Moving Past the Pleasantries of Prayer

“…..yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” -James 4:2b

We often use certain expressions that involve prayer to relay our empathy toward others. Expressions as “praying for you” or “you are in our prayers.” Unfortunately, without realizing it we soon turn our empathetic phrases into common pleasantries.

The context of the above verse suggests that James’ audience was lustfully fighting to obtain their desires but had not obtained that for which they fought. He condemns them by telling them that the reason they were void of that which they desired was simply because they didn’t ask God. They relied on their own ability instead of their sovereign God.

Though the context is specific, the principle is far reaching. As we view droughts, riots, social unrest, loss of life, wild fires, typhoons, and all other kinds of tragedies, are we sincerely seeking God’s intervention? Or have we unknowingly turned prayer into pleasantries?

Sometimes upon hearing someone tell me that they are praying for me I always quietly think, “Are you really?” The reason I think this is because I remember my own inadequacies. Christians should be people of action. Our faith, not accompanied by works, is no better than devil’s faith. It is dead, being alone. Think back over the past couple of months. How often have we prayed for rain? How often have we prayed that God would calm the tensions in our communities? How often have we prayed for the sick? How often have we prayed for those to whom have lost loved ones? How often have we prayed that God would bless our individual churches with increase? How often have you prayed for your pastor? How often have we even prayed for those in our own household? I can only search my own heart, but in doing so conviction becomes a bitter companion.

On a similar note, in the same chapter of James referenced above the author further acknowledges in verse 3 that some were actually asking, but were still not receiving. Why? Because they were inquiring of God with the wrong motivation. They were praying according to their own sinful desires instead of seeking God’s will. Why do I also point this out? Because this again turns our focus away from worldly selfishness and onto others.  Not that it is wrong to pray for ourselves. Yet a proud, selfless person does not exhibit the attitude that God says he highly values.

Tonight as you are scrolling through the internet stop for just a few moments to lower your head, acknowledge our need of God and  sincerely pray for everyone that you can remember giving the pleasantry of prayer. Certainly inquire of God concerning the pains of your own heart and thank him for the continued blessings you currently enjoy. But let’s move past the pleasantries of prayer and follow the example of Acts 12:5, “….but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.”

“It is thrilling, albeit a convicting, truth that God is more anxious to hear our prayers then we are to talk to him.” -Elder Michael Gowens

Originally published December 2016

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