James 4:1–6 ‘When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?’ (vv3–4a)
We face a human dilemma. God says He answers our prayers on many occasions in Scripture, yet some of our prayers appear to go unanswered. We also appreciate that they need to be in agreement with God’s unseen purpose. God’s character is revealed throughout Scripture, and we, like the Israelites throughout the OT, learn more of that character daily through experience. There’s a danger that we project human emotions and characteristics onto God. We assume He understands the human condition in the way we do, yet God isn’t subject to our emotions and anxieties. When Luke records Jesus resolutely embracing His execution (9:51) we get a glimpse of the resolution we need to follow Jesus in order to sustain and grow our faith and reveal God’s kingdom.
When praying, we easily ask from wrong motives. We naturally want to avoid pain and loss but our prayer is best focused on the global tragedies that unfold daily. We see highly qualified, now impoverished refugees floating up on Britain’s shores. What’s our reaction? Before ever looking for a political solution, we are to fall to our knees and pray. We are to recall that their experience may become our experience, and we will then become dependent on the prayers of the global Church to sustain us in desperate circumstances. When our prayers centre on our own desires primarily, we pray amiss. We are to bring our concerns together with the needs of others, our motive that God’s will is done.
SCRIPTURE TO CONSIDER: Prov. 1:28–33; Isa. 1:10–17; Matt. 21:18–22; Eph. 4:11–16.
AN ACTION TO TAKE: What have you learnt about God’s character and how does it influence your decision-making?
A PRAYER TO MAKE: ‘Lord, I come, pray and listen to You. I seek You with all my heart and I know that You are here with me. Amen.’