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Why God Doesn't Answer Prayer - James Part 10

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
December 15, 2022 7:00 am

Why God Doesn't Answer Prayer - James Part 10

So What? / Lon Solomon

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We're in James chapter 4 this evening, and you know what I appreciate about the book of James is that it's not very complicated. Oh, it's fairly complicated to figure out an outline, perhaps.

That's frustrated people through the ages. But once you get down to what James is actually saying, to the mechanics of what he's trying to get across to us, it's just not that hard. He's a very simple, pragmatic individual, and the Holy Spirit through him gives a simple, pragmatic, and yet very profound teaching.

This evening, James is going to concentrate in just three verses, the first three verses of chapter 4, on our prayer life, not on all of it, but on a small portion of it. And he's going to try to answer the question, why don't we receive things from God when we ask for them? Why don't we receive things from God when we ask for them? That's a question, I think, that plagues each of us.

We pray for something and pray for something and pray for something, and we don't really seem to get any response from our Lord. And there's a variety of reasons why. The two reasons that James will outline here are not the only reasons by far. There are lots of reasons. Maybe it's not God's timing. Maybe God has special purposes in our lives with delaying the answer. There's lots of reasons. But the two reasons that James is going to point out are two of the more common reasons why God doesn't answer our prayers.

And I trust we'll listen with an open heart. They're not complicated. But if we could grasp them, they're profound. James 4, verse 1, Where do wars and fightings come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members you lust and do not have? You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you do not have because you do not ask.

You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss that you may spend it on your pleasures. Three short, simple verses, but full of important truth. James starts off by saying, You all have conflict. You have fights and wars and all sorts of contention. And these come from the desires that wage war inside your members, for the desire to have things.

So there's envy and there's strife. And James says, Why don't you have these things? The reason that you don't have them is not that someone else does have them. That if you could take them away from someone else, then you would have them. That's not the reason. He says the reason is God hasn't given them to you. Then he goes on to tell us two reasons why, at least for these believers, and often for us. God never gave these believers what they wanted.

Two very simple reasons. Reason number one, God doesn't often give us what we pray for because often we don't pray for it. Did you get that? God often doesn't give us what we pray for because often we don't pray for it.

That's all I'm going to repeat. If you haven't got it now, we're going to go on. James says, verse 2, You lust and do not have. Now he's not talking here about sexual lust. He's talking about the lust, the desire to have things, material things.

You don't have them. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. Now whether or not this is actual murder among believers or the kind of murder John talked about where he said that he who hates his brother is a murderer is unclear. But whatever, even covet is strong enough without the murder part. You fight and you war, yet you do not have because you do not ask.

Pretty simple. James says that one of the reasons we don't get answered prayer is that often we never prayed the prayer in the first place. And we need to make sure we understand some things. Number one, we don't pray. It's not that we need to pray to inform God what our needs are. As though God didn't know what we needed, and by praying we are informing Him, educating Him as to what our needs are.

There's a lot of people who think that. But in Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus said in verse 8 that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of before we ever ask Him. God doesn't insist that we ask for things because He's not aware of what our needs might be. Moreover, God doesn't want us to pray for things because praying for them makes us worthy to receive them. You know, if I don't pray for it, I'm not worthy. But if I pray for it, I'm worthy and God can give it to me.

Wrong. We're never worthy of what God gives us. And it's probably a very good thing God doesn't give us what we're worthy of. As one man said, if God gave us what we deserved, we'd all go to hell.

That's true. It's good God doesn't give us what we're worthy of. And praying doesn't make us worthy of anything. So we don't pray to inform God, and we don't pray to make ourselves worthy. Why then is our Lord so insistent upon the fact that we pray for things? So much so that James would say, if you don't pray for them, there are certain things God will not give you. What's so important about asking for them? So much so that Jesus said in Matthew 7, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.

Knock and it shall be opened. For to the one who asks, and to the one who seeks, and to the one who knocks. And if you know how to give good gifts to your children, won't God give good gifts to those who ask Him?

A real stress on asking. I believe it's because God intends, through the process of our asking for things, to teach us a very important lesson, the lesson of dependence on Him. You see, God has determined that we not treat Him like our spiritual Santa Claus, that we not just, you know, send up the old balloon, here's mine, down comes the present, you know, just automatic. No, God's after much more than that. Our Lord wants to raise us as His children and wants to teach us consciously to depend on Him, not on ourselves. Now this doesn't mean that we can't do anything or that we shouldn't. It doesn't mean we're to sit around and wait for great things to just drop on us from heaven.

