Pages Navigation Menu

You Have Not Because You Ask Not (James 4:2)


Many of us may be familiar with the prayer promise in James 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask.” When James’ readers heard this scripture, they would have certainly objected to it just as many people do today. They say, “What do you mean, ‘You do not have because you do not ask.’? We are continually asking and we have not received that for which we have been asking.” It is for this reason that James continues by acknowledging that they have asked. However, He says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

It is very important to know what it means to pray with wrong motives. It does not necessarily mean not to pray for something that you really want. It does not mean this at all. True prayer always involves the sharing of our heart with the Lord.

Impure motives are when you find yourself praying for something that you desire more than you desire the Lord. There is nothing wrong with your desires. The problem is when you let your desires be the lord of your life. The solution to the problem of an impure heart is found a few verses later in James 4:7—“Submit therefore to God.” When one is under God’s authority, you are free to pour out your desires. Our Lord wonderfully illustrated this principle in Mark 14:36. He freely poured out His desires when in Gethsemane. He asked if it were possible to remove this cup of suffering referring to His upcoming death. However He also shared his perfect submission by affirming His commitment to God as He stated, “Not what I will, but what you will.”

It is not wrong to pray our desires. It is wrong to let our desires become our god. The world teaches us to delight ourselves in the desires of our heart. This results in a lack of fulfillment and also conflicts with all who get in the way. The Lord teaches us to delight in Him, and He will give us the deepest desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4).