“What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3
There’s a lot going on in these three verses. James asks an important question, “What causes wars and what causes fighting among you?” His answer is no different than we would state today–greed and selfishness. We want, want, want and when we can’t have everything that we covet then we try to take it by force.
I remember a man telling me about his family getting into a literal fight after the details of the will of his deceased grandmother was made known. People who thought they were cheated out of their fair share of the inheritance started pushing and shoving the family members that they perceived received more than them. And the anger soon spilled out into a knock down, drag out fistfight including both men and women.
How sad to think people sit around waiting for loved ones to die so they can inherit money. When you think about it that’s all that the prodigal son was saying to his father when he demanded his inheritance. He was simply saying “Dad you aren’t dying fast enough for me so give me my money now.”
But James doesn’t leave his readers scratching their heads over how to get out of the dilemma of needing more and yet at the same time not being enslaved to materialism. His answer is twofold. First he tells them that they don’t ask of God so how can they receive His blessings. Secondly, if they do pray they pray wrongly because their prayers are selfish and self-centered.
James makes it clear that the problem isn’t with God, but with our asking God for the wrong things. The solution is that we pray according to God’s will because He knows what is best for us. The question then is how do we know God’s will and how do we pray according to that will?
First we find direction in the Bible. We need to spend time claiming the promises of God, learning to trust in God’s love and grace for us, and developing a relationship with Him. We do all that by reading and studying the Bible. This is an important step in learning the will of God for our lives. The more we study the Bible the more we understand God’s plans and dreams for us and the more we desire to walk in the ways of the Lord. We will never grow as Christians if we neglect reading and studying in the Bible.
When we pray we should kneel down in humility. As a boy growing up I have vivid pictures in my mind of my mother kneeling down by the side of her bed and praying. Later as an adult whenever I would return home to visit my parents I would often get glimpses of my mother praying by my fathers favorite chair. My mother spent most of her Christian life alone without a strong family support to encourage her, but she never gave up. I am sure many times her heart was bursting with discouragement but through everything she continued to kneel down and take her cares to the Lord. My mother’s prayers were not filled with pleas for God to give her money or trying to scheme how she was going to finagle something out of someone. Her prayers were for the salvation of her family. She prayed according to God’s will.
When you kneel down to pray, it helps to pray out loud. This is important if you wish to concentrate on your prayers. If you are anything like me it is easy to find your mind drifting when praying. When we pray aloud it is easier to keep focused on our prayers.
Before you kneel down to pray it would be good to have a list of what you wish to pray for. It is not good enough to hope we remember whom we want to pray for. We need to have their names by our side so we don’t forget anyone. My friend Jim usually takes the prayer requests at the little church I attend and I noticed he writes every name down. When he prays over those names he never misses a person, and the reason that’s important is because for some of the people on the list that may be the only time they are prayed for all week.
Lastly, pray with all your heart. Lift people and their needs up to God with the same fervency that you hold your own needs up to Him. Remember, it is God’s will that needs to be done not necessarily our will. But, if we are grounded in the word, open to the leading of the Spirit, and sincere in our prayers, I believe God will reveal to us the direction we are to follow.
One of the great joys of the Christian life is being surprised by the twists and turns our life takes as God leads. If you were to take a few moments to sit down and think about all the ways God lead I’m sure you would be amazed. The greatest encouragement a Christian can have is to know that they are seeking God’s will and having the assurance that God will lead and direct in all that they do. Praise God!
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians