Inspired by James 4:1-10
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3 (NRSV)
God wants good things for us, right? So why doesn’t he answer our prayers the way we want him to? Why doesn’t he give us the bigger paycheck and greater leisure time? Why doesn’t he give us more power and respect in the world? What does God really have against pleasure and happiness, anyway?
God has nothing against pleasure and happiness; he created many good things in the world specifically so we could enjoy and appreciate them. But he also recognizes that in pursuit of our own pleasure and happiness, we often deprive others of necessities, either intentionally or through apathy and willful blindness to the consequences of our actions. And while God does indeed want us to enjoy good things, he’s not going answer our prayers for pleasure at the expense of others.
Why do you want that bigger paycheck? Are you unable to meet your own basic needs? Then by all means pray and trust that God will hear your prayer. But if God is not answering your prayer the way that you want him to, then consider the possibility that you may have confused needs with wants. Those prayers are still useful, because God can use that opportunity to open your eyes to the needs of others in the world. And though you may not receive what you asked for, you may find yourself receiving something much more valuable: the ability to be the answer to someone else’s prayer.
Let us pray. Compassionate God, you know our needs better than we do. Grant us humility and openness to your will, that we may use the resources you have given us to demonstrate your love to the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.