Do you ever get frustrated when God doesn’t answer your prayers? I’ve been there. I’ve asked God for things that He didn’t provide. I’ve asked Him for things I didn’t receive. It’s frustrating, because all throughout the Bible we see that we have not because we ask not. All you need to do is ask, and God will provide. Knock and God will open doors. Seek and you’ll find. Etc. etc. etc.
So why does it only seem to work half the time? It almost seems like a fifty-fifty shot, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why some prayers are answers and some are left hanging.
Sure, maybe you’re asking with the wrong intentions. Maybe your reasoning is off. Maybe your heart isn’t in the right place. But what if it is?
Something clicked for me recently. It’s one of those things that I’m sure I’ve always known. I just am not certain I knew how to apply it.
Today’s verse is James 5:16.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Well, first off, what does it mean to earnestly ask something? I thought I knew. I assumed it meant that you ask believing God will answer. I thought it meant that you asked and really meant it. And maybe that’s one way to look at it, but look up the definition of the word earnest.
I just checked on dictionary.com, and it means: “serious in intention, purpose, or effort.”
With that definition in mind, when you ask for something—let’s say a raise—do you ask with serious intention, purpose, and effort? Do you go into your boss’s office and ask for an increase in pay and explain the details why you need to make more? Or do you just declare that you deserve a raise?
That puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?
So how do you ask God to answer your prayers? How do you make your requests to God? Do you just say, “Dear Lord, please bless me today”? Or do you say, “Dear Lord, please be with so-and-so as they do such-and-such”? Or how about this classic: “Dear Lord, bless this food”?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those prayers, but knowing how we now define earnest, are any of them earnest? Do any of those prayers demonstrate serious intention, purpose, or effort?
If you just walked into your boss’s office and asked your boss to give you a raise today, do you think they’d just do it? No! If they didn’t fire you right away, I’m willing to bet they’d want to know why. Why do you deserve a raise, and what are you going to about it if you get it?
If we wouldn’t walk into our boss’s office and demand a raise without giving some kind of indication that we were willing to invest ourselves in the company more, why do we think God would just drop blessings on us if we haven’t indicated that we aren’t going to be committed to Him?
No, blessings can’t be earned. No, you can’t work your way into God’s favor. No, God doesn’t play favorites. But according to Scripture, if you are righteous and your prayer is earnest (if it demonstrates serious intent or purpose or effort), that prayer can accomplish the impossible.
If you follow Christ, you’re righteous. Period. If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, God counts you as righteous. But just because you’re righteous in God’s sight doesn’t automatically mean all your prayers are going to be answered. No way. I know many Christians who might be righteous, but they are certainly not earnest.
So if you’re frustrated about your prayers going unanswered, take a moment and really look at your heart and the way you make your requests to God. If you’re just haphazardly asking Him for random things that make you sound like a great Christian, don’t expect much. If you’re just flippantly asking Him for things that will make your life easier because you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, you aren’t going to impress Him. But, if you know what you want and why you want it, tell Him.
You know what I want? I want a novel on the bestseller list so that I can tell more people about my faith in Jesus Christ. I want to make enough money to support myself and travel to encourage His missionaries around the world. That’s what I want and why I want it. That’s specific. That’s earnest.
I’m taking God at His Word. Through Christ’s blood, I’m made righteous. My prayers have purpose, effort, and serious, specific intention. So I am expecting wonderful results.
God may not answer the way I think He will, and that’s okay. Because He will answer. And however He answers will be better than I expect. I just have to give Him enough time to work out His perfect plan in my life, and in the mean time, He’ll take care of me. That’s what it means to trust Him. That’s what it means to have faith. And faith, my friends, will impress God. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.