James Smith, 1842
"You have not, because you ask not." James 4:2
The charge which was brought against Job, may consistently be brought against many. "You restrain prayer before God." Instead of viewing prayer as a privilege, and constantly going to Jehovah as a Father, to get our needs supplied, our souls renewed, and our miseries remedied — the soul is allowed to sink into a cold, careless, lukewarm state; darkness spreads over the mind, distance from God is indulged, and barrenness characterizes us. Then doubts creep in and are nourished; our interest in the promises is questioned; and prayer proves a task and a burden.
The soul then has just enough religion to unfit it for the world, and make it miserable; but not enough to lead it to joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. But when things do not go on exactly to such a length, it is frequently the case that we rest satisfied in a very low state of spirituality; instead of forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before; and pressing toward the mark, for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
How is it that religion with so many professors is so very low? Among many reasons which may be assigned, James gives us one, "You have not — because you ask not." Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? are these His doings? does not the Lord's word do good to him who walks uprightly? Is the Lord's hand shortened, that it cannot save? or is His ear heavy, that it cannot hear? No!
The power of the Spirit is the same;
the word of promise is the same;
the omnipotent hand of God is the same;
the ever attentive ear of God is the same —
but your sins have separated between you and your God; and your iniquities have hid His face from you.
There is still consolation in Christ; there is plenteous grace in Him; and plenty in Him for you.
But you may object, and say — 'but I have asked, and the Lord has not granted.' Perhaps you asked amiss: what was your principal aim in desiring the blessings you asked? was it His glory? did you desire grace that you might honor Him, adorn your profession, and do good to others? or was it simply for your own gratification and comfort? Did you ask on the ground of His promise — and your needs? Did your believe what He said, and give Him credit for being faithful to His word? Or did you question, doubt, and fear; tossed to and fro like a wave of the sea, double-minded? James says, "Let no such man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord."
Have you endeavored to employ to His glory, what you have received before — or have you consumed it on your lusts? Have you asked, sensible that you were begging a favor; with the humility that befits you as a sinner; with the confidence of one who believes God's promises? Have you followed up your prayers, being importunate; and watched for answers of peace as promised? If not, then do not be surprised if your prayers seem to be neglected.
But you are now poor, empty, and worthless — and you desire to be filled with the blessings promised in the word. Then plead with the Lord again, you have — His own word, which cannot fail; the blood of His own Son as a plea, which cannot be rejected; and a whole host of witnesses, who have proved Him to be faithful before you; therefore "wait on the Lord, be of good courage — and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord."
Prayer was appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live, should Christians pray,
For only while they pray, they live.
And will you in dead silence lie,
When Christ stands waiting for your prayer?
Poor soul, you have a Friend on high
Arise, and try your interest there.
If pain afflicts, or wrongs oppress;
If cares distract, or fears dismay;
If guilt dejects, if sin distress;
The remedy's before you — PRAY!
Depend on Him, you can not fail;
Make all your needs and wishes known
Fear not, His merits must prevail;
Ask what you will — it shall be done!