1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. - James 4:1-3
These verses call out Christians on their prayer life. The reality is many of us do not pray faithfully. Some will argue they pray constantly - shooting up those arrow prayers whenever we are asked or they occur to us. Lord, help my sister. Lord, help my finances. Lord, heal that boy. Or perhaps we say that same prayer we’ve been taught over and over without really thinking about.
We often don't pray like we should because when we do, God doesn't seem to answer. I have been praying for the salvation of my sons for many years now, and I’m still waiting. Why continue? We stop praying when we haven't seen answers. But the problem isn’t in the answers, the problem is with our prayers and with our hearts. James explains in these verses that either we want wrong things, or we ask for them wrongly. That’s some hard truth for those of us who wait patiently on God to move in an area we’ve been praying over for a long time. But we know in order for there to be a breakthrough, there must be some personal honesty. So we lean and look at our hearts. Sometimes you have to tear down the facts to get to the fault in the foundation. What are those things you are praying for? And why are you not receiving them?
The problem is what we want and how we want it. God promises himself as the answer to our deepest longings; if we don't have it, it's because we don't want it and don't ask.
Then there is this issue with conflict and fights. Conflict is serious, prolonged debating. Fights are a specific flare up over an issue. The truth is conflict is in conflict with prayer.
Your passions are at war within you - stated differently, you are angry because you don’t get your way. You want to see answers to your prayers? You need to resolve where you are in conflict. We need to die to ourselves and come to the end of our flesh and all the things we insist on.
We don't pray because we don't see answers. We don't see answers because we ask wrongly - to spend it on our passions.
How do we ask wrongly? First and foremost, we leave sin unconfessed. If my behavior is wrong, if my sin is unconfessed, if my motives are not pure, my prayer is unheard. Our actions affect our access to the Lord.
Sometimes we wonder why God hasn't taken care of something that we know he can take care of, and the truth is we have unconfessed sin in our lives. Your sins have gotten in the way of Him hearing your prayers. If you have the sense that God is not hearing your prayers, you need to check your unconfessed sin.
Sometimes our unconfessed sin is idolatry, or ascribing worth to something greater than God. My reputation, my financial security, my kids, my time, my autonomy. When God gets shoved off the throne of my life, and something else gets placed up there as more, that's idolatry. When something else is winning our hearts over God, He does not hear our prayer.
Sometimes our unconfessed sin is a refusal to hear God’s word. Proverbs 28:9 tells us if one turns away his ear, then even his prayer is an abomination. When the Word is going out and it's not being heard by you, your prayers are not being heard by God.
Sometimes our prayers are not being heard because of a lack of compassion. The prayers that we bring before God have to be in the context of a heart of justice and a heart of compassion. Compassion is the ability to grieve for others, the ability to get outside of your own shoes and feel what others feel because God feels it. We need to care about others and not stand in judgment of others in order for our prayers to be heard.
Sometimes our unconfessed sin is a lack of forgiveness. The bible calls for immediate, unilateral, total forgiveness. Anything less than that and God puts your prayers on mute.
Confident prayer begins with confession of sin. If we want God to hear and respond to our prayers, we must dig down deeply into our hearts and look for our responsibility in the conflict and quarrels in our lives, and confess our responsibility.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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