You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4:2-3
If James says there is a wrong way to pray, a wrong way to ask, then it follows that there is a right way to ask, a right way to pray.
God’s reception of and interaction with prayer is conditional. One condition to God not hearing your prayers is envy.
Envy affects fellowship with the body and fellowship with God. Envy causes you to murder, fight and quarrel – even if you only do so in the hypocritical confines of your own heart. Envy causes you to demand things from God that are self-serving and self-glorifying.
You cannot be an envious, ungrateful, quarrelsome and covetousness person and expect God to listen to you. He will not. Envy is a discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions or qualities. It’s not just wanting what someone else has but envy leads to negative feelings about the person and your own circumstances. Bitterness. Ingratitude. Inordinate longings. Strife. Quarrels and fights. Envy unsettles relationships and it unsettles prayer. Envy creates negative feelings about the person who has what you are coveting. It’s hard to prefer another or to think well of others when you hate them for what your coveting. Envy grabs hold of our desire for a better spouse, better job, more money, less belly fat, better cars, jobs, friends, families, homes and jobs and inspires a host of unholy thoughts and actions in response.
Someone is succeeding where you failed in Parenting, marriage, business or fitness. We console ourselves about the pretty gal advancing in her career by the fact that she definitely didn’t get there by any other means. We disparage others for what we desire for ourselves. Slander, backbiting, gossip, hate. Murder.
If only God would give me what they have. And how dare that person have it and not me. We blame the person and we blame God for his providences. Envy attacks our view of God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness. It makes Gods grace to us and others the means of sin. We resent the person who has what we do not. And these desires influence our prayers. We ask wrongly, we pray wrongly, and when we do not receive what we want, we go on to disillusioned prayerlessness. We pray. We don’t get what we wanted in the prayer. Or the answer to our prayer is contrary or incongruous to what we desired and so we cease to pray.
Or we don’t pray because we desire something contrary to God’s law. Like a different spouse or children or complexion. Then we don’t pray because we don’t get what we asked for. Add that to a quarrelsome, vainglorious me-monster and you have a person off mission. Ineffectual. Sterile. God’s reception of prayer is conditional.
1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Rather than seeking to honor God and advance his kingdom purposes, envious prayers seek only to gratify self-centered passions or desires. If the desires of your prayer aren’t consistent with God’s Glory as shown in scripture than it is amiss.
Prayer done rightly changes us. It centers and clarifies our expectations. Prayer humbles us. Prayer must focus on God’s glory. God’s gracious providence. God’s Lordship – over us and the cosmos.
The further antidote to envious prayers is found in Philippians 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is conditional – it can’t come from a envious heart – focused on its own desires and glory.
Right prayer is prayer clothed in thanksgiving. Gratitude drives envy out of our minds and out of our mouths. Make your requests known but known in gratitude. God apposes the proud and so haughty prayers full of demands and self-seeking envy – these are prayers that God apposes. He does not hear them. You do not ask rightly when you do not ask with thanksgiving. If your prayers are covetous, bitter, and self-seeking. Stop. There is no one listening