James chapter 4

James reveals four secrets to answered prayer. He says to draw near to God. He admonishes us make our plans subject to the Lord’s will.

 


 

FOUR SECRETS TO ANSWERED PRAYER

 


SUMMARY
  1. We must ask (verse2)
  2. Our motives must be right (verse3)
  3. We must be growing in holiness (verse4)
  4. We must be humble (verse6)

We are wowed by how stringent those four requirements are. We speculate that very few people fulfill all four at any given moment. Thus few people witness answered prayer.

And those four requirements are very contrary to what is said in most preaching. Many preachers say you can ask anything and it will be granted. Or you can tell a mountain to leap into the sea. But this passage is quite restrictive.


 

VERSE 1. Where do wars and fightings among you come from? Don’t they come from your pleasures that war in your members?

 

VERSE 2. You lust, and don’t have. You murder and covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask.

This verse is referred to in a famous book on continuous prayer called The Way of a Pilgrim.

You don’t have. Many of us do not have what we really want. Why is that?

because you don’t ask. James says we don’t have what we really want because we do not bother to ask God for it. We do not have because we do not ask God.

The FIRST SECRET to answered prayer is that we must ask!

The Bible commands to ask things of God:

Proverbs 1:28. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me;

Proverbs 8:17. I love those who love me. Those who seek me diligently will find me.

Wisdom 7:7. For this cause I prayed, and understanding was given to me. I asked a spirit of wisdom came to me.

Mark 9:32. But they didn’t understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Luke 18:41. “What do you want me to do?” He said, “Lord, that I may see again.”

James 4:2-3. You lust, and don’t have. You murder and covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. 3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

 

VERSE 3. You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

You ask, and don’t receive. Some Christians do indeed ask God for things. But they still do not receive what they want. Why is that?

because you ask with wrong motives. Their prayers go uanswered because they have the wrong motives. Our motives count.

The SECOND SECRET to answered prayer is that our motives must be right.

 

VERSE 4. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

hostility toward God. We are called to be holy.

The THIRD SECRET to answered prayer is that we must be growing in holiness.

 

VERSE 5. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously”?

 

VERSE 6. But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

gives grace to the humble. God favors the humble.

The FOURT SECRETH to answered prayer is that we must be humble.

 

DRAW NEAR TO GOD

 

VERSE 7. Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter of James and from the entire Bible.

These verses suggest lots of ways to grow in holiness.

Be subject therefore to God. We are to submit ourselves to God.

resist the devil. Some people do not put up much of a fight against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

he will flee from you. If we resist the devil, he will flee from us!

In popular culture, the devil is portrayed as an all-powerful entity that makes people cower in fear. However, James tells us the devil will flee … from us. Our only task is to resist. Resistance is NOT futile.

 

VERSE 8. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter of James and from the entire Bible.

Draw near to God. James gives us a sequence. The first step is up to us. We are to drawn near to God.

and he will draw near to you. The second step is up to God. After we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.

If we are wondering where God is at in our lives, the remedy is simple: draw near to God. Then we will become sensitized to his presence, and can detect him anew.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners. We are to stop doing sinful things.

purify your hearts, you double-minded. We are to think holy thoughts.

 

VERSE 9. Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom.

 

VERSE 10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

VERSE 11. Don’t speak against one another, brothers. He who speaks against a brother and judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.

Don’t speak against one another. In the Christian community, people speak against one another all the time. They gossip and slander openly. Or they gossip and slander in the context of “prayer.”

We need to become re-aquainted with the teaching in this phrase. It is very simple: Do NOT speak against other people.

 

VERSE 12. Only one is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge another?

 

MAKE YOUR PLANS SUBJECT TO THE LORD’S WILL

 

VERSE 13. Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow let’s go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit.”

NIV translation. Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.

Proverbs 27:1. Don’t boast about tomorrow; for you don’t know what a day may bring.

Isaiah 30:1. “Woe to the rebellious children”, says the LORD, “who take counsel, but not from me; and who make an alliance, but not with my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin,

 

VERSE 14. Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

NIV translation. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Lots of us plan for the future. But we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. We should say “God-willing” and speak tentatively of our future. Read  more »

 

VERSE 15. For you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that.”

NIV translation. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter of James and from the entire Bible.

If the Lord wills. This is where the phrase comes from: “If the Lord wills it.”

we will both live, and do this or that. Both our lives and our plans are very tentative. They are subject to the will of Almighty God.

Lots of us plan for the future. But we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. We should say “God-willing” and speak tentatively of our future. Read  more »

 

VERSE 16. But now you glory in your boasting. All such boasting is evil.

 

VERSE 17. To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.

knows to do good. Some people are aware of what God would have them do. They have a well-formed conscience. They are spiritually and morally awakened.

doesn’t do it. If such a person disobeys their conscience, it is sin for them.

Other people are not very aware of what God would have them do. They are, if you will, “ignorant” of God’s calling upon them. That “ignorance” can be cured by a process called the “formation of conscience.”

There are many tools available to help us in the lifelong process of forming our conscience. Here are some great ones:

  • faith
  • reading the Bible
  • prayer
  • the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • fellowship with other believers
  • great preaching
  • great teaching

 


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JAMES

CHAPTERS: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05

RESOURCES: Summary, Outline, Memorize

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


 

Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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