I’ve been thinking about the verse ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (James 4:2).
Whenever you concentrate on one verse, you have to read the verses, paragraphs and even chapters around it to get the full picture of what the verse is saying, otherwise it’s easy to take a verse out of context and misunderstand what it is saying.
This verse is not telling us that everything we ask for, we will get. It just doesn’t work that way.
The next verse says: ‘When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.’ (James 4:3)
There are two things that I understand from these verses:
1) A lot of the time we ask God for things out of selfishness – and then we get angry with Him for not giving them to us.
2) We need to yearn to have the heart of God. We need to pray in the Spirit and we need to devote ourselves to learning everything we can about God’s character and His plan for us.
We do not have because we do not ask…. but when we do ask, we ask the wrong things. We need to learn to understand what God teaches us about right and wrong, about how to love, about compassion, about servanthood, about dying to self, about renewing our minds. Then, when we ask, we will be asking out of love for Him and His creation and from a place of understanding His heart for the world. Then our motivations will be right and our understanding will be right and we will be able to ask with the right motives and with an understanding of God’s desire for us.
I was thinking of this because of something that happened the other night.
I was praying with some brothers and sisters from the church and one of them asked for prayer because, although he had been very successful in many areas, he had always felt a failure academically. He has just started a BA course at a local college, which he hopes will bring him some form of satisfaction that he is not a failure (as well as giving him a new career) and he asked that we would pray that God would help him be motivated and to overcome his feelings of being a failure so that he can succeed.
These requests, in human terms, are very normal and very understandable. Obviously God doesn’t want us to feel like failures and, in the US, academic achievement is very highly rated and is a measure of your success as a person.
As we were praying though, I couldn’t help but think we were praying the wrong thing. Does God really want this man to feel that he is a ‘success’ academically or does He actually want him to be secure in who he is in Christ and to get his sense of self-worth and ‘success’ from His creator rather than from what the world describes as ‘success’.
Does God want him to feel that, when he has his degree, he is more of a man or less of a failure simply because he has a degree? or would God rather that he didn’t need any kind of human accolade or recognition because he gets his understanding of who he is, how much he is loved, and how special he is from the Author of Life?
Does God think he’s a failure? NO!
So why were we praying that God would help him do something that would fill his own pride and ego rather than just asking God that He would fill this man with an understanding of who he is to God and how God views him?
We do not have because we do not ask….. maybe that man could have left that prayer meeting filled with comfort from God and satisfied that, even in this state, he is a success in the eyes of the one who really counts.
Instead, he left believing that God will help him get that feeling of success from worldly things.
Just something to think about….