Last week our Bible study was on James 1:1-14 (we’re going through the book of James). James is one of my favorite books of the New Testament. I love how plainly the wisdom is laid out. James was/is thought to be the half brother of Jesus and though he was a stringent follower of Christ growing up, he did become one after the resurrection.
To me, the main theme of James is “faith”. The book lays the premise not just to have faith in God but how our actions should be guided by that faith. James starts out strong by reminding us that even in our toughest times God has His reasons and we will be better people-better Christians-because of them.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3
Then he moves to “praying with faith”.
James 1:5-8 HCSB
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
Now, I think that too often we imagine God as some genie in a bottle. Praying “with faith” does NOT mean that we pray believing that God WILL do whatever we ask. Praying with faith means that we believe He can but we trust in Him and accept His answer.
Back in the day Garth Brooks came out with a song Unanswered Prayers. Since then I have heard many people use his phrase “thank God for unanswered prayers”. This is one of my pet peeves. If my four year old comes up to me and asks if she can have a popsicle for breakfast and I say “No” then I have answered her. In the same way God gives us answers but sometimes that answer is “no” or “not now”.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to His father asking God to “take His cup” and ending the request with “not my will but thine”. Does any of us seriously doubt that Jesus prayed with faith or that God didn’t answer His own Son? No! Jesus KNEW God was listening and God answered His Son; He said, “No”. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand why God would say no; but the thing about faith is that I don’t have to understand, I just have to trust in God and His reasons and move forward.