James on Prayer

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit!O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.

“The problem with prayer” is very simple. James 4:2 = “you do not have because you do not ask”. The only real problem with prayer is that we don’t do enough of it!!!! The letter of James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Early Church in Jerusalem, covers many topics but he has plenty to say about prayer.
Why should we pray more? – because God answers prayer!!!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Many successful people have acknowledged in their memoirs that whenever they came to an impasse in their work and were completely baffled, they sought wisdom from the Lord.
This was true in the life of the inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse. In an interview, George Hervey inquired, “Professor Morse, when you were making your experiments at the university, did you ever come to a standstill, not knowing what to do next?” “I’ve never discussed this with anyone, so the public knows nothing about it. But now that you ask me, I’ll tell you frankly — I prayed for more light” “And did God give you the wisdom and knowledge you needed?” Yes He did,” said Morse. “That’s why I never felt I deserved the honors that came to me from America and Europe because of the invention associated with my name. I had made a valuable application of the use of electrical power, but it was all through God’s help. It wasn’t because I was superior to other scientists. When the Lord wanted to bestow this gift on mankind. He had to use someone. I’m just grateful He chose to reveal it to me.” That is why the first ever message sent over the telegraph by its inventor in his own Morse Code was: “What hath God wrought!”

God will generously give wisdom to all who ask. Not only for wisdom of course. God always gives generously. Listen to these promises in Matthew 7:7-11 – promises James may have heard Jesus himself make in the sermon on the mount!

New Century Bible Matt 7:7 Ask and GOD will give you what you ask for!!!
NEW LIVING MATT 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. 9 You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
God WILL answer our prayers. God will give US good gifts – if we ask Him!

So James goes on:-
James 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

The secret of answered prayer is faith. Faith is NOT some kind of good work we have to do to earn enough heavenly brownie points so that God will answer our prayer. Faith is that simple trust in God and in His love for us which opens us up to a relationship with God – and it’s that relationship which is the basis of all prayer. Not some vague optimism that God is there but the certain trust that He is, and that He WILL answer.

Asking faith receives answers to its prayers, as long as we ask “in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). We need a faith which doesn’t shrink away from “the promise of God through unbelief; but…strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20)
ROMANS 4:18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

When we trust God, that opens US up to asking from Him and receiving from Him.
`Unbelief puts our circumstance between us and God, but faith puts God between us and our circumstances.’

One striking example of faith from more than a century ago was George Muller, an evangelist in Bristol and founder of an orphanage which over the years cared for and educated more than ten thousand children. Muller also founded 117 schools which together educated more than 120 thousand children. Here is just one answer to their prayers.
Things looked bleak when it was time for breakfast, and there was no food In the dining room, long tables were set with empty plates and empty mugs. Muller prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.” Immediately, they heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood the local baker. “Mr. Muller,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you had no bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 o’clock and baked fresh bread. Here it is.” Muller thanked him and gave praise to God. Soon, a second knock was heard. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. He said he would like to give the children the milk so he could empty the cart and repair it. Source Unknown.

Ask God who gives generously! Then in chapter 4 verse 2 James sums up our problem with prayer very simply:-


James 4:2 You do not have, because you do not ask God.

R. A. Torrey lamented the average believer’s indifference to prayer by writing: `How little time the average Christian spends in prayer! We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little… the power of God is lacking in our lives and in our work. We have not because we ask not.

I came across a terrifying statistic . The average pastor or minister in America spends – how long do you think – each day in prayer? 3 hours? No! 30 minutes? No! The average pastor or minister in America spends only 3 MINUTES in prayer each day!! You do not have because you do not ask!

We should ASK – God DOES answer prayer and this is the best reason I can offer for praying more – GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS!

Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in 1924, it almost came to the point of bankruptcy. All the creditors were going to foreclose at noon on a particular day. That morning they met in the president’s office with Dr. Chafer for prayer that God would provide. In that prayer meeting was a man by the name of Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he prayed in his characteristic manner: “Lord, we know that the cattle on a thousand hills are Thine. Please sell some of them and send us the money.”
While they were praying, a tall Texan with boots on and an open collar stepped up to the business office and said, “I just sold two carloads of cattle in Ft. Worth. I’ve been trying to make a business deal but it fell through, and I feel compelled to give the money to the seminary. I don’t know if you need it or not, but here’s the check!”
A little secretary took the check and, knowing how critical things were financially, went to the door of the prayer meeting and timidly tapped. When she finally got a response, Dr. Chafer took the check out of her hand. It was exactly the amount of the debt! When he looked at the name, he recognized the cattleman in Ft. Worth, and turning to Dr. Ironside said, “Harry, God sold the cattle!”

But James goes on with an important warning: We have to be careful and respectful about what we ask for and why we’re asking!!!
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Sometimes the reason our prayers aren’t answered is that we’re asking for the wrong things, with wrong selfish motives. Prayer is asking for what GOD wants , not what we want – Not my will but YOURS be done. Prayer is asking God to do things for HIS glory, not for our glory, and not just for our comfort.

Agnes Sanford in ’The healing touch of God’: ’Prayer is not a matter of getting what we want the most. Prayer is a matter of giving ourselves to God and learning His laws, so that He can do through us what He wants the most’

F. B. Meyer (who wrote lots of hymns) was pastor of Christ’s Church in London at the same time that G. Campbell Morgan was pastor of Westminister Chapel and Charles H. Spurgeon was pastor of the Metropolitan Chapel. Both Morgan and Spurgeon often had much larger congregations than did Meyer. Meyer was troubled by envy, and later confessed that it was not until he began praying for his colleagues that he found peace in his heart. “When I prayed for their success,” said Meyer, “the result was that God filled their churches so full that the overflow filled mine, and it has been full since.”

If you have prayers that haven’t been answered just pause and reflect – are you certain you are asking for the right things and for the right reasons?

But if you ARE praying for the right things for the right reasons, then pray with faith and with boldness, because God does give generously to ALL who ask!

And then James gives us even more reasons to pray in chapter 5.

James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

Some people think of prayer like a door we have to open so that we can go through to do whatever we want to do next. But prayer is much more like a light switch. One simple press and we release the mighty power of electricity which can light a whole building, or cause a lift to take us up to the top floor, or achieve countless things we in our own strength could never achieve. Prayer releases the power of Almighty God!

In 1540 Luther’s good friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. From his bed he wrote a tender farewell letter to Luther. When Luther received the message, he immediately sent back a reply: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church — the Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.” God apparently the prayer. Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s reply came, he soon recovered. He lived six more years and died two months after Luther.
John 14:12-14;
John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

We need to discover more of the Almighty power of God through our prayers! Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance but laying hold of God’s willingness! So we should pray more! James says so! We looked recently at the life of the prophet Elijah, and this is what James says about that great man of prayer.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

A challenging example for us to follow. But we shouldn’t be discouraged because we don’t pray like Elijah – yet! The purpose of these verses and this sermon is to encourage us to press on! To pray more and more!

I started putting together a list of some of the things we do not have – perhaps because we do not ask enough: or we have not yet learned to ask.

Packed services!!!
Peace in a troubled world
Lots of new Christians !!!!
A sense of the nearness of God
Miracles and healings!!!
That the whole of North Springfield will be saved!!!

But you will have your own list.What is there that you have not received – because you have not asked!


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