Summary: What does it take to come near to God?
Prayer That Pleases God
What does it take to come near to God?
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
— James 4.7-10
1. John Calvin (1509-1564), the great French reformer and systematic theologian, points out that we just don’t accidentally pray just like one could accidentally fall into the water. He writes, “Whenever believers prepare themselves to pray to God, they ought...to feel that their prayers are sprinkled by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be pure and clean, and to be received by God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice.”
2. James shares with us six characteristics that pleases God when we comes to him in prayer. The Lord will delight in one who...
1) Is Willing to Submit to the Lord, “Submit yourselves, then, to God”, (v. 7). Submission implies a complete yielding and dependence on the mercy of a stronger power. It is acknowledging the power and authority of another, and often suggests loss of independence. John Bunyan says that “Prayer is...submission in faith to the will of God.”
2) Is Willing to Opposes the Devil, “...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you...” (v. 7). We oppose Satan when we, “Put on the full armor of God so that [we] can take [our] stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6.11 ). Of course, prayer is part of our weaponry since our battle is spiritual and must be fought in God’s wisdom, strength and might. In our time of prayer we acknowledge our enemy and his threatening force, and we make a positive effort to counteract his evil strategy. John Bunyan (1628-1688), the great English writer of Pilgrim’s Progress, states “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge to Satan.”
3) Is Willing to Draws Near to God, “ Come near to God and he will come near to you...” (v. 8). This is a tremendous promise to believers, for when we are close to the Lord, James mentions God will come close to us. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), the gifted English preacher and writer, puts it this way, “Brethren, be great believers. Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.” Thomas À Kempis (1380-1471), Monastic author of The Imitation of Christ, expressed this when he prayed,“Come, Lord, and speak to my heart. Communicate to it your holy will, and mercifully work within it both to will and to do according to your good pleasure.”
4) Is Willing to Cleanses and Purify Their Lives: actions [hands], affections [heart] and thoughts, will or purpose [double minded], “...Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded...” (v. 8). We cannot let anything come between us and the Lord. We can confess it to the Lord, whether it is sinful behavior, evil desires, thoughts, attitudes, goals, or doubts must cleanse from us with the help of the Holy Spirit. The writer of Hebrews says, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (9.14). However, true confession is not the mere mental assent that we have done wrong, for even a thief will admit he’s done wrong in the bragging of his accomplishments. No, confession means seeing and agreeing with God how our sins have harmed us and others. It is pouring out our shame and deep sorrow to the Lord over our misdeeds. It is repenting of our evil ways, turning around and doing what’s right and good, and it’s seeking reconciliation with others and our God. This is repentance the leads to life, whereas the thief’s boasting leads only to further alienation from God. As the Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (1Corinthians 7.10).
5) Is Willing to Comes seeking wisdom and/or comfort, “...Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom...” (v. 9, cf. Ecclesiastes 7.1-6). These two sentences suggests two reasons we seek God. First, when you are extremely unhappy due to sin, we seek wisdom and understanding. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that happy times generally teach us less than hard times; and so, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure” (v. 4). Indeed, “It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools” (v. 5). Secondly, grief can causes us to seek God for consolation in our hour of loss, since Jesus declared, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5.4).