“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:2b–3, AV)
I am reminded of a song made popular by Janice Joplin titled, “Mercedes Benz.” In the song, the lyrics go, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all have Porches, I must make amends.” When you go through all the lyrics, you will see the typical prayer of a person driven by fleshly passions. In the first verse the prayer is for the Lord to buy the person a Mercedes Benz. In the second verse, the petition is for “a color TV” and in the third verse it is for “a night on the town.” Unfortunately, many of our prayer requests may sound just like these.
Here, James presents two huge issues when it comes to prayer. One is prayerlessness and the other is the source of prayer. In the song, “Mercedes Benz,” the person is at least asking the Lord for something. Yet, unfortunately, many professing believers today spend very little time in prayer. I am not sure why prayer is so difficult for us. Perhaps it is because we are of little faith. We just trust too much in our own abilities and little in the Lord. Perhaps it is because we are too busy and feel we do not have the time to pray. If we are that busy, we need to pray all the more so that the Lord’s power will come to bear on our workload. Perhaps we just do not see our relationship with the Father as important enough. Well, truly, there are no good excuses.
However, even when we do pray, often nothing seems to happen. Perhaps the problem is that our prayer requests are focused upon the wrong things. Or, should I rather say, our petitions come from the wrong motivation. James states that it is wrong to ask for that which has the main focus of satisfying our own fleshly passions. If this is the motivation behind our prayer, we can expect little in response from the Heavenly Father. The petitions that catch the Father’s ear are those which target His will and these are the prayers that He will answer (1 John 5:14-16).
Now, understand that in our prayer God loves to hear from us. He deserves our spending time in giving Him worship by praising Him for who He is and what He has done. it is the will of the Father to meet our needs and to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him. He desires to strengthen us in the inner person by His Spirit for ministry and life. He offers abundant wisdom to those who ask. It behooves us to better understand God’s purposes, ways, and will, so that we may more correctly approach the throne of grace.
Consider your prayer-life. Do you feel you spend enough time in prayer? Does the content of your prayer glorify God or is it to please your own fleshly desires? What is the motivation for your prayers? Consider these things and build better prayer habits in your life.