Praying in faith is being convinced God can do the impossible and that He will give you the wisdom to do exactly what He wants you to do.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.” (James 1:2-6, NLT)
Think About It
God wants you to come to Him. He wants you to trust Him. When you are asking for wisdom and guidance He wants you to have confidence that He will direct you and make the answer clear. When praying, what does it mean to “be sure that your faith is in God alone”? What does it mean to pray in faith?
Praying in faith is being dependent on God
James makes it clear that “when you ask” God for wisdom, “be sure that your faith is in God alone.” Praying in faith is the prayer of a person who is completely convinced of who God is. This means you are convinced in God’s power, presence, knowledge, love, and faithfulness to provide the guidance you need. You are completely dependent on Him to lead. God knows what you need, He knows what you need to do, and He knows what you don’t need to do. Praying in faith is asking in dependence on God to answer, relying on God to show the way, and counting on God to provide the wisdom you need to make the right decision.
Let’s say you have asked God for wisdom, in addition you have searched for His wisdom by studying God’s Word on the subject, you have talked to wise friends, and you have listened to wise counsel. You now have a clear picture of what you are to do and not do. God has clearly provided the wisdom you need to move forward with this decision. However, you received an answer that you did not expect and that you didn’t really want. To do what God is telling you to do will be difficult. This is where you find out if your asking in faith was actually in “God alone.” Will you trust what you have heard God say to you or will you trust your emotions, your own desires, and what you wanted to do all along? The bottom line is, if your faith is in “God alone” when you ask for wisdom it want matter how you feel or what may or may not happen, you are convinced this is God’s wisdom and you will do what He says.
Praying in faith is being decisive with God
This is closely related to the previous point. Being decisive means you have made a decision, your mind is made up, and you are focused on hearing from God and doing what God tells you. James goes on to say, “Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, NLT). This is important. Let’s go through this, phrase by phrase.
James says, “do not waver,” sometimes translated do not doubt. What does this mean? James is not saying that we should never question God. It is okay to ask God why. He is not saying you will never struggle to understand the ways of God. God’s way are not our ways. Often time’s God’s way seems strange, different, and sometimes scary. He is not saying you should never wrestle with what God says. Even though God’s Word is all true, there are parts that are difficult to understand and sometimes hard to swallow. When James says, “do not waver,” he is saying do not waver or doubt God’s answer to the situation. Stay committed to God’s path that He has showed you, even if you don’t fully understand it.
James goes on to say, “Do not waver, for a person….” Let’s stop there. That “person” James is referring to is a believer. This is someone who has placed their faith in God for salvation. They are forgiven, born again, and a follower of Jesus. They are not perfect, they have problems and they are going through various kinds of trials and problems (see James 1:2). This “person” can be you or me.
Let’s keeping going; James says, “Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty….” Let’s stop one more time. This “divided loyalty” means to be double-minded, trying to be dedicated to two masters at the same time (God and the world, God and yourself, God and ______). There is a part of you that wants to do what God wants you to do and there is a part of you that wants to do what you want to do. You sense this struggle when you want to be sacrificial and selfish at the same time. This can show up in your life in many ways. You are serving God on Monday, but serving yourself on Tuesday. You are loving God during the day, but loving yourself during the night. Pleasing God this week, but trying to please yourself next week. You get the idea. There is a divided loyalty. You are indecisive of who you really want to serve. Faith says, “I’m committed to God.” Faith is convinced that God’s way is the right way all the time.” Praying in faith is committed to doing whatever God tells you as a result of your prayers and receiving God’s answer as the final answer. This is not a time to be wishy-washy.
James gives us a great illustration of “divided loyalty” when he says this kind of person “is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” If you follow his logic and study the waves of the sea you will understand what doubt in God does to a person. Within in this illustration the “wave” represents the doubting person, and the “wind” represents the forces of outside circumstances. Just like a “wave of the sea” the doubting person will be driven and tossed here and there, up and down, back and forth, right and left, and all around by the ever-changing winds of circumstances and emotions
What are the winds that can blow you off course when you come to pray? What are the winds in life that cause you to doubt God? There are two I want to mention.
