Take a moment, and rest your eyes and your soul on the letter James writes to the church, and especially the phrase “ask in faith.” To be honest, at first blush, my eyes skipped over these words and ran to the next words, and verse. You see, there is some danger in speed reading. It is a superficial form of reading. Often times, the words don’t stick. They just race by. When we let a verse like this slip, it is easily forgotten. However, when we “inwardly digest” the verse, our memories hold tight and actually savors the Word—and we remember.
Here, James calls upon us to ask in faith. “Asking” refers to prayer. Praying in faith is what prayer is all about. Think of it this way: prayer without faith is nothing more than a wish. Faithless prayer is like a superstition. It is no different than crossing your fingers and closing your eyes and hoping for good luck. Consider faithless prayer as dead prayer. It doesn’t work.
You catch my drift. Prayer without faith is one-way. When we pray in faith it is living prayer. We enter into a relationship, a two-way dialogue, or conversation, between our needs and God’s response and action. It is the real thing. It works. Prayer becomes specific and intentional but it is not all about what God can do for us. It is what we can do with God—working together. Prayer then is not a last resort but a first resource for our life with God.
And with respect to faith—though it probably goes without saying—faith, like our prayer, is in Jesus, who acts as an intercessor for us. Faith is not only interactive and personal but we gain spiritual knowledge and wisdom that is stronger than doubt. Our spiritual vocabulary expands as we discover and grow in prayer with words like knowledge and truth.
When we ask in faith, the knowledge of God is revealed and the truth quickly emerges. Without faith, James is concerned doubt enters and with how quickly truth can be compromised and our knowledge of God is limited. According to James, when we separate faith from prayer, we are left like a wave driven and tossed by the wind in a turbulent, swirling body of water. In other words, we are out of control. We are unable to navigate. And anything can happen.
Doubt also leaves us double-minded or struggling with values and literally ambivalent (Latin, ambi-valore, two values). We become split or two-faced like the Roman god Janus, and duplicitous in our decisions. We are uncertain, unreliable, and unstable. Doubt leaves us lost and without direction, purpose or meaning. Yes, doubt is strong. But faith is stronger. Faith allows me to trust. Doubt does not. Faith empties the tomb with light. Doubt shuts the tomb in darkness.
Stick with a reliable faith which opens us to real prayer and the reality of God. And read again the words of James, “ask in faith.” Then, go ahead, ask … in faith.