Sermon Text – James 4:2-3
One of the hallmarks of Christianity which bolsters it as the one true religion is its penchant for balance. Religions derived by men are hard nosed and they will categorically define certain actions as forbidden. From Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammed says, “Allah has cursed wine, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who conveys it, and the one to whom it is conveyed.” Joseph Smith says in Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, “Tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man…And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” But when the Bible speaks about behaviors that are verboten, it will often do so by contextualizing the prohibition. Drinking alcohol in and of itself is not evil, but drinking it to the point of drunkenness is evil. Sex is not inherently evil, but it quickly can become evil if it is not framed within the covenant of marriage. Similarly, raw desire cannot be flagged as good or evil without context. And this too, requires biblical balance to rightly discern it. This morning’s sermon will be about prayer, but since our text this morning is addressing the particular issue of covetousness, let’s take a moment in the introduction to discuss the concept of desire.
THE NURTURE OF PRAYER
Those who have walked with God for a time, times, and half time know that prayer has an exponential quality to it. You come to God in faith, expressing your agreement with the name of God, that He exists, and you ask Him for something specific, and you receive an answer which emboldens your faith even more, which drives you back to your knees to petition Him once again. And the cycle continues until you find yourself in line with the commandment of scripture, to pray without ceasing. It is this ever present communion with God that defines what it means to be walking in the Spirit.
Prayer reminds us that this world is fallen. In this world homes burn to ashes, metal rusts, and moths destroy. And it reminds us that one day, one glorious day, we will enter our father’s mansion where there are many rooms and every tear will be wiped away and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. This is the comfort prayer can bring. This is the hope we have in God.
THE METHODOLOGY OF PRAYER
The Lord’s Prayer has seven aspects. One, acknowledge who He is and where He is. Two, bestow reverence on His name, which we covered earlier. His name is “I Exist” so you agree with that statement and extol His name in faith. Three, you ask God for change. At the moment, there is a rift between heaven and earth. And you are praying that a restoration will occur. You are praying that Revelation 22 will be fulfilled, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Number 4, you ask God for daily bread, to be sustained physically with earthly bread, and to be sustained spiritually with the heavenly manna. Five, you ask God to initiate the cycle of forgiveness that starts from Him to you and then from you to others. Six, you ask for guidance and protection from evil, and lastly number 7, you recognize that He has the power, it is his kingdom, and he is to receive glory as long as forever is forever.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF PRAYER
John 14 says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” The cardinal verse of the health and wealth, name and claim it gospel has led many astray and many have been deceived by it. If the verse does grant us carte blanche, and the only thing that’s preventing us from having whatever we want is that we haven’t asked yet, then there is a contradiction in scripture. Because our text this morning explicitly states “you do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So which one is it? Our choices are, there’s a contradiction in scripture or we do the hard work of harmonizing the two verses and deriving our interpretation in a way that accords with the whole counsel of God. To rightly interpret this verse let us get some help from Jesus. In Luke 11, he says, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
When we submit to the Father’s will, as Jesus did, it gives us direction. When Jesus stands up after the third prayer, having received a no from the Father, and having accepted the answer fully in his heart, you will notice that there is a line of demarcation. From this moment on, the Lord Jesus will wipe the sweat off his brow, dust himself off, gird up his loins, and display the greatest example of manliness the world has ever seen. He’s done defending himself. His actions and teachings and miracles over the last 3 years have spoken plainly as to who he is. He will say very little over the next 17 hours and he will display meekness on a scale that is incomprehensible. This is the power of prayer. It is prayer that gave Jesus the strength to endure his passion. And when the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom, he forever opened the channel by which we can commune with the Father. The Holy of Holies is opened to you saints. Your God is listening. So pray to Him and expect good gifts.