PRAY BEFORE YOU ACT (James 4:15)IN CONTEXT: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
There is a tendency among Christians, even praying ones, to appropriate our own actions and thoughts to the Will, plans and purposes of God. A lot of times, when we do that, we can find ourselves in a place we never expected to be. I have made that same mistake and gotten out ahead of God, only to see Him having to send an angel of mercy, to take me to a better place when my own plans failed.
This exhortation to pray first and act later is so critically important, if we want to really follow, submit and live in the Will of God. It is easy to understand why James is giving this real life application. I have seen too many people make and execute many life-altering decisions only to see them come crashing down on them. Some have moved out of state, only to struggle and even move back home. Some have changed perfectly fine jobs, to buy into something nice and shiny, only to ask their bosses later on, if they can return. Some so-called Christians have even walked out on their spouses and families, justify it as "God wants me to be happy". Later on, they find themselves in a painful world of hurt, wishing they could have things "the way they used to be".
Let us be perfectly clear - God is NOT the Author of Chaos and God would NEVER lead someone to sin and break vows made before Him. However, He will allow us to have our own way and do what James is talking about in Verse 13 above ("today we will....."). God will do that until we learn the lesson we are supposed to learn.
Next the Lord (through James in verse 14) is gently warning us that we are not the ultimate master of our destiny. As in everything, nothing is guaranteed us past this moment of life we are in right now. The next breath is not, the next day is not...and most definitely the next year(s) is not. So this MUST spur us to continuous prayer.
There is a reason the Apostle Paul exhorts us to "pray without ceasing" in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. He was not speaking of four hours of prayer before you go out the door each morning but a lifestyle of prayer and intimate conversation with the One Who created us. This is actually the best way to know the Will of God for our lives - through a closer walk with Him. Once we have that have this close relationship with the Father, through prayer, only then we can experience His leading in our lives when we need to make a really important decision in life.
This is the gist of James 4:15 "Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” When James says that we "ought to say", he is really saying that it behooves us to pray! The original word for "ought" is literally "anti-" ...where we got our prefixes for words like "anti-dote" "anti-type" etc. The Bible really giving us great advice here for our own benefit. God is saying "why don't you substitute your own thoughts and actions and consult Me first....ask Me -what is My Will for your life in this decision. I know the beginning from the end. Do you think I would withhold good things from you? You think this is the right course due to your own limited reasoning and planning. But I have a better course for you. I have a plan that will bless you, and bless others. All you have to do is to ask Me in prayer and then wait on Me! Can you do that? Great! It is better if you do!!"
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