April 1, 2011
Asking and Not Receiving
Excerpt from James 4: 1-3
“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (NIV)
Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel
We’ve all heard the proverbial, “You have not because you ask not.” But if merely asking was all that was necessary, we would surely have all of our needs and desires met by now. According to the book of James, the problem is not simply that we don’t ask. The problem is that our asking is often misguided and prompted by the wrong motives.
First, we don’t always ask respectfully. We often fail to acknowledge that the person of whom we are making a request has value apart from their usefulness to us. How many times have you hesitated or even refused to answer a call from someone who only contacts you when they need something?
Second, we don’t always ask selflessly. Too often, our requests are too closely tied to our self-aggrandizement. I believe that God sends blessings to us in order to send blessings through us. When was the last time you prayed for God to open a door for you so that you could hold that door open for someone else?
Third, we don’t always ask sincerely. A wise person has said that we know that we are doing God’s work when the work requires more than we can accomplish by ourselves. God’s work always requires us to ask for help beyond ourselves. God has orchestrated our interdependence economically, culturally and compassionately. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are still true today:
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. . . . ‘therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.'”
Dear God, please help us to ask for what we need in ways that will respect others and connect us to the common good for all. Amen.
About the Author
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; [the Lord] upholds the orphan and the widow.”
– Psalm 146:7-9
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