For God’s Sake: Lessons in importance of prayer
“You do not have because you do not ask,” says the New Testament letter of James as it chides its readers for their prayerlessness, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!”
The Christians to whom James was writing must have been a shallow, selfish bunch, we think to ourselves as we adjust the mirror of Scripture so that we don’t see ourselves in it. This sweeping indictment is that, since we mistake prayer for a personal tool to get the stuff we want, which rarely “works,” we tend not to pray. Not only should we pray more often, but we should also pray more wisely.
A Christian’s practice of prayer reveals much about their spiritual health, which is why bringing up the topic of prayer is never popular. The infrequency of our praying reveals that we do not understand our dependence on God. We perceive ourselves to be self-dependent, needing only an occasional leg up or an occasional favor from God, but we are utterly dependent on God for all things.
Everything that exists, from the food we eat to our most advanced technological devices, have come from what the Lord God has created. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). We humbly pray, and God graciously provides.
The content of our prayers reveals that we have forgotten, or perhaps were never told, that when we came to faith in Christ, it was not we who invited Christ into our lives, but Christ who invited us into his life. Without that understanding, we regard Christ as our servant whom we summon through prayer to accomplish our purposes.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” If we truly are in Christ, there should be in us a growing passion for Christ and the things of Christ, a persistent holy discontent until Christ’s purposes are accomplished to his great glory. It is far better to pray for Christ’s purposes to be accomplished.
Understand, I am not standing next to James with my finger pointed at you. I am standing beside you, exposed and without excuse, in Scripture’s revealing light. I need growth here. Recently, I had some lessons in prayer’s importance.
My leadership team and I at COMPASS were lamenting how we were not reaching young families. In one of those forehead-slapping epiphanies, we realized that we had not because we asked not. We began praying earnestly and God provided abundantly.
Later, I was struggling with my ministry workload and asked the team to join me in praying for God to send us ministry-equipped believers. God provided abundantly.
We were frustrated with our location, a comfortable worship space, but it lacks versatility and is situated behind a gate with a gate code. We diligently prayed and God has answered abundantly. I’ll tell you how he answered that prayer another time.