James 4:3 and Me (and maybe you)
The Bible, of course, is full range on how we relate to God and His ways. For some reason, the book called James tends to be my “go to” place for personal revival. Of the Twelve disciples, I see an inner circle of those closest to Jesus: Peter, James, and John. James is so practical; the text niggles into the needy heart.
After the topic of unsurprising trials and temptations, the view of faith and works, the danger of the mighty tongue, James approaches peaceful living and prayer. Selfishness plays a large part in that section of our daily living. If I likened these five divisions within the book to an orchestra, this section would be the section that causes the most discord. Take no offense brass section, but if you are off tune just an itty bit, it throws everyone off.
Wow, you say, prayer can be discordant? It can. Imagine that your Bible has no verse divisions. In that case, prayer is tucked right into strife. So many times the little phrase, “. . . ye have not because you ask not . . .” is lifted out of context. It is followed by an explanation. “Ye ask and receive not because you ask amiss; that ye might consume it upon your lusts.” Wrong reason to pray.
Years ago I managed to offend someone who came to me seeking an answer to her plea that God save her husband. She went on and on about how much better the family would be if only her husband would yield to Christ and become a Christian. I took her to this verse. “Are you asking,” I spoke, “because you are concerned about his soul, or because you want a more peaceful life?” She left me with a huff. Some months later he did come to Christ for salvation. Her praying may have changed. I just decided not to stir up a potential hornet’s nest by asking.
Yesterday on my way to the doctor’s office I was riding in a van and looking over the vast population of the city we were approaching. I wondered about the souls represented there. Lost souls, souls searching, souls in discord, souls in rebellion all floated into my heart. I wondered, are American Believers praying for revival because we just want things to be more comfortable? Do our hearts break for the souls that will perish into everlasting separation from God and the splendor of Heaven? I heard in my heart the compassionate, compelling words of Jesus: “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . .” and echoed in my heart the name of my city. Of course, I want things better, but more than that, I don’t want to see folks facing eternal punishment because I did not at least pray for them.
We must not ask amiss.