6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
When one asks the Lord for something, they must do so in faith. This feels like a simple task but it is far from intuitive. If faith was so easy to come by, Jesus would certainly have issued a higher standard than the faith of a mustard seed in order to move mountains.
Within the context of James 1, the prayer pertains to the granting of wisdom but this applies to anything that we ask of the Lord. The idea and the problem is that faith is not meant to be a one time occurrence. It is supposed to be an ongoing belief. This is true of our salvation – it’s not just about saying a prayer and becoming “saved” – and it is true with our daily prayers.
Most Christians will agree with the idea that God is capable of doing as He pleases. They agree that God is capable of answering prayers. Our knowledge of God is not the problem. The problem is that our emotions and “life” get in the way of our knowledge. We believe that God is capable of taking care of us and then we fret about our finances. We say a prayer for the health of someone who is ill and then go back to worrying about their health the following day.
It is not enough to simple state one’s belief or to truly believe it in the moment. Instead, when we pray we must be willing to lay our problems at the feet of our Lord and not take them up again. We must trust that as we’ve asked the Lord to handle the issue that He will respond according to His will and then we move on with our life and await His response.
This isn’t easy to do which is why James issues the warning concerning doubt. There will be times that what we will is not in the will of our Father. In such times, just because our prayers are not answered the way we wanted them to be, it does not mean that our faith wavered. As an obvious example, everyone eventually dies. It doesn’t matter how righteous they are, how much they pray, or how great the faith is of the people praying for them. Doubt can be the cause of our prayers not being answered but it is not the only reason that our prayers are not answered as we wish.