Summary: The real problem with prayer is that it is so little used and yet has such great power

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James 4:1-10

Things looked bleak for the children of George Muller’s orphanage at Ashley Downs in England. 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.

How do you react to a story such as that? Wonder? Skepticism? Disbelief? If you are like most Christians, you consider it to be an inspiring story of what happened to someone else somewhere else, but has never happened to you.

But the difference between George Muller and the average Christian is that Mueller was a man completely given to prayer. He was one of those men who prayed for hours each day. Everything he did, just like breakfast that morning, was bathed and wrapped in prayer.

Mueller prayed. We don’t. Well, at least not with the same fierceness.

So the question becomes: If prayer is so powerful and so necessary, then why aren’t we a more praying people. What keeps you and me from spending hours each day on our knees?

In our passage today, James says “You have not because do not ask!” But why don’t we ask? What is the problem of prayer?

James gives us that answer as well. According to James, the problem of prayer is:


A. Prayerlessness is a symptom of self-reliance

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?”

1. Born of self-centeredness - “your pleasures”

2. Exhibited in self-gratification

a. pleasure = “hedone” = hedonism

b. That pattern of living that seeks for pleasure above all else.

Luke 8:14 “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

3. Resulting in self-defeat

a. It gives us a Lust that is never satisfied - “you lust and do not have” = “epithumea” = strong desire

b. It causes us to Envy after those things that are out of our reach – “envious and cannot obtain”

c. It causes division in all aspects of our lives

1) “you commit murder” –not literally, but spiritually

1 John 3:15 Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

2) “fight and quarrel” – lit “wars and struggles” instead of peace and unity

Galatians 5:19-20 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these . . . strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension… “

B. Prayerlessness is solved by self-determination

“You do not have because you do not ask”

1. Determining that God is the true provider of our needs

2. Determining the necessity of persistent prayer

Note: The end result of self-seeking is “have not”. Self efforts will never satisfy our needs. Only through prayer can we open up the floodgates of heaven and receive the deep needs of our souls.


A. Directed toward wrong motives – “you ask and you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives”

1. Motives that are driven by self needs rather than God’s plan.

2. “wrong motives” = “amiss” KJV = “kakos”-.

improper, miserable, ill, diseased

3. We ask for things from a perspective that is diseased by sin and causes us to be self-seekers rather than God-seekers.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”

B. Derived from wrong relationships

1. We are in a “love relationship” with the world

2. “friendship” = “phileo” = non-romantic love

a. Which is “hostility toward God” NAS; “enmity with God” KJV


c. A type of spiritual adultery! “you adulteresses…”

3. We enter a love relationship with the world when we:

a. conform to it (rather that to God)

b. develop relationships within it that hinder our

relationship with God

c. prefer its pleasures more than we do God’s

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