I’m intrigued by various approaches taken to seek the promises, the blessings and the help of The Almighty. Some use ritual prayer, repeating over and over again a string of words approved by their hierarchy, as if the phrases themselves have some magical influence on our Creator-Provider-Healer. Others cry out with heart-felt expressions laced with abundant scripture for whatever duration they feel is necessary to get their Lord’s attention. Then there’s the “prayer” of one who can’t seem to separate his or her appeal to the Kingdom from the realm of the superstitious. Some of these forward every chain letter that comes their way promising whatever; while others “claim” their blessings, as if Jehovah God is required to heed their commands. In contrast, those who seem to lack confidence in their personal relationship with the Father and His Son are more likely to make requests for community prayer support. Some even appear embarrassed by their appeal for supernatural intervention, so they incorporate a degree of lightness to the request: “Please pray for X, and toss in some pixie dust for good measure.”
Marvelous Grace overlooks our silliness
So what is the “best method” to submit our requests to the throne of God? Clearly the Bible publishes guidelines for successful prayer. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that our God’s mercy is so vast, His grace so marvelous that He overlooks a lot of the silly performance things His kids think they need to do to approach His throne. All He wants is for them to come to Him in whatever means is natural to them.
Barrier to answered prayer
But when I say silly performance things people do, in no way am I justifying sin; for His righteous and holy nature will never sanction such rebellious behavior with blessings. But besides sinful behavior, there are some attitudinal barriers to answered prayer: things like selfish motivation, an unforgiving and bitter spirit, pride, self-righteousness and something the Apostle James called “double-mindedness.”
The term “double-minded” comes from the Greek word dipsuchos, meaning “a person with two minds or souls.” It’s interesting that this word appears first in the book of James (James 1:8 and; 4:8). For this reason, some scholars conclude that James might have actually coined the word.
Jesus probably had such a person in mind when He spoke of the one who tries to serve two masters. See His teaching in Matthew 6 where Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Double-mindedness raises its ugly head when half of you knows you need God and desires to lean on Him, while the other half worries about what others think about what you stand for and believe in. We’re either going to be focused on God’s expressed desires or we’re going to be focused on what other people think. These are at such opposite extremes that it is impossible to satisfy both. Those who try will become unstable in all their ways, which simply means unsteady and wavering in both character and feelings.
The term unstable is analogous to a drunken man unable to walk a straight line. He sways one way, then another. He has no defined direction and as a result goes nowhere. A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. He’s always in conflict with himself. One torn by such inner conflict can never lean with confidence on God and His gracious promises; which is why many of his prayers will never be answered as he desires. According to James, a doubter is one such double-minded person.
A doubter just doesn’t have the faith spoken of in Hebrews 11:1, 3. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It’s impossible to be both certain and doubting. A person’s words may declare he believes the promises of God, while his thoughts and his actions say otherwise. Most of us carry some degree of doubt into every serious trial we face. It’s human nature that only God can help us overcome. But the “doubter” spoken of by James has a more serious case of lack of trust in our Lord’s promises. All the while he asks for God’s intervention he’s checking around for a second opinion. He’s double-minded.
As a minister of body, soul and spirit healing, nothing grieves me more than a person in need refusing to let loose of double-mindedness. I’ve prayed for numerous people, and seen many healings and miracles. But all too often I’ve left a session with a confidence and trust that God was intervening in their specific circumstance, only to later learn that they subsequently opened the door to another minister or priest to counter my message of hope with one of doubt and expectation of the worst. One of the fruit of double-mindedness is – when you expect the worst you’ll never be disappointed.
Trust in God and God alone
Deep within the soul of every believer is the desire to live fully for God. That desire was planted inside us when we were converted through faith in Christ. At that moment, the Holy Spirit took up residence within our body. And we immediately began to experience the desire to do things God’s way. That desire will always be there within the soul of a Christian, even the one who is double-minded. But the only way to experience the complete joy and peace God intends is to enter into a single-minded approach to our thought life.
Until we settle our relationship with God we’ll continually find ourselves in a state of inner turmoil. A double-minded life will circumvent much of the good which the Holy Spirit wants to work in us and through us. What every believer desperately needs is to fully surrender their heart and mind to the Lord. Only then can God work miracles in his or her life. We either do or we do not fully trust God and God alone. Once we settle this we’ll be confident, at peace, in power and our prayers will have a purpose that lines up with the will of God.