We are going to continue our study of James 4 today.
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
James starts this verse continuing to talk about desires and how strong the desires of our flesh can be. He says the desires of our flesh cause us to want what we don’t have and lead to fights. James goes on to say that some of the things we want, we do not get because we are unwilling to ask God. Sometimes we are unwilling to humble ourselves enough to ask God for things because we think we can do it all on our own. Do you have difficulty asking God for things? Do you find it hard to ask others for help?
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
In this verse James makes it very clear why the people were not seeing their prayers answered. Those who were seeking the Lord were doing so with the wrong motives. They were seeking God to give them what they wanted, when they wanted it and how they wanted it. Does that describe your prayer life? The Lord does want us to seek Him but He wants our desires be seeking His glory and the furthering of His kingdom.
When it comes to praying, the Lord can answer us in three ways – “yes”, “no” or “not yet”. We recognize when He answers our prayers “yes” and are thrilled. What should thrill is not that we are getting what we want but that our desires are perfectly aligned with the Lord’s. We also recognize when He answers “no” because whatever we’re praying for isn’t happening.
The most difficult answer to receive is “not yet”. It can make us feel like God isn’t hearing or answering us. Our “not yet” prayer requests are the ones that really require us to persevere in prayer and continue to not only seek the Lord but keep our eyes open to see how God is working in our circumstances. Sometimes we feel He isn’t answering us because we are expecting His answer to come in one form and it comes in another.
In my experience there are several reasons why God answers “not yet”. He may have other things to set into motion before answering our prayer. There may be things He needs to teach us or ways He needs us to grow in our faith before we receive the answer or maybe we just need to learn perseverance. Regardless of the reason for the “not yet” response, we can be assured that He does hear and He is working in our circumstances.
Think back over your prayer requests. Can you identify when God has answered “yes”? Praise Him that your desires were in line with His. When has the Lord answered your prayers with “no”? After some hindsight can you see why He answered it in that way? Could He have answered “no” because your motives were selfish? What prayers are you getting the “not yet” answer? Persevere and take some time to see if you can see how God is working in that situation.