DNA: Cultivated To Live A Life Of Prayer

James 4:1-10

February 25, 2024

How comfortable are you with prayer?

Watch this clip from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (stop at 1:23):

When it is time to pray at dinner or the end of a small-group meeting, someone is usually designated to do it, and everyone else is secretly relieved when they don’t have to say the blessing. 

We’re probably afraid of messing up like Aunt Bethany!

As a matter of fact, the area of discipleship most Christians struggle with most is prayer. 

According to one recently published estimate, a typical Christian spends about three and a half minutes each day in prayer. Full-time Christian workers average about seven minutes per day. 

When I first read that I was amazed but when I thought about it a little bit I believed it, I accepted it, and I even understood it a little bit because we are such an independent culture in our relationships even in our relationship with God.   

And so we find it difficult to pray.  

We live in a culture in which some of our most intimate conversations take place in a public forum i.e. facebook, twitter.  

So it makes sense that as we as a people lose the art of communicating with each other why wouldn’t we lose the desire and art of communicating with God.  

What things make it difficult for you to spend quality time in prayer?

  • Too busy or tired
  • Can’t concentrate
  • Don’t know what to pray about
  • Don’t feel like it
  • Feel guilty
  • Not convinced it makes a difference

Perhaps the basic cause of our weakness in prayer relates to how we view God. 

We may have no genuine awe for the One “who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:13). 

God seems more like a superhero from Marvel Comics, whittled down to human size. 

If we aren’t captivated by God, prayer is simply an arduous task.  

So, what is this strange and mysterious activity that churched people seem to talk about all the time, that the Bible talks about over 750 times…What is prayer?

I want to share with you some thoughts from others about what prayer is. 

  • Jim Cymbala says, “Prayer is the opening of the heart so we can receive all these good things that God has for us every day. It’s like sitting down at a table that God has prepared for us. He says, ‘I have everything you need today – all the grace, all the wisdom, all the provision that you need – but sit down at the table and eat. Don’t be so rushed and so busy and try to live without My supply.’”
  • Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life.  Of all the spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.  Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.”  
  • John Piper, “Prayer is intentionally conveying a message to God.”  
  • John McArthur, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence.”  
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

So, hopefully as we spend time together today talking about our core value:


We won’t fall into the 3-7 minute trap that many Christians have fallen into and we will understand our need to live inter-dependently on God.  

Cultivating a life of prayer means that our prayers impact our lives and to do that we must develop an attitude of prayer or what I call “prayerittude” 

This morning I want us to look at how we CULTIVATE A LIFE OF PRAYER or “prayerittude” in our lives based on what James teaches us.  

James 4:1-10

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

The first thing we must do in developing a prayerittude is:


We must humble ourselves in our praying so that we stay in step with God you see when our praying is wrong, our whole Christian life is wrong. 

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.  

And God’s will for man is not fights, quarrels, killing, or coveting.   

God’s will for man is to work together in harmony and unity to advance His Kingdom.  

James is writing this letter to the Jewish Christians who are scattered all over the known world. 

Now remember that these people have probably been Jesus followers for about 14 years or so.

Most of them were probably in Jerusalem at Pentecost when Peter and the other disciples spoke to them in their own language (Acts 2) and 3,000 of them repented and were baptized in to Christ on that day. 

Now they are back in their home countries with the purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the people in their homeland.  

But their actions as a church in their community do not reflect the will of God done through mankind.  

Instead they are fighting and bickering and those outside the church notice this and they are repelled by this type of behavior, it probably mirrors very much of the governmental system of the day.  

And James reminds them that if they are prideful they are not modeling Christ in anything especially in their praying…and so James starts talking about being humble. 

Humility seems to be the overarching attribute in Cultivating A Life Of Prayer. 

James, in rapid fire fashion, points this out over and over again in this passage.  

 Notice that James says in:

  • vs. 2, “you do not have because you don not ask God.”  
  • and in vs. 3 when you do ask you ask with wrong motives 
  • in vs. 4 he calls them an adulterous people 
  • in vs. 6 he quotes Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  
  • In vs. 10 he says, Humble yourselves before the Lord.  

Our primary attitude in our prayer life needs to be humility.  

The funny thing about humility is that when you think you have it, it has just slipped through your fingers.  

But in order to have an effective prayer life with God we must be humble.

This word humble that James uses is the Greek word ταπεινός [tapeinos /tap•i•nos/] it is an adjective meaning it describes the person the word means lowly, not rising far from the ground…it means to look at yourself accurately, objectively, not to think of yourself more than you think of others.  

So, the attitude or prayerittude that we must develop is one of humility, but how do we do this?  

Well, James is a how to book and in vs. 7-10 he explains how we are to do this by laying out the actions and in our language we call them verbs and the verbs he uses are:  

Submit, Resist, Come, Wash, Purify, Grieve, Mourn, Wail, Humble.  

Now I am not going to go through all those.  But I do want to point out a couple of things as we discuss how we develop humility in our lives and humble ourselves before God as we Cultivate A Life Of Prayer or prayerittude.  



Submit is the Greek word ὑποτάσσω [hupotasso /hoop•ot•as•so/] and it means to put under or to subject to.  

It is a military term meaning to put oneself in the proper rank.  

If you have ever served in the military or ever watched a military show you have undoubtedly noticed the rank that different soldiers wear.  


