How Prayer Puts It All Together

Answered prayer is not a finished project. Answered prayer is the instructions on how to put it all together.

When our girls were small, we bought them a play kitchen for Christmas. We picked it out by going to the store and evaluating the various pictures that were on the boxes. We made our choice and headed home.

What they fail to tell you is that when you open the box, you don't pull out a kitchen. You pull out a play kitchen in pieces, millions of pieces. 

I was disappointed that we would have to put it all together, but I was undaunted. I mean, look at the picture on the box. How hard could this be?  

FYI, it's extremely hard. Like, make a preacher want to cuss hard. I don't think I said a cuss word. My late Uncle Roy, who was a truck driver and an avid fisherman, he taught me all the cuss words I know. And while I didn't say a cuss word, I did think about what each of them meant.

The problem with the project is that I was trying to go by the picture. My wife kept pointing me to what I really needed. I didn't need the picture, I needed the instructions.

James explains to a group of people who sounded like they were about to cuss why prayer wasn't working. 

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:3b-4

When it comes to prayer, we are much like I was with that play kitchen. I wanted to pull something out of the box that looked like the picture. But answered prayer is not like the completed picture. Answered prayer is more like a set of instructions on how to put it all together.

"Spend it on your passions" means that you get it the way you want it, and so you do with it what you want to. James makes it very clear; God does not respond to our demands. God responds to prayer. And isn't much of what we call prayer really just us making demands of God?

When we pray to God, we want an answer. But many times, God's answer is not the completed project. His answer is the next step.

We may be asking for healing. But don't think it's a failure if God is providing strength for today rather than healing.

We think of answered prayer as a moment. God can answer prayer in a season and still remain faithful.

If God's answer to prayer were just you pulling the completed project out of the box, then you would have what you wanted, but you would have none of Him.

You would spend it on your passions. You would have never heard His voice in the instructions.

Answered prayer is not the completed project. Answered prayer is the instructions on how to put it all together.

Bible Study

Read James 4:1-10.

  • What does this passage teach us about prayer?
  • What does this passage say we do wrong in prayer?
  • How does this passage teach us to pray correctly?
  • What habit do you need to foster or establish?


What's at the top of your prayer list? If there is nothing there, put something there. Ask God for something measurable, an answer you can identify. Now, instead of looking for the completed answer, be open to God's leading for the next step or instruction. Write it down and act on it. Watch what happens next.

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