Summary: The reason we pray is because we have a need. James says that if you feel you lack wisdom, ask God. Prayer is first of all a confession of our own inadequacy.
Two brothers came to the U.S. from Europe in 1845 to make their
fortune. The older brother had a trade for he knew how to make
sauerkraut, and so he took a wagon train west to California to raise
cabbages. The younger brother went to school to study metallurgy.
Several years passed, and the younger brother went to visit his older
brother. As the older brother was showing him around the cabbage
fields he noticed he was not paying any attention to what he was
explaining, and he protested, "You really don't care about my work do
you?" The younger brother picked up a stone and said, "Do you know
what this is? It is quartz, and that yellow spot is gold. You have been
raising cabbages on a gold field." It turned out to be one of the greatest
gold strikes ever in Eldorado County.
Raising cabbages on a gold field is what every person does when
they fail to fulfill the potential of what they possess. In the realm of
prayer almost every child of God is raising cabbages on a gold field.
We are playing marbles with pearls and do not begin to fulfill the
potential of prayer. It has always been so, and James in 4:2 says, "Yo
do not have, because you do not ask." Only that angel who is the
accountant of heaven could ever know how many blessings God's
people never receive because they never ask. Someone told the story of
a man who was being shown the glories of heaven, and his angelic guide
showed him a vast storage area of beautiful gifts God wanted to give
His children on earth, but they never asked. The story is fiction, but
the truth of it is fact.
In the next verse James says to the Christians, "When you do ask
you don't receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your
passions." To ask for a wrong motive is just as fruitless as not asking at
all. A 7 year old boy was told by his mother that he could not go to the
Sunday School picnic because of his disobedience. By the next morning
she had softened, as mother usually do, and she told him he could go
after all. He took the news so quietly that she asked him, "What's the
matter, don't you want to go?" He sighed and said, "Its too late now
Mom. I've already prayed for rain." He saw prayer as a way to get
even with others. Prayer was a means by which we get God to do our
If only children had this immature concept of prayer, it would not
be so bad, but the fact is, many Christian adults are also immature
amateurs when it comes to prayer. We all miss its potential, and spend
our lives raising cabbages on this gold field of spiritual riches. Prayer
is the most universal aspect of man's religious nature. Man is such a
praying creature that even an atheist has a hard time to keep from
praying in certain situations. Like the girl in Russian who was taking a
test to qualify for a job in the Soviet government. One of the questions
was, What is the inscription of the Sarmian Wall? She answered,
"Religion is the opiate of the people." She was not sure, however, and
so obsessed with a desire to know that she went the 7 miles out of the
way to check. When she saw the exact words she had given, she was so
relieved that she sighed, "Thank God." It is sometimes hard for unbelievers
to escape all prayer.
Charles Steinmetz, the great scientist, was asked what field for
future research holds the greatest promise, and he replied instantly,
"Prayer, find out about prayer." That is what we intend to do, because
James very quickly in his letter gets to this subject of prayer. He
knows you cannot get far in any direction spiritually without prayer.
She knew that the Apostles of his divine brother and Lord never asked
Him to teach them to preach or teach, but did ask, "Lord, teach is to
pray." James was such a man of prayer that he was known as camel
knees, because he spent so much time on them in prayer. He will help
us see how important and practical prayer is for effective Christian
living. The first thing he makes clear is,
I. THE REASON FOR PRAYER v. 5
The reason we pray is because we have a need. James says that if
you feel you lack wisdom, ask God. Prayer is first of all a confession of
our own inadequacy.
Say, what is prayer, when it is prayer indeed?
The mighty utterance of a mighty need.
The man is praying who doth press with might