If the private tries to act like the General there is going to be problems.  

In your own workplace, if the employees try to act like the employers there is going to be trouble and I don’t care where you work that don’t work.  

If the child tries to act like the parent, in my house there is trouble in deed.  

And when the parent acts like the child and there is more and more of that as parents try to be their children’s best friends instead of their parents and that leads to big trouble too.

To submit unto God is to completely surrender unto him.

Unconditional surrender is the only way to complete victory. 

If there is any area of the life kept back from God, there will always be battles. 

Many people are willing to do anything except what God asks, because His way requires humility. 

It requires an acknowledgement that we are dependent on God, that we are indebted to Him, obligated to Him; that we can never repay Him for His blessings to us. 

It’s like people who refuse to let you give them anything without giving you something equivalent back. 

Everything has to be a “quid pro quo,” so they never feel obligated to anyone. 

So we bargain with God, make sacrifices, give money, etc. etc. 

But we refuse to do the one small thing that God requires. 

In reality, that one small thing is the biggest, most difficult thing that God could possibly ask of us. 

Because it requires us to humble ourselves and come to God, hat in hand, asking His mercy and grace.

When we submit to God we resist the devil… Warren Wiersbe says, “Satan needs a foothold in our lives if he is going to fight against God; and we give him that foothold. The way to resist the devil is to submit to God.”



How do we do this? 

By confessing our sins and asking for His cleansing. 

“Wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.” The Greek word translated purify means “make yourself morally pure.” 

This parallels the idea of “spiritual adultery” in James 4:4. 

A.W. Tozer has a profound essay in one of his books, entitled, “Nearness Is Likeness.” The more we are like God, the nearer we are to God. 

I liken this to a married couple, you know most married couples are together so much that they start to imitate one another, picking up each others habits, but couples that have been together a long time they actually start to look alike, I feel sorry for my wife.  

As God graciously draws near to us when we deal with the sin in our lives that keeps Him at a distance, we start to look more and more like Him.  

And here is the twist, people are going to be repelled that don’t won’t to change and repent.  

Those who realize that they are desperate for God will want to draw near to you and as they do through prayer you can help them draw near to God.  

Psalm 145:18, The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

I have a story I want to share with you that illustrates this point I believe perfectly.  

Jim Cymbala, Deepening Your Ministry Through Prayer and Personal Growth, 

One Sunday in our church services, a choir member—a former drug addict who was HIV positive—told how she came to Christ. She described in raw detail the horrors of her former life. A street person named David stood in the back, listening closely.

The meeting ended, and I was exhausted. After giving and giving, I had just started to unwind when I saw David coming my way.

I’m so tired, I thought. Now this guy’s going to hit me up for money.

When David got close, the smell took my breath away—a mixture of urine, sweat, garbage, and alcohol. After a few words, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a couple of dollars for him. I’m sure my posture communicated, Here’s some money. Now get out of here.

David looked at me intently, put his finger in my face, and said, “Look, I don’t want your money. I’m going to die out there. I want the Jesus this girl talked about.”

I paused, then looked up, closed my eyes, and said, “God, forgive me.” For a few moments, I stood with my eyes closed, feeling soiled and cheap. Then a change came over me. I began to feel his hurt, to see him as someone Christ had brought into the church for that moment.

I spread out my arms, and we embraced. Holding his head to my chest, I talked to him about his life and about Christ. But they weren’t just words. I felt them. I loved him. That smell—I don’t know how to explain it—it had almost made me sick before, but it became beautiful to me. I reveled in what had been repulsive.

I felt for him what Paul felt for the Thessalonians: “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.  We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”  God put that kind of love in me.

God can put that kind of love in you as well as you submit and draw near to him.

One more thing James tells us as we CULTIVATE A LIFE OF PRAYER a prayerittude:


Did you know that it is possible to submit outwardly and never humble yourself inwardly.  

God absolutely hates the sin of pride 

Proverbs 6:16-17, There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

As James is writing to these Christian Jews around the world he is reminding them that they must be humble first before the Lord.  

These Jesus followers are not so by action and traditional rituals, but by word and deed.  

Becoming a Christian is more than undergoing a ritual. 

It’s more than identifying with a denomination. 

It’s more than membership in a church. 

It’s more than being a “good person.”

Being a Christian is nothing less than humbling ourselves before God, putting God at the very center of our lives, putting ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, asking about every decision “What should I do to glorify God in this circumstance?” and making those decisions as if they mattered, because they do.

This is not subjecting ourselves to a life of misery, boredom, and deprivation. 

It is rather opening ourselves up to a life of joy and peace and happiness. 

“Blest are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They shall have their fill.” 

Jesus told us that he came that we might have life, and have it abundantly and we have it abundantly through his humble work on the Cross…Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for him.  

When we truly understand the depth of God’s love for us, we will be humbled.  

And our soul will hunger and thirst to be in prayer with Him.  

To understand that the creator of this universe set out to create me because He longed for my fellowship is mind boggling. 

I was formed at His direction, and this undeserving creation, was given the Gift of God’s son. 

The son of God, the King of Kings came to this earth because of my sin and laid down His life in my stead! 

Wow, now that’s humbling!!! I know no other love like that!

When we understand this and embrace this our only appropriate response is to submit and draw near to him in humility.  

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