(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article: Did you know most people’s prayers show they are double-minded?)
Prayer without believing is double-mindedness
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8.
How is it usually when it comes to people’s prayers? It’s like this: People think that to pray is to express what they want and then they’re done. But that is a complete misunderstanding. It’s actually a contradiction. Of what interest is it to God when I do nothing more than tell Him what I don’t have? And of what interest is it to me? In the deepest and truest sense, this is what prayer is not.
To pray for wisdom, love or patience, and not even expect to receive it, much less believe that I have already received it, is double-mindedness. “Yes, I would really like to have it, but I am managing remarkably well without it.” Most people pray that way as long as they live, and never receive what they pray for. In other words, they are double-minded; they have two minds.
Are you filled with what you pray for …
“I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law.” Psalm 119:113. God called David a man after His own heart – a man of like mind. He was anything but double-minded. All that mattered to him was to be thoroughly saved. When a person is interested in being thoroughly saved, but also has a little interest in something else, he has two minds. That’s undoubtedly how it is for the majority of people, to one degree or another. This matter of degrees applies, of course, to everything.
Double-mindedness is mentioned in two places in the letter of James. For many years I have called James a specialist. He is a specialist in practically everything he writes about. What he writes is as strong, clear, plain and direct as can be. He must have been a tremendous man of God. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5. He mentions wisdom here as an example, but it applies to everything we can obtain through salvation, such as godly love. James hits this point so hard that you’d think it would be enough to raise the dead. But usually nothing happens – it doesn’t “raise” a thing. People aren’t filled with love, wisdom or patience, or anything else they pray for.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting …” James 1:6. Jesus expressed the same thing in these words: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22. First we hear, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7. That’s for beginners. But then it is put more exactly: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Faith isn’t indefinite or intangible; it is firm and definite. It is the full conviction that you will receive what you prayed for. John also writes about this in 1 John 5:14-15. There it says that when we pray according to God’s will – and we always do that when we pray about salvation – we have this confidence in Him, that we have what we prayed for.
… or are you double-minded?
“… for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6. He is tossed back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Then there is something in James 1:7 that is dreadfully strong, but very true: “For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” And in James 1:8 we have a character description of such a person: “… he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” If people would take this seriously, they would recognize that they are double-minded – just about every one of them. When you pray, you aren’t done just because you have stated what it is that you want. No, but when you have gotten faith that you will receive what you prayed for, then you are done.
You can use the word “prayer” incorrectly. Some people have that tendency. They commit themselves to pray for hours and think if they pray for two hours it’s twice as good as praying for one hour. But if I don’t receive anything, either in the first hour or in the second, is that any good? The purpose of praying is to get a living faith. If I don’t get that, I don’t get anything. Then it doesn’t do any good to say that I pray a lot.
The point is to receive something so that what I pray for comes to pass. I think this must be the most common manifestation of double-mindedness there is. This is certainly what everyone does to begin with. And a person can continue doing it his whole life long. It does have some small benefit, in that the person remains near God instead of falling way. But it is in vain, really.
Either we believe – or we don’t
There is no such thing as “trying to believe.” That’s just plain nonsense. Either we believe or we don’t believe, and that applies to everything we pray for. If we don’t believe, it doesn’t help to pray. And then to carry on praying like that for hours is futile, unless your only thought is to be able, in the end, to lay hold of faith. That’s the right thing. Then it doesn’t matter whether you pray for a long time or not, as long as you get hold of faith.
Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world …” John 3:19. People lack light concerning this. I think the best way to express it is that people would really like to get what they pray for, but they can get along without it. And it’s clear that this is the case because they manage to continue without receiving what they prayed for. On the one hand, they seem so very interested (but probably not so extremely interested), and on the other hand, they aren’t the least bit interested. They are double-minded.
This article was transcribed from one of Elias Aslaksen’s messages, titled “Double-Mindedness,” in Oslo on 29th October, 1975. The article is part of a compilation in the book “Elias Aslaksen’s Last Messages.”
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.