…Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss….
— James 4:2,3
We’ve all encountered moments in our spiritual lives when we prayed with no results. Apparently the people to whom James was writing his epistle were having the same experience. Just as you have probably asked yourself at one time or another, it appears that these believers were also asking, “Why aren’t our prayers being answered?” We can surmise that they were asking this question because James provided an answer in James 4:3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss….”
The Greek word for “amiss” is kakos, which describes something that is bad or wrong. As James uses it in this verse, it depicts a person who is asking wrongly, badly, or inappropriately. You could say that this person is simply not hitting the mark in his request. Although he prays with the greatest fervor, he is not hitting the target with what he is asking. This person is apparently asking God to do something that is not in agreement with His Word. Therefore, regardless of how long or how passionately the person asks, God will not answer his request with a positive answer because it is not in agreement with the Word.
Or perhaps this person is asking for the right thing, but because he is so fretful and filled with fear and anxiety, he doesn’t ask in faith. Rather than praying from a position of faith, he cries out to the Lord in fear and anxiety. But fear doesn’t move God — faith does. Hence, although this person may be asking for the right thing, he is asking from a wrong spirit. Thus, he is asking badly or inappropriately.
This means what we ask and how we ask are both of vital importance if we are going to get our prayers answered!
A literal translation of this verse would be as follows:
“…You ask, and receive not, because you are asking wrongly, badly, inappropriately….”
Especially when I was younger in the Lord, I made the mistake of asking things wrongly when I prayed. Perhaps my intentions were right, but my prayers were not in agreement with the truths revealed in the Bible. There were other moments when I finally got my prayers in agreement with the Word of God, but I was so motivated by anxiety and fear that I couldn’t ask in faith. Consumed with worry, I pounded the floor as I prayed, yelling and screaming out for God to move on my behalf. But because I was so filled with fear regarding the situation I was praying about, all my pounding, yelling, and screaming didn’t do a bit of good. I was praying from a wrong spirit — out of fear rather than out of faith — so all of that effort resulted only in a sore throat!
Have you ever had the experience of asking the right thing in the wrong way? Praying scripturally and in faith is essential if you want your requests to be answered positively.
First John 5:14 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” The word “confidence” is the Greek word parresia. It describes confidence, boldness, or assurance. It pictures a person so confident that when he speaks, he has no doubt about what he is saying. He knows what he is saying is correct or appropriate; therefore, he becomes very bold. In the context of prayer, this word presents the picture of a believer who is so confident he is right in what he is asking that he asks unashamedly and confidently.
What can give you this kind of confidence? The verse goes on to tell you: “…If we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” So when you 1) know God’s will and 2) ask Him to do something that is in agreement with His will, you can be 100-percent sure that God will hear you and that your request will be positively answered!
This means you have solid ground on which to stand as you pray in agreement with the revealed will of God, the Bible. Since your request is in agreement with what God has already revealed in His Word, you know you can be bold when you make your request! And there is no need for you to pray out of fear and anxiety either. Just quiet down, and let the Word of God fill you with peace; then ask in faith.
First John 5:14 guarantees that if you ask anything that is in agreement with His will, God will hear you. In fact, verse 15 goes on to promise you, “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Knowing what to pray and how to pray is vitally important. So always keep this in mind as you get ready to make your requests known to God: God listens for His Word, and He responds to faith. When He hears His Word prayed from a heart of faith, He is compelled to act.
The success of your prayer life is up to you, friend, so don’t ask “amiss” when you pray. Make sure you are asking correctly and in an appropriate spirit of faith. As you learn to pray in line with God’s Word from a heart filled with faith, the answers you seek will manifest in your life more quickly and more fully than ever before!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I can remember times in my past when I’ve prayed the right thing the wrong way, and it resulted in unanswered prayer. I ask You to help me ask correctly when I pray, and to ask in a spirit of faith and not in a spirit of fear, dread, or anxiety. I never realized before now how important it is to ask in the right way. Holy Spirit, I ask You to help me ask correctly and pray appropriately from this moment forward. Whenever I start praying wrongly or out of a wrong spirit, please stop me. I ask You to correct me and teach me how to pray in line with Your Word from a heart of faith!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that God’s Word is my guide to help me ask correctly when I pray. I declare that I am motivated by faith and not by fear, dread, or anxiety when I pray. Because I ask according to God’s will, He hears me when I pray. Because He hears me, I know that I have the petitions I ask of Him. God acts promptly to answer my prayers because I ask with a heart filled with faith in accordance with His will. Because I make sure that what I pray is correct and how I pray is appropriate, I am receiving more and more results from my prayers all the time!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you think of a time in your life when you were so filled with fear that you couldn’t pray in faith, even though you prayed the right words? Did you wonder why your prayer wasn’t answered? Do you now understand how important it is for you to pray in an appropriate spirit of faith?
2. What results have you received in the past when you prayed in a spirit of faith and asked God to do something that was in agreement with His Word?
3. Can you list two things you have learned from today’s Sparkling Gem? If these two points have helped you, can you think of one person with whom you can share these truths today in order to encourage him or her the same way you’ve been encouraged?