Asking Amiss



You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. ~James 4:3

Scripture says in Jeremiah that the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. I take that to mean that it’s pretty easy to “ask amiss” ~ to naturally spout off a half million requests tailored to suit our selfish desires.

Lord, help me to climb the corporate ladder at record speed …

Lord, please heal my body …

Lord, help my child to behave …

Lord, help my son to be the winning star of this football game …

There’s nothing wrong with bringing these requests to the Lord. We should bring them before the throne, boldly. But James makes the point that the reason our prayers go answered is that we ask amiss. In other words, we ask in order to get the answer we want, the way we want, when we want it, for our pleasure, without ever considering what the Lord’s wishes might be.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart, the Psalmist says in 37:4. And so we run with that, with the tendency to think, Okay, all I gotta do is think the Lord is really cool, and then I’ll get what I want! I confess, Lord. You’re uber awesome! Now can I have _____? 

As Jeremiah said … the heart is desperately wicked. Delighting in Him isn’t merely thinking He’s awesome. It looks more like hard work, rather than an emotional sentiment (although the emotional sentiments often follow the hard work). Delighting is simply studying Him, searching Him out, getting to know Him, talking to Him, talking with others about Him, and seeking His will. It’s saying, Lord, what do You want? And Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.


I often find it helpful to start my prayers with Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

This begins a weeding process in which He is faithful to uproot wicked ways and anxieties. It’s painful, but it leads to praying right ~ with His wants and desires as priority. And when His wants are my wants, my prayers change …

Lord, help me as I attempt to climb the corporate ladder, to do so in a way that would honor Your name. And if it’s not Your will that I ever be perched on a higher rung, then so be it. Help me to be content with such things as I have, to not covet the position of my co-worker, and to humbly and self-sacrificially serve others, wherever You choose to put me. 

Lord, I want You to heal me, but more than that, I want my life to honor You. If that’s more likely to happen on a sick-bed, then I humbly submit to Your will. I acknowledge Your ways are not my ways, and I trust You.

Lord, help little Johnny to stop beating up the neighbor kid and to clean his room. These are embarrassing to me, but more than that, they are not glorifying to You. Help my anger in this situation to be righteous. Help me to be more concerned about Your name than I am my own reputation as a parent.

Lord, I would love it if big Johnny scored the winning touchdown. I know this is akin to a little kid asking for a three pound lollipop right before dinner, and You know how to give Your children the best gifts. If the winning score isn’t good for big Johnny or me because it will puff up our pride, then we don’t want it. As always, Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.

Do you see the difference? Asking amiss means asking for our own selfish desires and glory. Asking on target means asking for so that His glory might be known and magnified. And whether we know it or not … His glory is the very definition of our heart’s desire.


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