By: Blake Couring
Repenting of Misguided and Faithless Prayer
Jesus himself has said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). And in Luke 11:9-12 “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The great reformer Martin Luther said of these passages, “Are we so hard of heart that these words of Jesus do not move us to pray with confidence, joyfully and gladly? So many of our prayers must be reformed if we are to pray according to these words. To be sure, all of the churches across the land are filled with people praying and singing, but why is it that there is so little improvement, so few results from so many prayers?” We could even ask ourselves why am I seeing “so little improvement” or “so few results”? Why am I not receiving my request? The answer is found in James 4:3, “You do not receive because you ask amiss.” But what does this word “amiss” mean? It means to do something wrongly or imperfectly. When we plead with the Lord, James says we can do it the wrong way and with wrong intentions. There are two common ways we pray the wrong way. The first way is by letting the world motivate our prayers. And the second is by asking the Lord and not trusting God to always answer perfectly.
The audience to which the book of James was written had relational tensions that blinded them to how they should be addressing the Lord. James however gives us powerful truth that goes beyond the hindrance of relationship problems. Whether it is in our relationships or our suffering or any other hindrances in life; our passions are at war within us (James 4:1). These passions are the same fleshly desires that we were born with and are being saved from. As Paul would explain in Ephesians 4:22-24 it is as if there are two men within us, the old man and the new man. The old man is bent toward worldly passions and the new man toward love and obedience to the Spirit of God. The front lines of this spiritual battle are found in our prayer life. How we pray is evidence of who is winning the battle within us – the world or the Spirit. Are you praying according to your passion for the things of this world or are you dependent on the Spirit to inform you to how you should be praying? What moves you to prayer? What are you begging the Lord for? Are you in complete reliance on his Spirit to appeal to the Lord humbly and with a submissive heart? The person who is dependent on the Spirit to pray will be more eager to pray, more persistent in their begging the Lord for their need, and will be more interested in seeing how God will answer their plea than having their request answered.
Another common way we ask wrongly is when we ask faithlessly. If Romans 14:23 says, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” what do we do when the Lord is silent and doesn’t seem to answer our prayer? Do we fret when God doesn’t answer immediately in some tangible way? When He doesn’t heal supernaturally, or take away a certain struggle, or open the heart of someone we long to know Him; are we shaken in our resolve? We often get restless in our pursuit of an answer. The Lord desires us to expect of Him as we would a good Father. He hears us and we should expect an answer every time we ask. He will give us the best answer every time. Sometimes the Lord trusts us with a greater answer to our prayer by giving us something we would never expect but can only be done by him. He gives us a holy unrest which always intends to bring us into a deeper relationship with God. It is in those times of unrest in our personal private sufferings that our noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given. The greatest gifts are faith, hope, and love. If he knows what we need before we ask then it becomes clearer the purpose and necessity of prayer. We need to cast all our cares upon him because he cares for us. If we are honest with ourselves we have no idea how to pray. We need him to pray the right way with the right motives.
When you pray, know that there is more at stake than the here and now and your Father knows that most of all. Be sure your prayer grows from deep rooted faith and is not motivated by the world or the flesh. Trust your Father in heaven to hear every word of your prayer, for he will give you greater things than you would ever dream to ask.