Our church in Pinson, Alabama is currently going through the book of James during our Sunday morning gatherings, and it has been very fruitful, at least for me, to go deep into this book. This week we tackled James 4:2, and James’ startling proclamation that, “you have not, because you ask not.” In pondering that very challenging claim, I came across Charles Spurgeon’s take on this phrase, which is presented below in slightly modernized language:
THE Holy Spirit by the mouth of His servant James, has said, “You have not, because you ask not.” I would not willingly be severely critical, but alarming evils demand open rebuke. Do you not think that this text applies to the case of many of our churches? They have no prosperity, their numbers do not increase, and the congregations are small; and, as the main cause of it all, they have scarcely a prayer-meeting. I hear perpetually of prayer-meetings abandoned, or, what is much the same thing, blended with the weekly lecture. From various sources I gather that, in many instances, the meeting for prayer is so small that it is difficult to fill out the hour with prayer; and as the same few persons come from time to time, variety is out of the question; indeed, in some places, the prayer-meeting only exists to reveal the nakedness of the land. Now, if there be no conversions, and no additions to such churches, what is the reason? Is it not found here, “Ye have not, because ye ask not”?
A lack of interest exists in many places, so that the assembly for prayer is despised, and put down as a second-rate affair: “It’s only a prayer-meeting.” Is this a right view of the throne of grace? Will this bring blessing? In certain churches, there is no unity, and consequently no agreement in prayer: “their heart is divided; now they will lack many necessities;” and lacking they are in their assemblies for prayer. In such a case, a feeble prayer-meeting is an effect as well as a cause of disunity; and until this is altered, we may expect to see more and more of “the divisions of Reuben.” Prayer is a grand cement; and lack of prayer is like withdrawing the force of gravitation from a mass of matter, and scattering it into so many separate atoms. Some churches are feeble all round; the members are a race of invalids, a body of infirm retirees who can hardly hobble about in the ways of godliness. They have no life, no energy, or enterprise for Christ; and do you wonder at it when their meetings for prayer are so scantily attended?
Note here that Spurgeon is not calling out old people in the church, but rather saying that a church that is not praying is a church that will (figuratively) be filled with people who are feeble and remarkably weak in the things of the Kingdom of God. May we not be such a people. May we be a vigorous, prayerful people – powerful in Spirit and mighty in Kingdom deeds – even if our bodies aren’t as young and fit as they used to be!
From: Charles Spurgeon, Only a Prayer Meeting: Forty Addresses at Metropolitan Tabernacle and Other Prayer-Meetings