- The wind of unsound doctrine. Your doctrine is your set of beliefs (sometimes called your theology, worldview, or core beliefs). What you believe about God, Jesus, salvation, the Holy Spirit, church, spiritual warfare, heaven, hell and a host of other important subjects. Paul says something very interesting in Ephesians 4:14, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (NLT). Believing the wrong things creates an unstable and unsettled life. Especially, if you can be easily convinced to believe new things that are not true. These unhealthy beliefs then become like the wind blowing you in whatever direction it wants. This is why it’s important to know God’s truth.
- The wind of unusual difficulties. In Acts 27 we are told about a group of men who were on a ship out at sea. A “terrible storm” appeared and went on for days. In order to lighten the ship, the crew threw cargo and gear overboard. They were desperately trying to keep the ship from sinking. The situation became so bad that one eyewitness of the event said, “All hope was gone.” The storms of life can often cause you to lose hope and become undecisive, sometimes even panic. When your marriage is falling apart, your finances have gone from bad to worse, your health has taken an unexpected turn or some other storm blows into your life you can feel like all hope is gone. During those times you may struggle with doubt. You start thinking God doesn’t care. You may blame God for allowing or causing it to happen. Instead of trusting him you may try to take matters into your hands.
When the winds of unsound doctrine and unusual difficulties begin to blow against you, you will be tempted to waver in your dedication to God. So you need to be decisive when it comes to God and your dedicated decision is based on God’s truth and God’s way regardless of what storms may blow into your life.
Praying in faith is being expectant because of God
When you are praying in faith you can expect God to provide an answer, open a door, and intervene in your life and situation. However, praying in doubt can close the door. James says, “Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7, NLT).
The phrase “such people” is referring to those whose faith is not in God alone and who have a divided loyalty to God’s way and some other way. When you pray with a heart that trust in God to provide the wisdom you need and with a heart committed to applying the wisdom God gives you then you should “expect to receive” from the Lord the guidance and strength you need to do His will.
James seems to be emphasizing the impact doubt can have on our prayer lives. Doubt has the power to do three things.
- Doubt can cause you to be unsuccessful. James says, “Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (NLT). They are going to be unsuccessful in receiving the wisdom they need because their doubt will blind them to the wisdom that God shows them. Because of their doubt, if they were to see it or hear it, they wouldn’t believe it.
- Doubt can cause you to be uncertain. James says, “Their loyalty is divided between God and the word” (NLT). One moment such people are up (centered on God), the next moment they are down (centered on this world). You might call them spiritually “seasick”! This person oscillates between faith and skepticism. One week they are certain that God’s way is right and the next week they are uncertain. They are committed and then not committed.
- Doubt can cause you to be unsteady. James says, “They are unstable in everything they do” (NLT). Such a person has no commitment and no stability when it comes to God. They constantly change, with no anchor to hold them steady. They may be emotional and unreliable when it comes to the things of God.
The bottom line is doubt and wavering can cause you to miss the wisdom of God and miss the blessing of God for your life.
Praying in faith is being dependent on God, decisive with God, and expectant because of God. You have complete confidence in God and whatever may or may not happen you can walk with God through it because you have an anchor in Him and it doesn’t matter what kind of winds may huff and puff and try to blow your house down. You will experience God’s wisdom and the success He wants for your life.
Would you describe your faith as dependent, decisive, and expectant? Why or why not? What unsound doctrines (beliefs) have you had in the past that have been corrected? How has having them corrected strengthen your faith in God? What is your life like when you are doubting God versus trusting God for wisdom?
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your wisdom. Help me to pray in faith being completely dependent on you and decisive to do whatever it is you tell me. Keep me from being emotional and tossed around by what the world may say about you, me, or my situation. I will choose to trust you and follow you through this storm. Amen.