If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:5-8, NIV*
I used to think these verses meant I had to be sure I’d get what I asked from God. The kicker was, I wasn’t always sure what He wanted to give.
It’s clear from other parts of the Bible that we need to ask in keeping with God’s will. (We don’t even need to leave the Book of James to see this: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3, NIV)
Sometimes we have “how” or the “why” doubts, but James is talking about the “Who” doubts: about God’s character. It’s okay to be unsure of what to pray for, but we need to be sure of God. His character is revealed in Scripture and in our lives, and we need to remember and rely on it.
I have a friend whose cancer sounds terminal. Does God want to heal her, or to reward her with Heaven? I don’t know. But I can pray for God’s care in the details of her life, without any doubt in His love and provision for her.
The two men I’m praying for with depression/alcohol issues… Jesus came to set the captives free. I can be confident He wants to finish the job in their lives.
The people He’s placed on my heart who don’t know Him… God is not willing that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and I know it’s His prompting that has me praying. He longs to adopt them as His own.
In the end, it’s all about God. The better we know Him, the easier it is to trust Him. He gives us the faith, but we need to walk in it.