THE SUBSTANCE OF PRAYER
The second issue that Jesus will have you to address that your joy may be full is the substance of your prayers. The word of God says in James 4:2-3 “ye lust and have not, ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet you have not, because ye ask not.
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts”.
This scripture brings out the two issues that affect the effectiveness of our prayers. When Jesus said, “hitherto you have asked nothing” it refers to either of these issues: “because ye ask not” or “because ye ask amiss.” Either way “ye receive not” and “cannot obtain” and your joy is not full.
BECAUSE YE ASK NOT
Why would you be under the excessive pressure of a desire to the point of strive and yet you fail to ask God for it? Why would you rather exert yourself even to the extent of hurting others to accomplish your desire than rely on God to do it? Could it be that you have not yet enthroned God as Lord over the affairs of your life? How about your methods of accomplishing them? Do they rely on human ability (the arm of flesh)? Is your life sometimes carried on independent of your creator? Are you self- confident, self- actualizing, self-advised, self-willed, self-fulfilled and self- centered? Such is the life of a person who is living in his natural life, in the fallen nature. It is described further in Jer. 17: 5-6
“Thus saith the Lord, cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”
This is a curse from the mouth of the LORD on such a life that relies on human methods and is hence not wholly dependent on the Lord. Why spend time going from one man to another sharing and discussing your problems instead of talking to the Lord? He said, “Ask and ye shall receive that your joy may be full.” As many times as you come to Him, He will hear you. Stop running to men when you can ask your Father.
Because Ye Ask Amiss
What renders a request made in prayer to be declared as “amiss” even when Jesus says “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, I will give it to you? It is good to know that every prayer has a focus which could either be on target or be off-mark (amiss). Verse 3 of James four says:
“Ye ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
A prayer misses its target of heavenly approval when its aim is wrong: “that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Verse 4 further qualifies the “lusts” which could make a prayer to be “amiss” no matter how motivating that prayer is.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses know you not that friendship of the world is enmity with God.”
A prayer is motivated either by worldliness or by Godliness. What a person requests from God may be for satisfying a worldly craving, lust, desire, pleasure or appetite. Alternatively it could be towards meeting a Godly need. To ask from God in order to fuel the demands of worldliness in your life is like provoking God to jealousy. Between the spirit of God and the spirit of this world is no common ground. Any interest a Peron nurses for this world’s system automatically marks him out as an enemy of God
“Whosoever ever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”. The Bible warns us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”. (1 John 2: 15-16)
The focus of a man’s life determines the motive of his prayer. If you love the world, the cares of this life will dominate your mind and constitute the burden on your heart. When you pray, the motive will have some elements of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes or the pride of life. Understandably, the Father would have nothing to do with such a prayer. You have asked amiss.
As a child of God, do you still set your heart on the achievements, the honors and the pleasures of this world no matter what it costs? Do you secretly desire the life of the wealthy, the powerful, the learned, the beautiful, the famous, the popular, the influential and loved of this world? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…” (Jer. 17: 9). Ask God to help you discover the true state of your heart. The heart has deceived many into believing that their love for the world and their lust after worldly things can be spiritualised. They think it is simply done by weaving some benefit for God’s work into it. This is a lie of the devil. Beware lest you also be deceived
For instance, a man may have a personal ambition to be a millionaire. Meanwhile he has been programmed of God or may have been earmarked in heaven as a missionary to the Mambila plateau. You then may find a man whose file and records in heaven carry the identity of a missionary on Mambila Plateau (for God works by faith) bombarding heaven with fervent prayers for business contracts in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna. Do not get confused because of his faultless spiritual language. God is unimpressed and not deceived. He looks at the heart of a man when in prayer. God’s verdict is simple. Such a man has “asked amiss”, even if with fasting and tears.
This is just an example, but does it not reveal your situation? The lust that is hidden in your own heart might not be craving for wealth. Could it be political power? Could it be a desire for connections in high places? Could it be a visible anointing that gives you respect both within the Body of Christ and in society? Or could it be academic fame? The word of God instructs you and me:
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4:
The first step out of the woods of praying amiss, is to realize that the heart of the matter is your heart. Take care of the focus of your heart. Keep your heart with all diligence. Take stock of the desires, affections, and longings in it every moment, as you wait on God trusting in the help of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:5-10 will tell you exactly what to do when you identify a lust that is planted by some interaction you have had with the world. Cast such out immediately in the Name of Jesus and with the word of God. Mortify every worldly lust. Do a frequent sanitation exercise that will cleanse your heart of every thought, suggestion and imagination that does not agree with the Word of God. Then put on the new man in thought, in word and in deed. This will ensure that the focus of your heart is maintained daily on pleasing the Lord Jesus, by living out His will in your life. This is what it takes to set your affections on things above, and not on things on earth. This guarantees that you do not ask amiss.
Ask the Father in the Name of Jesus. Ask as an agent of Jesus. Your request must bear the identity of Jesus. Always ask. He gives to all who ask and upbraided not. But do not ask amiss. Do not ask based on worldly – motivated desire, for self-gratification. Ask based genuinely on the advancement of godliness. Check your heart. Ensure that the focus of your heart is heaven-ward. Seek those things which are above, things with which Jesus can be identified. Then whatsoever you shall ask the Father in the Name of Jesus, He will give it you. Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.