When I think back on a majority of the arguments and misunderstandings in my life, they have an overwhelming commonality; me demanding my own way. Sometimes I was correct in what I was arguing about but imposing my will in an unGodly way and selfishly seeking to be right, it would only exacerbate the situation. A minor misunderstanding about some trivial topic would become a major argument only to be lamented later. When we argue and bicker at home, work and church seeking to shape the environment to our own liking and taste we are showing others that we are no different from anyone else. We are exposing our own selfish desires rather than submitting to the will of the one whom we follow.
The first two verses of James 4 paint a picture of derision within the church. This is not the outside world he is speaking to but rather us. James leads us down a path that we witness today on the evening news every night. Someone is jealous of what another person has so they rob or even murder that person. The world is full of examples. But James is warning the church to not follow these desires. He is warning us of the wrong spirit and avenue to seek things in life. At the end of verse 2 we see, ” You do not have, because you do not ask.” This is such a bold statement because we often work selfishly to achieve things our own way, never seeking God in prayer. We effectively miss out on so many blessings because of our lack of prayer. This is not to say that God grants sinful prayers, but often praying has a purifying aspect to our desires.
In prayer, our true motives for seeking whatever it is we are seeking are laid bare. Is this desire or want based in selfishness or is it in the end seeking to glorify God? Am I praying to promote myself or to lift up God and his plan for the world? We so often do not see the answer to these questions until we have taken the time to pray through them and have reflected on why we are asking them in the first place. This is what should separate us from others in our desire.
When our prayers are aligned with God’s will we begin to see the blessing. We see this in 1 John 5:14-15;
“And this is the confidence that we have towards him,
that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask,
we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
God’s blessing of discernment in prayer helps to break our need to be right or demand our own way. It helps to show our desire for what it is. It separates what we may be focused on from what we should be focused on and brings us into communion with God.
As always we have the perfect example of Jesus to show us the purifying aspect of prayer. His prayer before his arrest on the Mount of Olives shows us how we should submit our desires to God.
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
Seeking God’s will in prayer in any situation causes us to pause, reflect and strips us of demanding our own way. We no longer need to impose our will on others. We no longer need to be right. We no longer need to covet things that don’t glorify God because we have him who surpasses all. When we check our passions with prayer, we may more truly experience life with God.