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Simplicity and Duplicity in Prayer

May 17, 2007

(excerpt from a sermon on James 1:5-8)

Last week we began to look at the book of James, and we saw that he, like Jesus before him, regarded this life to be a time of trials and temptations and tribulations.  And to guide us through this time of trial, James, the one who will constantly exhort us to be doers of the word, gave us two commands. 

First, we are to think, to reckon, to consider, to count it all joy when we go through trials.  We must meditate on what we should know to be the truth: that our trials are purposeful, that God uses them to perfect us and to propel us along the path to glory. 

And second, we are simply to persevere.  We must not give up and choose escapism, but we must press on in the good fight of the faith so that on judgment day we will receive the crown of life and be seen to have passed the test, not because we were perfect, but because we persevered. 

Now today James gives us one more command, one more thing to put into practice in this time of trial.  Only one command today, but he repeats it twice.  It’s the command to pray.  “Let him ask” says James in both verse 5 and 6.  First he says “let him ask God” and then he tells us something about the character of God to encourage us to pray.  And then he says “let him ask in faith with no doubting” and he tells us what sort of character we need if we are to be able to pray.  And those are our two points this morning. 

First, let us consider the character of God and be encouraged to…

I. Pray to our God who is singularly good (read 5)

The link between this verse and last week’s text is this word “lacks”.  Verse 4 promises us that if we persevere, the day is coming when we will, at the return of Christ, be perfect and complete, not lacking anything.  Then we will lack nothing, but in this world, we are not complete, we do have needs, we do lack something.   We lack wisdom.  We have a need to grow in wisdom.  But the good news is that in all temptation, wisdom is to be had just for the asking. 

But is that what we are asking for?  Matthew Henry urges us to “pray not so much for the removal of the affliction, as for the wisdom to make the best use of it.”  Do you pray for wisdom?  By which I don’t mean guidance about what career to pursue or what mutual fund to purchase.  I mean praying that through all of the trials of life, you would learn to become a wise person. 

What does a wise person look like?  What is wisdom?  James tells us that in 3:13-17.   Wisdom is humble.  Wisdom delivers us from jealousy and selfish ambition and produces in our lives peace, order, gentleness, reasonableness and a devotion to doing good works of mercy to others.  Are you asking God for this wisdom?  Are you asking him to work this into your life as you persevere through trials and temptations? 

This is what you should be praying for.  It’s a command.  Go and be doers of this word this week and pray for this wisdom.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. parvileo permalink
    May 18, 2007 4:58 am

    One thing I like about this post is that it zooms right in on what we should pray for ‘without doubting’ and that is wisdom. We’re not assured of deliverance from the trials – no guaranteed healings, for example – but we are assured of His work in us AND we are assured that he is GOOD.

    I’ve seen people pray for healing ‘without doubt’ only to be disappointed. I’ve seen people condemn and be condemned for doubting that God will bring healing/wealth/miracles/etc.

    I believe that the doubting James is talking about that leaves us storm-tossed is the doubting of God’s character – a natural thing for man to do, but also a symptom of one who needs to know God better. An indicator of necessary grace!

    Too often we look at the quality of our life, or of the world, as a direct reflection of God’s character and so there is a mix up. (Why does a Good God allow Evil?)

    What bothers me is the teaching that doubt itself is a sin – something I have seen not here, but in other places – without any definition of what ‘doubt’ is being talked about.

    Christian subculture is often the worst place to get to know God, in some respects, because of the understandings that have developed over the many years as to what a ‘God-fearing’ person is supposed to look and act like. This can cause God-fearing people who don’t fit that image to doubt. But all of that is another post entirely.

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