“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jam. 4:3). Many people become angry because they ask for something in prayer but do not receive it. They will quote scriptures like Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” Why would God dismiss their requests? Why do other people who are not even Christians receive “tons” of good things, and they, His children, receive nothing? They begin to stumble in their faith and even start to deny His ability to answer prayers. Some even begin to deny His existence altogether, as if the only way He could prove it is by answering their every request.
What they fail to realize is that God has an intimate knowledge of their motivations and will decide based on that whether to answer a specific prayer or not. Ignoring for a second the debate as to whether Christians should play the lottery or not, some religiously play it every chance they can in the hopes of winning. Every time before handing over their hard-earned money, they pray to win so they can use the proceeds to “bless others.” While that sounds noble enough, history has shown that most people do not do so after winning. A tiny portion may, in some cases, be handed to a local church or charity, but the vast majority is spent on their passions. They may pray for God to bless them with a person they “love,” and if they are able to date that person, their lascivious desires overtake them, and they live in sin.
Most of these unspiritual passions will do nothing to increase their faith and commitment to the Lord but instead drive them away from service to His kingdom. Many people fail to understand God’s foreknowledge in all matters. He knows what is best for us long before we do, and we usually only catch a glimpse of that in hindsight. God wants to shower us with blessings, but like a wise parent, He knows what will lead us to ruin and what will benefit us. So, it is essential to remember 1 john 5:14 when praying, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The easy part is to do what we all do – pray for what we want instead of what we need. The hard part is giving it to God and then accepting His will for our lives.
If we pray for selfish reasons, even when they are cleverly disguised as having charitable motivations, our prayers will be heard but not answered. Even when we are praying for someone else and our intentions are honorable and selfless, the Lord may have another outcome in mind, and it is then that our faith in God is truly tested. Since we have no knowledge or understanding of the future, we need to place our faith in God and trust His ability to do what is best overall. The key to successful prayer is Pro. 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”