What are you praying for?

by Kyle
published June 16, 2013


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 God’s plan for life does not necessarily include being rich.

I know there are members of a growing theological movement who would disagree. They would cite the way God answered the prayer of Jabez and made him wealthy (1 Chron 4:10). They would look to instances of poverty and suffering in Scripture and universally call them punishment from God for a lack of faith. Even Job, they say, didn’t have enough faith.

This line of thinking is often referred to as the health and wealth gospel, or prosperity theology. Wherever this thinking comes from, it’s not from the Bible.

Scripture, in fact, reveals something quite the opposite.

James 1:5 makes a promise about how God answers a specific kind of prayer. Believers who pray for wisdom, with the faith that God will give it, will always receive it. We may pray for a multitude of things, and God is free to answer our requests as he pleases — except regarding wisdom. As a perfect and righteous God, he is bound by his word to always, and without fail, deliver wisdom to those who ask for it in faith.

James 1:9 begins with the word “but” and continues on a seemingly unrelated topic. He moves forward, extolling the poor for their “high position” and advising the rich to embrace humility since their riches will not last. It would be so easy to read James 1:9-11 as a flippant change in subject, except for that word: but.

As we learned in grammar school, but is a conjunction that ties the previous thought to the thought that follows it. In this instance, “God always answers prayers for wisdom” is somehow opposite of “the poor have an honored place in God’s kingdom while the benefits of wealth are fleeting.”

So, what’s the connection?

Chapter 2 of James opens with a discussion about how showing partiality based on perceived wealth is wrong. The church James was writing to apparently had a bad habit of giving the good seats to the rich while the poor had to sit on the floor. There seems to have been a preoccupation with wealth in the church, and James rightly identifies it as destructive.

Can you imagine what people obsessed with wealth might pray for?

If James 1:9-11 doesn’t condemn prosperity theology, then it deals a death blow when considered in context. Here’s the insinuation: Quit obsessively asking God to make you rich.

God will always honor your request for wisdom but not necessarily your request for wealth. He may desire to make you wealthy, and some he does, but that doesn’t depend on how much faith you have. How else can you explain faithful poor people or godless wealthy people? Isn’t it better to get wisdom than gold anyway? (See Proverbs 16:16)

James offers a good way to think about our lots in life. If you are poor, rejoice because you have to depend on God for everything. If you are wealthy, rejoice because God has blessed you materially but remember that it will all be gone someday.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t bring our finances before the Lord in prayer. I am saying that if the desire of your heart is to be rich, you’ve got the wrong desire. Our desire should, instead, be to rejoice in who God is, what he accomplished on the cross and how he continues to provide for us.

God’s plan for life doesn’t necessarily include being rich. God’s best plan for life does include finding the joy in what God has made you to be.

What do you think?

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