Jump Start # 1963
James 1:6 “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”
I was listening to the Mama & Papas, “California Dreamin” in my car the other day. Part of the song grabbed my attention and made me think of our verse today about prayer. In the song, it says, “Stopped into a church I passed along the way. Well, I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray…” I pretend to pray.
I’m not going to try to figure out what the song writer meant nor analyze any deep or hidden meanings in this song, but I wonder why someone would pretend to pray?
Our verse, one of many in James that discusses prayer, reminds us of the importance of faith in our prayers. Pray believing. Pray knowing. The surf, as James uses to illustrate, is subject to the wind. Which ever way the wind blows, the surf follows. The wind controls the surf. Doubts are like that. We are blown by every question, every worry, and every fear. We hear this and off we go, questioning what we ought to know. We hear that, and we begin to wonder about things. “What if none of this stuff is true?” “What if, when we die, we find out there is no God?” “What if there are missing books of the Bible?” “What if God doesn’t hear us?” Tossed here and tossed there, and not sure about anything. We can feed our doubts and follow our fears. And all of that will have an bearing upon our faith and our relationship with the Lord.
I pretend to pray. Here is some thoughts about that.
First, someone may pretend to pray, because he has been told by others to pray. His life is a mess. He doesn’t know what to do, so someone advises him to pray. He pretends. He bows. He mumbles a few words. He doesn’t really know who he is talking to or what he is supposed to say. He isn’t expecting much other than to tell this person, “Well, I prayed and nothing happened.”
Second, someone may pretend to pray in order to impress someone else. They bow before they eat to look good. They are pretending. They are doing this for a show. They want the person that they are with to think that they are spiritual, when they are not. They will pretend to be spiritual. They may attend worship services, but they don’t really worship. They open a Bible, but they don’t really apply it. It’s all a show. It’s necessary to marry someone, they have been told. It’s necessary to get in good with a family. There is nothing there.
Third, someone totally misunderstands the nature and purpose of prayer. They think that if they “act” like they are praying that God will be impressed and send blessings their way. They are not serious. They want the goodies from Heaven. They don’t realize that God sees the heart. God knows our intentions. You can’t fool God.
Pray in faith. Pray believing. This is James’ foundational statement. Pray knowing that God hears. Pray knowing that God answers. Pray knowing that you are talking to God. Remember, there are three qualifiers in this passage.
First, James is writing to Christians. These words are directed towards those who have left the world, and are walking with Christ. They have committed their hearts to Jesus. They follow the Lord. These words are not for the guy who has ignored God all of his life until one day his little world is about to collapse around him. He prays, wanting to keep things just as they are. He prays, wanting to avoid trouble. He’s not really interested in following Christ. He hasn’t turned his heart to the Lord. He’s in trouble and he wants out of trouble.
Second, James’ words are for a person who has faith in prayer. That ought to be all Christians, but sadly, sometimes it’s not. Later in the book, James says the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. The man who prayed is righteous. The man who prayed believes. The man who prayed knows the Lord, loves the Lord and follows the Lord. This person understands that prayer is not a Christmas list of all the things he wants. Prayer is inviting God into our heart and our world. It is about God’s will, not my will. Prayer welcomes Heaven’s help, even if it is not the way he hoped it would be. His trust is in the Lord. He knows that the Lord is good. He knows the Lord welcomes conversation from him. He talks often to the Lord. He seeks the way of the Lord. This is a believer’s prayer, who happens to believe in prayer.
Third, he asks. He asks in faith. He understands his position. He doesn’t demand of God. He doesn’t tell God. He doesn’t make deals, threats or barters with God. He asks. He asks knowing that God sees the whole picture and God has a plan. He asks knowing that God sees the future. He asks knowing that God’s glory and the furtherance of the kingdom of Heaven is most important. He asks. This is hard for some. They are used to telling others what to do. They are used to being the boss at work and at home. They shout and people line up. They demand and results happen. With James, the righteous man is asking. He understands that God has a time table and it may not be the same as ours. He knows that “No,” is an answer to prayer. God may have better things in mind. He knows that comfort, peace and safety are not always the best path that God wants us to take. God puts our plate before our enemies. God leads us through shadowy valleys of death. We don’t understand these things. We pray for meals with family and friends, not enemies. We pray for sunny hilltops, not dark valleys. God knows what’s best. God is shaping our character and developing trust in our hearts. It often takes those valleys and those enemies to accomplish that. Therefore, we ask. We ask from what we see from our perspective. We ask in faith. We ask knowing that God knows what’s best.
I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray. Interesting line from a great song, but a pitiful way to treat God. Why pretend? That prayer won’t do any good. It falls flat because it wasn’t in faith. Tossed here and there, that person will not understand why God does what He does.
Pray believing. Pray knowing. Pray in hope. Pray earnestly, fervently, passionately and in faith.