Published April 14, 2005
James 4:1-10, 13-17
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, April 24
If you could ask Christ for any one request what would you ask from Him? Jesus' disciples asked a request of Him (Luke 11:1). They did not ask Him how to heal the sick. They did not ask how to raise the dead. They did not ask for Jesus' secret for walking on the water, or His recipe for multiplying the loaves and fishes.
They asked for one very basic thing. They asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." They wanted a prayer life like the one they saw in Jesus! Everything in our personal walk and our corporate power as a church rests on our ability to pray so that our prayers are heard and answered. Humble living is an essential attitude and characteristic for effective praying.
Prayerfully avoid selfish pride, vs. 1-5
Selfish pride is manifest in selfish desires! Fighting and disharmony are open attempts to obtain selfish desires man's way, but they are unsuccessful. James says after all that evil effort, damaging behavior and wicked methods we still "cannot obtain."
When selfish desires are driving us we are not very likely to take matters to God in prayer "you ask not." When we are being driven by selfish pride we aren't interested in God's will, we are only interested in demanding our own way! In the remote possibility that we might offer up a prayer we are only asking "amiss" since we are truly only interested in fulfilling the prideful, selfish desires that are driving us. James says that to be driven by such desires results in us being at "enmity" (being an enemy) with God. Desiring (lusting for) our own way results in us becoming "adulterers and adulteresses."
We are living more in love with the world's ways than God's ways and showing a greater affection to the world than to God! This causes God to grieve over us since He is "jealous" for our love, our affection and our devotion. (For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, Exodus 34:14.) He loves us and wants what is best and righteous for us and He desires our love and devotion in response.
Living for and being driven by such selfish pride doesn't bring us closer to obtaining those things which bless and enrich our lives, it only moves us further away from obtaining God's best in and for our life. For our prayer life to be affective, we must crucify selfish pride and humble ourselves before God.
Humbly submit to God, vs. 6-10
The whole idea in prayer is to move close to God in our relationship and to have His ear and His heart in response to our prayers. However, pride causes just the opposite, "God resists the proud." The word "resists" literally means that God has to oppose us, push us away!
On the other hand when we "humble ourselves" God responds by giving us acceptance, grace and favor! When we humbly "submit to God" the result is an intimate relationship with God. Through submitting to God we are "resisting the devil" and his ways with the result being an intimacy with God that causes Satan to "flee from you."
We are instructed to "cleanse our hands and to purify our hearts" and to stop being "double minded." Humbling ourselves always includes a willingness to confess our sins, to repent (turn away from) from our sin and to make up our mind that we are not going to live the world's way, but God's way! Genuine repentance is not realized until it reaches the emotional level of our life.
James tells us to "lament, mourn and weep" over our sin. Until we are truly sorry for our sin we are going to have a glib (laughter and joy) attitude towards our sin. God is honored with our humility and when we are willing to humble and bow ourselves in repentance, He will respond by "lifting us up." When we are walking in fellowship and intimacy with God through humble repentance and submission, we will desire and seek His will!
Earnestly seek God's will, vs. 13-17
When we read this section of scripture, one would think that James was living among us here in 2005! We are religious when it comes to setting goals and making plans! Neither of which are inherently sinful. However, since we don't know what is going to "happen tomorrow," or if we are even going to be alive tomorrow, how can we trust our goals or plans?
Since God knows everything about tomorrow, isn't it logical and wise to seek His will and not to insist on our own? Life is too short "a vapor" and will be gone too quickly (a little time and then vanishes away) for us to waste time by not including God in our goals and plans. To make plans about tomorrow without even acknowledging our limitations is "arrogant boasting."
James makes it clear that "all such boasting is evil." We are instructed to acknowledge God in our goals and plans by saying, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." James teaches us that this is the good and righteous way for God's children to set goals and make plans. In an effort to make the point of how serious this matter is, James concludes this section with the statement: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
God calls us to humble ourselves and surrender our lives to His will. Humble living is God's way and anything else is sin. Have your prayers been answered?
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