January 5 I Tuesday
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” —James 4:3
The opening verse of this devotion gives us a sobering answer for why our prayers are sometimes not answered: we pray with selfish motives. If our prayers are about getting what we want, focusing our own agenda and calling on God only when we have a problem, James tells us we will ask but will not receive.
The Old Testament prophet Elijah experienced this. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah met with King Ahab to challenge him and his 450 prophets of Baal by saying, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” In the challenge, the prophets of Baal will choose a bull, cut it to pieces and put it on the wood, but not set fire to it. Elijah will do likewise. Each will call on the name of their God and the God who answers by fire is God.
The prophets of Baal went first and they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, dancing around the altar and cutting themselves, but no answer. Afterwards, it was Elijah’s turn. He prayed, “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command.” Again, Elijah prayed, “Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that You, LORD, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).
Do we notice the difference between Elijah’s two prayers? The first prayer was about letting the people know that the Lord is God and Elijah is His servant. The second prayer was about letting the people know the Lord is God and that He will turn their hearts back again. When Elijah prayed his first prayer, he was confident in God, as every Christian has every right to be, but he wanted a bit of glory and his reputation to be established through this event. We can imagine Elijah pausing for a breath, realizing what he had just prayed, and quickly utter the second prayer. Only when Elijah left his reputation out of the picture in his second prayer did God answer with fire.
What are our motives when we pray? Is our motive for the purpose and glory of God to be seen and known? It is a great privilege that we may be, in some way, the means by which God reveals His glory, but the glory does not come to us, even though we may sometimes like it to be so. As we pray, may our attitude be of bringing God into the situation for His will and glory to be supreme.
Prayer: Dear Lord, You are the almighty, powerful and everlasting God. May Your name and glory ever be known in every situation I face. Thank You, Lord.