On Prayer


James 4:3 (ESV)
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

It is common knowledge that most people in this world do not pray at all, let alone those who profess to have faith. Prayer is probably the most underrated activity of all of the evidences of a Christian life. Most live day-to-day without giving thanks to God for the many blessings received, and are slow to take any needs to the Lord in prayer.

Still others profess to have a regular, steady prayer life and yet receive no answered prayers—for them the above verse is quite appropriate—because they pray in a wrongful manner. What does it mean to ask wrongly?

Are we being earnest in our prayers? Do we have a genuine appreciation for the object of our prayer request? Consider the Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans 10:1 where he declared, “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved”, indicating a heart carrying a heavy burden for his kinsmen’s salvation (see also Romans 9:2-3). Similarly, in Exodus 32:32, Moses expressed an earnestness for his fellow Israelites so much that he was ready to face eternal separation from God if it would bring about the young nation’s salvation. Are we praying with similar passion?

We should never approach a petition we bring before the Almighty with a spirit of indifference. What possible right do we have to call His attention to something we ourselves care little about? God knows our hearts and recognizes our insincerity before we even utter a word (Proverbs 16:2; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 44:1; 1 Samuel 16:7). A prayer uttered without earnestness is empty and worse, sinful.

Because God knows our hearts, He also discerns our motives behind the prayer. Are we praying to fulfill some worldly desire? It is not just about lust, but also about the underlying current of pride. Do you pray for something to happen so that you can then boast the results to others? Consider all of the "Name it and Claim it" TV Evangelists. Do these prayers focus on God's glory or on man receiving his just rewards? Prayers in such a manner, regardless of the request, diminish the glory of God so the glory of man can be elevated.

Is there unconfessed sin in your life? In Psalm 66:18, David declared, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” We cannot expect to approach a holy and just God harboring a sin we refuse to acknowledge. God hates sin, period. We should never expect answers to our prayers when our hearts bear sin we know we should confess. David learned this and the words of Psalm 139:23-24 express his earnestness to bring out in the open any sin hidden from the light.

Sometimes we must realize the answer to our prayer is not a “no”, but a “not now”. When we pray for something, we have a limited view of our life and see only present needs based on our reality. We have to understand that God sees us in a sense of timelessness, in that He knows our needs better than we do. Our prayer request must be in line with His will, not ours. We have many examples in Scripture where God fulfills His promises on His own timetable, not man’s. For instance, it was 25 years after God promised Abraham an heir that the birth of Isaac occurred; and Noah waited over 100 years before the floodwaters came; 400 years lapsed between Malachi and the arrival of John the Baptist, just name a few. We must learn to wait for God’s purposes to be fulfilled and trust in His timing (Lamentations 3:25; Hebrews 10:36).

This is perhaps the most difficult for us to do. Patience is not a trait everyone possesses, yet God will reward those who practice it (Psalm 37:7; Ephesians 4:2; Romans 8:25; 12:12). When we exercise patience, we are in effect saying, “I trust you, God.”

Learn to develop a trusting, prayer-filled life and in all circumstances, give glory to God and thanksgiving for simply being allowed to draw a breath. Approach the Throne of Grace with utmost humility and He will hear you.