You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3
Wrong Motives – Since James is so pragmatically focused, he doesn’t mince words. What he really says is a jab to the solar plexus of our selfish desires. Maybe that’s why we soften the blow with a modified translation. The Greek is kakos. It is literally, “evil.” Maybe we should have listened to the original. “You ask with evil intent.”
James has a perfectly sound answer to the question, “Why doesn’t God give me what I ask for.” His answer is, “Your request is to satisfy yourself. You don’t understand a thing about the character of God. You are asking with an evil heart. You only want what you want.” How does James know this? It’s obvious. He points at the goal for asking. If the reason you ask is to satisfy a desire that serves your self-glorifying agenda, then what you ask is as evil as any sin ever committed.
“But I don’t ask for things that only serve me!” you complain. “I ask for help for others. I ask for good things. I ask for increases in God’s kingdom.” Really? Be ruthlessly honest. Was that prayer for healing just for your spouse, or was there a little motive in there about getting back to the life you want? Was that request for church growth really only about the horrible fate of the lost or was there just a hint of pride in the size of your congregation? Did you really think that praying for victory before a football game serves God’s interests? Do you think that God listens to prayers for the hungry in Haiti when you have so much food in your cupboard you could feed an entire village and not bat an eye? Who are you kidding? Certainly not God!
Here’s a thought: God answers every prayer that is in alignment with His will. He never dismisses a single one. So, if your prayers are not getting answered, what does that say about the motivation behind them? Maybe we need to take a much deeper look at why we ask, not what we ask.
I’m afraid that James is just too hard for us to hear these days. He is likely to point to our bank balances, our vacation packages, our multiple televisions and over-stuffed closets and say, “What’s the matter with you? When you get honest about your own self-serving agendas, then maybe you will discover God’s replies. But don’t expect Him to give you anything when you are all about accumulation.”
Today, God is moving in powerful ways in this world. Almost none of these are found in the affluent societies. Did you ever wonder why?