That's an overbalance. It's a perversion of biblical truth. We're to do humanly what we can do, but realizing that the real energy, the genuine strength, the real efficacy of that action doesn't come from our human effort, but from God working through our human effort, or in some cases, working in spite of our human effort, to accomplish His will.

And one of the best ways to teach us to depend on God is to make us ask for things, and sometimes to make us ask over and over and over and over so that when we get them, we don't forget where they came from. I was just reading this week the Humanist Manifesto II. I don't know how many of you ever read that. It's a document that humanitarians and humanist-oriented people have come up with to set forth their doctrine. It's sort of their Bible, so to speak. And one of the things that it said in there really caught my attention, especially in light of the fact that I knew we'd be speaking about this passage together this evening.

It said this. It said, we in every way reject the idea of a Supreme Being on whom dependence is built. We cannot depend on anyone else to save us.

We must save ourselves. And faith in some sort of supernatural cosmic being only accomplishes dependence in people, not independence. Only accomplishes reliance on people in people on someone else rather than self-reliance. And we reject that.

Oh, and I sat there reading this, and I thought, Lord, they've got one thing right. At least they realize that when people trust you, there's a reliance, there's a dependence that should be set up and must be set up between people and you. They may reject it, but at least they understand that that's what we're saying, that that's what the Scripture is teaching. Would to God more Christians understood that, that God is trying to teach us to depend on Him. Now there's a balance here, and that is that God gives us a lot that we never ask for, in spite of the fact we never ask for them.

Aren't you glad about that? Can't you recall times in your life where God gives you something and you go, wow, Lord, that is so neat. I mean, I didn't pray for that. I never ask you for that. You knew I sort of wanted it, and you just gave it to me anyway. Oh, isn't that neat?

You ever had one of those happen? You know, the fulfillment of Ephesians 3 that God gives us, the Greek means super abundantly, over and above, all that we could ask or what's the next word? Think. Have you ever had God fulfill a think? Were you just riding down the road or one day you just thought about it? You didn't ask for it. You just thought about it, and the Lord gives it to you.

Those are exciting, aren't they? It sort of lets you know the Lord's still around and in business. And yet, you know, I believe the people who get those specials are the people who already have the dependence relationship down because they are asking for lots of other things. God doesn't mind giving them special things. But you see, God wants to teach us to depend on Him.

This is, of course, where human wisdom and divine wisdom diverge once again. The flesh says, I have to depend on me. Nobody in this world is going to help me.

I have to make it myself. Ah, but God says, you depend on yourself. You're doomed to failure. You depend on me. That's why God insists that we ask for things, because it forces us consciously to acknowledge that we are dependent on Him, not on ourselves, but on Him. That's why there are certain things God won't give us unless we humble ourselves and ask. Reason number one why we don't get answered prayer is that sometimes we never prayed for it. But you might say, well, I am asking. I have been asking. I've been doing it over and over again, and God still hasn't given me what I asked for. And as I've already said, lots of reasons.

This isn't the only one, but it's a common one. Let's read it. Verse 3. You ask, now here are people who are asking. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. The other reason James mentions that we don't have answered prayer is not only that we don't pray, but that when we do pray and do ask for things, we sometimes ask with improper motives. We sometimes ask with improper motives.

Now, James says, you ask amiss is the way the New King James translates it. The word really means you ask wrongly. You ask improperly. You ask for the wrong reasons.

And this is very common among Christians. We don't really investigate. We don't really check up on why we're asking for things.

We want it. We ask for it. Let God sift through all the motives. But you know, it's a lot shorter process if we would sift through the motives before we take it to the Lord. Sometimes when prayer isn't answered for months, it may take us months or years to figure out the motives wrong.

It may never even have occurred to us to check on the motive. But God says, look, when you come and ask me for something, I'm concerned that your motive is proper. God says I can give you anything I want to. But I don't go around just dispensing favors regardless of the motive. You know, my friends, more and more I'm beginning to see, and I hope you are too as you grow, that the Lord is far more interested in our heart than He is our action sometimes. That He's far more interested in our motive and the reason behind why we do something than He is what we do sometimes.

