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The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James i. 6-8

But in addressing churches so ensnared by tendencies to the outward in religion, it was all the more necessary to warn them against this in respect to prayer; which only then deserves the name, when it is tile voice of the spirit itself, breathed from its inmost depths; lest they should suppose prayer in words, without that direction of the soul to God, to be all that was required. This warning is contained in the following words: |But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.| Trust in God is here represented as that direction of the spirit, from which prayer must proceed. To the eye of faith God must be present, as He to whom the prayer is directed. There must be the assurance, that he can and will supply the wants uttered before him, in order that it may be true prayer, prayer of the heart and not merely of the lips. The reason is immediately added, why prayer of the opposite character will not be heard. |For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.| Thus the steadfast direction of the soul to God is essential to prayer. But where there is doubt, there this ruling bias of the soul towards God is wanting. When, on the one side, the soul feels itself drawn towards God, and trust in Him begins to awaken; then on the other, the worldly tendency asserts itself, and strives to check the budding emotions of faith and trust. Hence the man, who is drawn hither and thither by conflicting inclinations, is compared to the wave, driven to and fro by storm and flood. James represents such a man as one who is at variance with himself, one in whom there exist, as it were, two souls; who is unstable in all his ways, fickle-minded, unreliable in all his actions. Such is the character of his whole life, and his prayer answers to his life. In this it is implied, therefore, that prayer must be in consonance with the steadfast direction of the whole life towards God; all must originate in one and the same temper of heart.

But here the question may be asked: How is this faith which is essential to prayer, to be obtained? Is one to abstain from prayer, because he lacks this measure of faith? But as in the words of our Lord above quoted, it is the necessary condition on which every gift of God is bestowed, that we knock, that we seek, that we ask of God; most surely faith is to be included, which is the gift of God, and always represented as something divinely wrought in man. He who is conscious of his lack of faith, who desires to believe more, to become stronger in faith, must in this also seek of God that wherein he is wanting. As that unhappy father in the Gospel narrative, of whom believing confidence was required in order to the healing of his son, cried out under a sense of the weakness of his faith, |Lord, help my unbelief!|; so will the feeling of that want of which we are speaking, of that lack of faith which stands opposed to true prayer, itself impel to prayer for strength to believe. He who is assaulted by doubts will turn his back upon doubt, -- upon the world which threatens to ensnare his soul in unbelief, and will look to God; turning away from doubt, he will give himself to prayer. Thus through prayer will faith increase, and the strengthened faith will in its turn lend new power, new wings to prayer.

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