this is lacking in the church in Jerusalem. It’s not an issue of no prayers, it is an issue with the nature and content of their request to the Almighty.
Warren Wiersbe describes their prayer life and sadly peeks into our prayer closets.
“Sometimes we use prayer as a cloak to hide our true desires. “But I prayed about it!” can be one of the biggest excuses a Christian can use. Instead of seeking God’s will, we tell God what He is supposed to do; and we get angry at Him if He does not obey. This anger at God eventually spills over and we get angry at God’s people. More than one church split has been caused by saints who take out their frustrations with God on the members of the church. Many a church or family problem would be solved if people would only look into their own hearts and see the battles raging there.”
James’s people allowed prayer to become another thing that caused divisions and fights among the body of Christ. They were wanting the wrong things as they came to church. They were wanting their own desires gratified. And when God refused to grant their requests, the vitriol was so destructive they committed murder in their hearts for each other. “You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight.” James 4:2
Because these members desired the wrong things, they could not ask God for the right things. People’s wrong motives led them to ask God for the wrong things, they were not receiving anything from God. “You do not have because you do not ask,” James says.
This was not only a terrible indictment of the Jerusalem Church, but it is also a terrible indictment of us.
Ever wonder why does God not answer our prayers? The reason: When we come to God superficially seeking his glory, and we end up seeking our own, offering as our pleas those things that will make life more comfortable and convenient for us. That posture in prayer is rejected.
Jesus teaches us about the proper approach to prayer in Matthew 7, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.8For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.9Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread?”
The heart of what is causing fighting in the church is we are selfish and self-centered. Satan loves to have us focus on ourselves and our wants and needs. Dwight Moody says, “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.” The church needs to unite around prayer. Prayer for the mission of God, the advancement of the Gospel into the hearts and lives of the communities we are called to serve. And for the upbuilding of the saints and sinners under our care.
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