James gives two reasons for prayer that God does not honour.
1. Prayer was not offered. “You do not have because you do not ask.” Because we walk in Christian circles, we can sometimes assume prayer is being made when it is not. I have heard, and sadly even uttered the phrase, “I’ll pray for you,” but somehow I never seem to remember to pray. It is not that God needs us to pray before He can act. God doesn’t need anything or anyone. However, He does choose to withhold things as a sort of discipline when we do not pray.
2. Prayer is offered with wrong motive. “You ask and do not have because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Many seem to believe, if their behaviour is any indication, that God is some benevolent sugar daddy with an unlimited credit card who just wants us to be happy. It is a common theme preached by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Teaching to tickle the ears. God is not in the business of giving people everything we want. If He was, could you imagine the chaos? And given our darkened hearts and sinful nature, can you imagine what would happen when, inevitably, we begin to pray for divine punishment against our enemies? David did it (read the Psalms), and if He was a man after God’s own heart, I can only imagine what I would pray.
So what kind of prayer should we offer? How about praying (and meaning it), “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven?” It is part of the so-called Lord’s prayer, after all. As one reads through the Scriptures, one gets the distinct impression that the chief purpose of God in everything He does is to gain glory and honour for His name. We are being made a part of that great purpose (read Ephesians if you want details), for whatever reasons. Should it not be our purpose as His children to ask Him to do what He wants?