Now He's interested in what we do. Ah, but the best action with the wrong motive is worthless. What's the wrong motive? Well, anytime you ask something, as James says here, to spend it on your own pleasures, to satisfy your own personal whims and desires, James says that's a wrong motive. Now he's not saying it's necessarily sin. He's not saying that what they wanted to do with their request was necessarily sin, but just not centered around our Lord.

Because Jesus said, you ask and I'll give, but we don't read the end of the verse, that the Father might be glorified in the Son. Did you hear that motive? That's a little different motive. That the Father, that's why He'll give, might be glorified in the Son. And the proper motive for any prayer request is that God would give it to me so that I could use it with God's help to honor God.

That's a right motive. And I assure you, you pray with that motive sincerely. You won't have any trouble getting your prayers answered. That's why God answers prayer. Did you ever think about that? God doesn't answer prayer just to take care of you. He could take care of you in lots of different ways.

God answers prayer to glorify Himself. A few years ago I met a gospel singing group at a Baptist church in Alexandria, and I really, really enjoyed them. It's a quartet. They sang, you know, kind of country-ish quartet music. Ah, it's really good.

Really good. Banjo. Somebody, if anybody in here can play the banjo, I'd like to meet you.

I love banjo picking. Anyway, they played. I really enjoyed it.

Sang. I went up afterwards and talked to the leader of the group. We got in a little conversation. And totally unsolicited. I didn't have this message at this point.

I wasn't looking for a sermon illustration. We just got to talking. And I asked him about, how long have you been together as a group? Where have you been singing?

What have you been doing? He said, you know, we've been together for a number of years. And for the first few years we were together, we knew we were good. We knew our voices blended well.

We knew that we had good orchestration and good tempo. He said, and yet our ministry never went anywhere. I mean, it just seemed to constantly fall flat. Nothing really was happening. And we kept saying, why aren't things happening here? We expected to be, you know, just at the grand old gospel hour or something in a couple of years.

And nothing. He said, and then one day while we were just having prayer together, it really hit me that the reason we were singing and the reason we wanted to grow and become prominent and famous was not to honor our Lord but to exalt ourselves. He said, and I said to the other members of the group, I don't know how you all feel, but I really sense here we've got an improper motive.

How does it strike you? And he said, we prayed about it and all of us admitted it was true. Our motive had not really been to honor Jesus Christ but to honor our own egos.

And he said, we got on our knees. We confessed that to the Lord. We told him we didn't want that anymore but we wanted to ask him to use us and expand our ministry but for the purpose of letting us glorify him. And he said, you know, since then we haven't been able to keep up with all the opportunities God's brought our way.

And we're singing better. And we seem to be communicating and ministering to people more effectively. That's because the right motive is that the Father might be glorified in the Son. Now there's nothing wrong, and I should balance this, there's nothing wrong with praying for specific things. And we often pray, Lord, thy will be done. We don't know what to do here. You do what you want.

That's good and that's fine. But there's nothing wrong with praying for a specific thing. If we take this far, too far, we can end up thinking, oh, I can't ask for anything. How do I know for sure that it's going to be honoring to the Lord? Well, God has to sift through all our prayers no matter how carefully we sift through them. And there's nothing wrong. Jesus tells us to ask for specifics.

Nothing wrong with that. But when we ask for them, we need to appendix our prayers by saying something to the effect, Lord, this is what I want. Lord, this is what I think would honor you.

Lord, this is where I really think I should be or go or do. But Lord, if something else would honor you more, then you do what would honor you more. That's a good, balanced, properly motivated prayer. You pray those kind of prayers and you will see things happen because God will take advantage of every opportunity you give Him to glorify the Son in and through your life.

I hope you believe that. God will take advantage of every opportunity you give Him to glorify the Son in and through your life. So we need to deliberately ask God for things. This deepens our dependence on Him.

