Augustine said, “Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee?? and again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? For who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? For he that knoweth Thee not may call on Thee as other than Thou art?”
In other words, unless we know God, we may ask Him to do something contrary to His nature. So before we call on Him we must know Him. Knowing precedes asking. We can’t pray effectively unless we know God adequately, or else we may be asking God to do something contrary to His character. This may well the answer to much unanswered prayer.
Prayer is responding to God’s nature. Prayer isn’t born in the need of man but in the nature of God. That which draws us to Him should not be our need but His character.
In James one, the appeal and encouragement to pray is based on the nature of God. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all me liberally….(1:5) ” The verb “giveth” is a participle, which indicates nature, something that is continually done. It is God’s nature to give. He is a giving God-that’s His character. When we ask God for something, we are not asking Him to do something contrary to His nature. Giving is what God does.
Therefore, as Luke 11 tells us, we don’t have to beg God, using vain babbling, as the heathen do, trying to talk God into giving.
1. He gives to all men Generally. “He giveth to all men.” No one is excluded, no one is favored above others. If you are a believer, you have as much right to pray as Paul or Peter.
2. He gives to all men Generously. “liberally.” This word refers both to the abundance of the gift and the attitude of the giver. God isn’t tight! In Jesus parable on Prayer in Luke 11, He tells that the friend will rise and “give him as many as he needeth.” The is told that Alexander the Great gave a servant a golden cup. The servant said, “It is too much for me to take.” Whereupon, Alexander said, “It is not too much for me to give.”
Thou art coming to a King,
Rich petitions with thee bring,
For He grace and power are such,
That none can ask too much.
3. He gives to all men Graciously. “and upbraideth not.” No rebuke.
When we get ourselves in a mess and ask God for wisdom, He doesn’t say before giving, “How could you be so stupid as to get yourself in such a mess?” Know what I mean? I hate to ask people for something who preaches me a sermon before they give it. I had just as soon not ask them-and I don’t. I think James inserts this phrase lest we might think we come to God too often, that we will wear out His patience with us. If we think that, we do not know God as we should.
The key to effective prayer and acceptable praise is to first know God.