What's Your Motive?
The Bible says in James 4:3,
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James says that you ask, but you do not receive, because you ask amiss. The word amiss here comes from the Greek root word that means to harm or to injure. His point is: God will not grant you anything that is going to harm or injure your spiritual life, whether in the short term or in the long term.
When you pray, God is looking out for your best interests.
But then he also said, You ask amiss that you may spend it on your pleasures. The word pleasures has the idea of sensuality, which means, if I am asking for something just to stroke my fleshly ego, then I short-circuit the prayer by my wrong motivation.
For example, it is great to pray for a car. I live in Southern California where we need a car to get around. And I think God will give you a car that you like. After all, the Bible says He gives us richly all things to enjoy. Jesus said, "Ask, that your joy might be full." So I think God wants us to be happy, and He generally has no problems granting your request for a car you would like.
Yet some people go a step beyond that, and their real motivation is, "Man, I want that car because I would look good in that car! If I came to work in that car, I would really show up so-and-so. People would think I'm pretty fine if I had that car. If I had that car, the chicks would dig me."
Be careful when you pray to not slip over into a motivation that is not really pure. Because you will short-circuit your faith and you will not receive an answer—except "no".
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