Genesis 18:20, 23-24

Like many people, I approached prayer simplistically when I first learned how to pray. Ask God for what you want. If you ask Him correctly or impress Him sufficiently, He just might grant your request. Or not. Who really knows? But as I learned more about prayer, I discovered that much of my thinking had been clouded by misunderstandings prevalent in popular culture.

When you start from scratch and observe Scripture closely, prayer isn’t at all confusing. It’s profound but not complicated. James 4:2 puts it quite simply: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (ESV).

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the answer you’re looking for. Abraham went to the Lord with his petition to save Sodom and Gomorrah. God heard his request, and although He did not grant it the way Abraham had hoped, the conversation that took place between them deepened their relationship.

God wants to grant our requests, but we make it impossible for Him to do so when we ask for things that contradict His righteous, loving character. What would you do if your child asked for something that would cause him or her harm? Love for your child would demand that you deny the request.

We need to continually seek Him to ensure that our petitions and our motives are in line with His will. Then, whether He says yes, no, or wait, our prayers will draw us ever closer to Him.

What have you been petitioning God about for some time? Take a moment to evaluate your request and your motives. Is God saying yes, no, or wait?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. —James 4:3 NASB


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Faith for the Journey: Daily Meditations on Courageous Trust in God (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.