“You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2-3)
How many of us have heard or read this challenging exhortation and thought, “wow! You mean I could have anything I asked for? I really ought to ask more!” but have then been stumped by the following verse that says “you pray and don’t receive, because you pray with the wrong motive, that of wanting to indulge your own desires.”?
If you’re like me, you may first be wondering if you should be encouraged or discouraged by this passage. If at first you are discouraged, it may simply be because you feel you are suspect of its claims. Either you are simply not asking, and thus you do not have, or you are asking, but with the wrong motives, and thus you do not have because to reward such motives would be amiss. Whatever the case, though, I do not think anyone should remain discouraged for long.
This verse really ought to inspire and motivate us, and here’s how.
To begin, if I do find I am discouraged by it, I must be honest and recognize that I am guilty of its claims. But then I must not dwell on my guilt. Instead, I will find hope in what the message proposes; that is if I do ask, and with a pure and selfless heart given freely by the Holy Spirit through the acceptance of Christ’s cleansing blood, I will receive.
Finally, I can apply this knowledge and see the truth of it come to fruition. And it is on this note that I would like to share with you a few examples of how God has been answering prayers here.
About four months ago the second-grade teacher told us how he had lost his buffalo. He asked us to pray that they would return, and so the prayers began. After a few months went by I asked him if they had found the buffalo yet, but unfortunately they had not.
At this point, I figured it was hopeless. There’s no way any buffalo would find the way back. In fact, somebody’s probably cooking up the buffalo meat right now! But as these thoughts entered my mind he proceeded to tell me how one time his buffalo had been lost for one or two months, but then they came back! This gave me some hope, so I told him I would keep praying. And I did. Until one week I started to forget.
And I went through a cycle of remembering and forgetting for a few weeks until finally last week he shared about his lost buffalo during staff worship. Only this time, they weren’t lost anymore. And even more astounding than that was realizing that when he said buffalo he didn’t mean just one buffalo, but eight burly buffalo!
He told us how he and his wife had been praying every day since the buffalo had gone missing. Then one day last week he heard news back from his home town that his cousins had found his buffalo wandering through the jungle and were now safely making their way back home.
Everyone was so excited by this news and we were all inspired to keep praying in all circumstances (with the right motives that is) for things even if we have been praying for years and still have not received the answer we expected.
We have been praying for specific students with various struggles (behavior, comprehension, etc.) and have seen them really come around.
One student came into fourth grade without really having passed third grade or even second grade for that matter, but no one cared enough to help her so they kept moving her on. After a few months of unceasing prayer, encouragement, and tutoring (especially for English class) something finally clicked. Her tests scores and participation in class have skyrocketed, but what’s even more beautiful is how she has blossomed into a truly kind and confident young girl.
These are only a few of the many examples of how I have seen God responding to our prayers. And God may not always answer this way, for His ways are higher and far greater than our own, but even though I may not see things His way, I trust that He truly does want the best for me and that He is waiting on the edge of His seat to hear my pleas and petitions so He can pour out the blessings of heaven for me when I am aware and ready to receive.