We need to make sure that our motives are correct when we do ask God for something, that we are asking with the goal in mind of honoring Christ and not just obtaining for ourselves. When I first went to seminary, I had a motorcycle. It wasn't much of a motorcycle, but it was a motorcycle. It got around. When I first started going to seminary, of course the seminary I went to, Capital Seminary, was located in the heart of Prince George's County. And at the time I was a volunteer worker for the Good News Mission in Montgomery County Jail, which is way out off Seven Locks Road in Montgomery County. That's a pretty long drive. And winter was coming, and I had to be there twice a week for my volunteer Christian service. And it began to occur to me, you know, Lord, as the nights get rainy, the weather gets cold, and the snow gets on the ground. It's going to be kind of tough riding a motorcycle on the beltway in the snow. Bad enough driving a car on the beltway in dry weather, but it's going to be bad. And Lord, forgetting back and forth to do all these different things, back and forth to class, back and forth to the jail, back and forth to church. I was still attending church over here in Virginia, but living in Maryland.

Lord, a motorcycle is just not that practical. And people are depending on me to be at certain of these places. I have a ministry for you, Lord. And so I began asking God to give me a car, not to help me buy one because I didn't have any money, but to give me one.

And not to give me something that didn't run, either, because I don't know how to fix them, but to give me something that worked. And I shared this with a couple of my friends, and one of them even said to me, you know, don't you think it's just a little impertinent to ask God for a free car? I mean, who else does he give free cars to?

Well, I suppose it probably did sound impertinent to some people. But I wasn't asking because I wanted a car. I was very happy with my motorcycle. In fact, I was really happier with my motorcycle than I've ever been with a car, but that's beside the point. I didn't want the car just to have a car.

I needed the car, I believe, so that I could be true and faithful to the responsibilities that God had given me, so that I could get to class, so that I could get to church and teach Sunday school, so that I could get to that jail a couple of days a week. And I did examine my motive. And I said, Lord, with all my heart, my motive is not just to get a car. My motive is to be able to better serve you. And I said, I believe you're going to honor that prayer.

I don't care how impertinent my friends think it is. I believe it's a good prayer. So I prayed it. And I guess I'd been praying that prayer for about two weeks. I didn't tell anybody I was praying that prayer.

A couple weeks. I got a phone call one night with my mom and dad calling from Georgia. And they said, hello, how you doing?

How's the weather? You know all the formalities. And then they said, you know, your grandfather called us up and said he was really proud of how you were moving on and getting involved in things. Now this man's not a Christian. Still isn't. And he said, you know, when you graduated from college, he never really got you anything.

That's true. So they said to me, they said, you know, he called us up and asked us what we thought you could use. We weren't really sure. So he said, well, what's he driving? And they said, a motorcycle. And he said, a motorcycle. Whoever heard of a preacher driving a motorcycle? So he went out. It's my grandfather who still does not know the Lord and bought me unsolicited, unannounced, unasked for, a car that I kept for many years and ran fine and gave it to me free.

The only stipulation was that I sell my motorcycle, which seemed fair. And so I did. Now, I don't tell you that so that you walk away from here going, wow, you know, let's get Solomon to pray for a car for us. That's not the point. The point is that if you really want something genuinely, and if you really need something genuinely so that you can better honor our Lord, believe me, you'll have it. But when we begin praying for things just because we want them, and we're beginning to drift into that area that James calls asking amiss with improper motive, and God never obligates himself to answer that kind of prayer. So it might be a good idea if you're not praying about things that you have need for, start praying about them. And if you're praying for some things, nothing seems to be happening, it might be God just wants to hold off for a while to teach you some things.

It might be the timing's just not right yet. But it just might be that your motive is not proper. So I'd suggest perhaps if you have one of these or two of these or several of these types of prayer requests, it might be a good idea just to run the motive through the ringer, see how it comes out on the other side. Why don't we have answers to prayer? Because sometimes we just don't pray.

Because sometimes we pray with the wrong motive. Let's have prayer together. Heavenly Father, prayer is such a vital part of our lives.

We confess that to you. And yet I suppose each one of us, myself included, would probably confess that prayer is probably one of the weaker areas of our Christian lives, one of the things we don't do as well as some others. We pray that our time together this evening would make us just a little bit more well equipped to pray effectively to you. We pray, Lord, you teach us to be a praying people who boldly know how to ask our Father for things. And yet people who have examined the motive first and can approach you with confidence because we have the assurance that we're not asking for ourselves, but we're asking so that we can exalt you. So, Father, change the way we pray and even the way we evaluate life as a result of your Word to our hearts this evening. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-15 13:04:33 / 2022-12-15 13:14:40 / 10

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