“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” — James 4:1-2, KJV
If there’s anything that I need to do—that you need to do, that we need to do, that everyone needs to do—it is to learn how to pray.
The man who can pray can do anything, for prayer can do anything that God can do, and God can do anything. Our desperate need in these days is to link our lives with the omnipotent God who has called on us and told us to pray.
You don’t have a sin in your life but what prayer could have prevented that sin. You don’t have a genuine need in your life that cannot be met through fervent, believing prayer. Oh, dear friend, how we need to learn how to pray! In the Book of James, we can see three distinctive prayer patterns. First, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Then, the problem of unacceptable prayer. Finally, there are the principles of undeniable prayer.
The Presumption of Unoffered Prayer
God wants to bless us. God wants to give us what we need, but we’re so presumptuous. We’re so proud. We’re so self-sufficient that we go about in our own strength, as James 4:1-2 tells us—fighting, warring, scheming, planning, hating, killing, conniving, striving—trying in our own way to get the things we think we need.
There is no problem that cannot be solved by prayer. There are no problems too big to solve, just people too small to solve them. When we begin to pray and to seek the face of God, then we’ll know peace, both domestically and in our hearts, as we seek the face of Almighty God. God wants to bless us, and God will bless us through prayer.
“More ships!” some cry. “More guns! More fighters in the air!” But wise is the king who calls for more prayer! It is prayer that links our lives with the omnipotent power of God.
Oh, friend, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Did you know that prayerlessness is a sin? John Bunyan wrote in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, and sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Are you praying? There is no substitute for prayer.
The Problem of Unacceptable Prayer
James also addresses the problem of unacceptable prayer. Sometimes the problem is not that we don’t offer our prayers—the problem is that sometimes we offer them and God will not accept them. God will not hear our prayers. And why?
Let’s see what James says: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss”—that is, you’re asking wrongly—“that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?”—and that word enmity means “warfare with God”—“whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:3–4).
God is not going to subsidize our sin. God is not going to underwrite our selfishness.
When we become a friend of the world and then come to God and say, “God, You give to me that I might commit spiritual adultery with the world,” God says that our prayers are not going to be answered. It’s very simple and very plain. The reason that some of our prayers are not answered is they’re so selfish. They’re so worldly. They’re so ungodly.
“Well, I thought I could come to God and get my needs met.” You can. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). You may have your selfish desires denied, but you’ll never have your legitimate needs denied if you come the right way.
The Principles of Undeniable Prayer
Finally, look at the principles of undeniable prayer. How can we pray so as to link our lives with omnipotence? James gives us five ways.
Sensitivity to the Spirit: Look in chapter 4, verse 5. One paraphrase puts it this way: “The Holy Spirit which He made to dwell in us jealously, yearns for the entire devotion of the heart.” God does not want a place in your life, and God does not want prominence in your life. God demands pre-eminence. Be sensitive to the Spirit.
Submission to the Father: Beginning in verse 6, James says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God …” (James 4:6–7). Submit yourselves to God. There is no answered prayer until you’ve submitted to God.
Standing Against the Devil: Look again at James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Have you ever thought about the devil fleeing from you? To most of us the idea is ridiculous. We think the best we might be able to do is to get the devil to leave us alone, and that not for very long. But Jesus said, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). A powerful prayer—prayer that cannot be denied—is this: when you pray, you must enter into warfare with the devil. Prayer is warfare.
Separation from the World: Look at James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
What is James talking about? The principle of separation from the world. “For whosoever is a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4). God didn’t save us and bathe this world with His blood to have us serve the devil. If there’s anything that God despises, it is halfhearted religion and halfhearted praying. The Bible says clearly and plainly in Psalm 66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
Seriousness and Soberness in our Purpose: The last principle that James gives us is what I call seriousness and soberness in our purpose: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:9–10).
One more reason our prayers are not answered is because our prayers are not fervent. They’re giddy, silly, halfhearted, easily uttered, soon forgotten. James says, “It is time that we prayed in keeping with the urgency and the emergency of the need.” We need to learn to weep before the Lord.
When is the last time you shed a tear over some soul who was mortgaged to the devil? When’s the last time you missed a meal to pray? When’s the last time you fasted and prayed? When’s the last time you spent a night in prayer? When’s the last time you got ahold of God and said, “O, God, I will not let You go, lest You bless me”?
God can tell when we mean business. O, God, help me, help us, to learn the secret of victorious prayer. ©2018 Love Worth Finding Ministries
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version.
Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) was the longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and a beloved Bible teacher. His sermons continue to be broadcast internationally via television, radio, website and through social media. You may contact Love Worth Finding Ministries at lwf.org.