Conflict and Prayer

The fourth chapter of James begins with the word “conflict.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker, there are currently 27 ongoing conflicts worldwide. One-fourth of the world’s population (3.2 billion) live in conflict areas.

Conflict can range from shooting wars to petty disputes among family and friends. James identifies the source of conflict and provides a solution to the problem.

The Source of Conflict

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

You want something and do not have it, so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it, so you engage in disputes and conflicts (James 4.1-2a).

The internal struggle that pits what we want against resistance to getting it is at the root of the conflict.

The most prominent of the 27 worldwide conflicts is the war between Russia and Ukraine. Russian leadership craves the domination of Ukraine to such a great extent that they are willing the deaths of over 100,000 soldiers.

The latest argument you had with a family member or coworker didn’t end in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars expended to destroy another country. But it did have the same source, resistance to the fulfillment of internal cravings.

The next time you get angry or engage in conflict with another try this experiment. Ask yourself which one of your internal desires or wants is being denied.

The Solution

The solution to conflict is asking. Ask rather than fight.

James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4.2b).

How does asking make a difference when it comes to conflict?

What if Russia had come to Ukraine and asked, “What can we do to mutually benefit our countries? How can we spend the billions of dollars that a war will cost us in a way that best serves us?”

What if before you get into an argument, you asked questions that led to mutual agreement from your friend or family member?

Let’s remember how James describes wisdom.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 3.17).

If our asking is colored by the character traits that are described in this verse, we will be well on the way to productive relations with others.

Asking and Prayer

Most people interpret the phrase, “You do not have because you do not ask” (verse 2b), to refer to prayer.

No doubt, that is an accurate interpretation.

Like any loving father, God wants his children to ask him about their wants and needs.

As we pray, we need to remember this principle.

You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4.3).

The most effective prayer is to ask for God’s purposes to be realized on earth.

One of Jesus’ prayer promises is, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15.7).

As we live in an abiding relationship with Jesus, we will know his plans and purposes. As we ask for his will to be done, we can count on a positive response from the Father.

Praying for the World

Two articles on BBC news caught my attention yesterday.

One told the story of a mother who drove an old car into Russian-occupied territory to retrieve her son’s body which had been in the open for more than a week.

She wrapped him in a blanket and drove 12 hours with her son in the trunk, so she could give him a proper burial.

Imagine the potential of 200,000 stories like this as Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and innocents die in the war.

As we abide in a relationship with Jesus, let’s find ways to pray about this war and the other 27 major conflicts in the world.

The second news story involved Venezuela. Good news, inflation in Venezuela is now only 250%.

If you think inflation is bad in the United States, compare a drop in inflation from 650% to 250%.

Also, consider that the poor in Venezuela live on 8 dollars a month. The wealthy in Venezuela live on $550 a month.

Someone may ask, “Isn’t the cost of living less in Venezuela than other developed nations?”

No. Expenses are high and inflation steals the monetary power of their citizens.

As we pray, let’s keep current news stories in mind. Let’s live in an abiding relationship with Jesus and ask for God’s purposes to be realized.

YouTube Videos

Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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