You do not have because you do not ask God. when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:2-3
James addresses two things here.
First, he addresses prayerlessness.
They were fighting and quarreling with one another. He addresses the reason for all their quarrels. They were fighting one another for their desires. They were fighting in covetousness. They were murdering(in bitter hatred). They were fighting in envy. But James tells them, their fighting was because they were prayerless.
You do not have because you do not ask God.
Asking here refers to prayer. We can ask everyone but God. We can wish for something without praying about it. But James tells us, it’s only when we actually pray that we’ll receive.
What do we pray and ask for?
We are to ask God for our daily needs. Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6: 11 Bread here symbolizes provision, not just for our physical needs but for all our needs. Do we need literal bread? Finances? Comfort? Encouragement? Healing? Grace for today? All these are included in our daily bread. 2 Peter 1: 3 says that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him. We ask knowing He has already provided. Our asking is not because God doesn’t know what we need. We ask to show God that we are fully dependent on Him for everything we need.
Prayer is how we move from depending on self to depending on God.
They weren’t praying because they were depending on themselves. when we depend on ourselves instead of God, we covet, envy, and quarrel with people for what they have.
We ask with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. We tell God what we want and we thank Him for His provision even when we haven’t seen it yet. Thanksgiving honors God. Thanksgiving also settles our hearts because we remind ourselves of His goodness. Thanksgiving cancels out panic and worry. When we know He is a good father we will not need to quarrel or covet what others have.
We keep on asking. Matthew 7:7 keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. prayer is not a one-time thing. We have to be consistent in it. We keep on bringing it before God until we receive what we have asked for. Colossians 4: 2 reminds us, to be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving. Sometimes we ask and receive immediately, but most often, receiving in prayer will need persistence. Some things will take longer than we expect. God has to align other things to answer our prayers. Sometimes, God has to deal with stubborn hearts. Sometimes, God has to patiently wait for people to come into agreement with His will and plan. Other times, God has to deal with our hearts before He can give us what we are asking for. So we keep on asking and we don’t become weary until we have our answer.
James addresses praying with right motives.
You ask but you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Sometimes it’s not because we aren’t praying. It’s because we are praying wrongly. God will only answer the prayers that represent Him and His kingdom.
How do we pray with right motives?
We have to know our hearts. The heart is deceitful above all things and exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. We can’t trust our hearts. Our hearts will deceive us on why we want what we want. It will deceive us that we are justified to want what we are asking God for. It will deceive us that our motives are pure.
Verse 10 says, I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.
We don’t search our hearts, God does. When we do, everything will seem right to us even when it’s not. We have to come to God and ask Him to examine our hearts, weigh whether our motives are right or not.
We will not be asking for half the things we are asking for if we’ll see our motives.
We know His will. Therefore do not be foolish and thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the lord is. Ephesians 5:17 We ask wrongly when we don’t know what God’s will is. We’ll live thoughtlessly when we don’t figure out what God wants for us and what He wants us to do.
We pray His will. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. and he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes from God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 God has given us a helper who guides us and intercede with and through us in harmony with His will.
When we are led by the HolySpirit in our prayers we’ll not be asking for wrong things. We’ll not be asking with wrong motives. He prays for exactly what we need in every situation.
We’ll have what we ask for when we ask His will. This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14. We can ask confidently when we know that we are asking what God wants for us and not what we want for ourselves.
We also receive because we do what He wants.And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight. 1 John 3:22 If we are walking in His commandments and doing what pleases God, we’ll not be praying selfish prayers. We will only want and pray for what pleases Him.