"You Have Not Because You Ask Not" Meaning


One thing that faces us as humans is that we always have needs and wants. We spend our days going after things that we desire. When we need favors from people, we ask. However, we do not always get all the things we want. This has discouraged many people from asking for help or support when in need. Such people try to shoulder things alone because they dread asking others for assistance.

Sometimes, this is extended to God. People often think that since God knows everything, He knows what they want and need and should be able to make provisions for them automatically. They believe that if He doesn’t supply their needs, it simply means that He doesn’t want to provide those things for them. Therefore, they restrain from bringing their requests to God.

However, this is not the case. God encourages us to ask Him for whatever we need. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells us to ask. When also interacting with Bartimaeus, seeing clearly that he was blind, He asked him one question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). God wants to know if we trust Him enough to ask Him for whatever we need. In this article, we will look at James 4:2 in depth to understand the writer’s message about why we must ask.

Biblical Context of James 4:2

“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)

Here, James was addressing a problem among certain believers who desired certain things but were trying to obtain those things in the wrong way. They had wants and desires, but they were not getting those things. They were killing, fighting, and making war among themselves to get the things they wanted. 

However, James pointed out why they were doing all these things and still not seeing the results they wanted. They simply did not ask.

Rather than ask, we usually try to get things we desire with our knowledge and skills. We often go about this the wrong way, which plunges us deeper into the abyss of frustration and depression. James is saying in this passage that most of the things we fight to get and do nasty things to achieve could be solved by simply asking the right person: God. What we fail to ask God in prayer and seek to use our limited knowledge to obtain can bring about soul-wrenching situations that could have been easily avoided by simply taking it to God. James wrote that the believers he was addressing desired to have but could not obtain. How they were going about it could not lead to fruitful results. 

What Does “You Have Not Because You Ask Not” Mean?

This statement is powerful, and we can draw a simple conclusion: whatever we desire cannot be met when we leave out the critical factor, which involves asking. In this passage, James is simply letting us know that we can lack the things we need because we do not ask God for them. 

In Psalms 23:1, God is described as our Shepherd. A shepherd must provide for the sheep and protect them. In John 10:11 and 14, Jesus announces Himself as the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is available and cable of providing our needs, but we are responsible for asking Him. 

Psalms 84:11 assures us that God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk upright. As a child of God, you are guaranteed access to ask and receive good things from Him. You have not because you ask not” simply reveals the power of putting our thoughts and desires into words and channeling them toward the one who can bring them into reality. God knows our thoughts, but He also understands that faith requires action. And asking is an act of faith.

Will God Give Us Anything We Ask For?

God can give us whatever we ask of Him, but sometimes, we could ask for things and still not receive them. What is the reason for this? Does it mean that God lied, or is He partial? Absolutely not! God is not a man who lies, and He stated clearly in His word that when we ask anything in the name of Jesus, He will do it for us (John 14:13). So why does it seem like this is not always the case?

The state and intention of the heart play a significant role in this. Let’s take a look at the next verse. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

James states that certain people who ask do not receive because of one crucial reason: they ask amiss. Their intention is to use those things asked for to satisfy their lusts. God answers your requests when He sees that it comes from a place of compassion, love, and dependence on His will. Asking from a heart full of love, mercy, compassion, goodness, and righteousness is tantamount to receiving those requests quickly. However, asking from a heart filled with pride, greed, revenge, and all other unrighteousness will not be granted by God. 

Our hearts are open and naked before God, and we cannot deceive Him even when we successfully deceive ourselves. The intentions of our hearts are bare before Him, and He knows where each request comes from and what is backing up the desire behind them. You have not because you ask not. However, if you ask amiss (asking with wrong motives), you will also not receive.

God Graces Us In Different Ways

Another thing we must look at is that God may not grant our requests based on how we think He should. He cannot be placed in a box. The Bible says that His ways are not ours, and His thoughts are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). God could grant requests, not necessarily as directly as they are asked. The requests could be granted in other ways and come as life lessons, connecting you to new people or bringing a solution in a completely different way than expected. 

In 2 Chronicles 20, when three nations came against King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah to war, the king and all the people asked God for help. Based on history, one would think God would respond the way He did for Gideon and his army, using a few men to win the war against great nations because the concern was that Judah was too small to fight against three mighty nations. However, God responded differently by putting confusion in the camp of the armies of the three nations, and they fought one another till they were all destroyed. There is no one cut-out way God answers; we should know this when we ask and wait to receive from Him.

How Can We Ask God For His Support?

Devote Yourself to His Cause

Sometimes, we focus all our energy on our desires and how God can fulfill them. We often ignore what God desires and how we can achieve them. In as much as God is self-sufficient, He has certain expectations of you. He needs your time, energy, and heart.

God wants you to devote your time and energy to doing His work here on earth. He is omnipotent but works through men, especially those who surrender themselves for His purpose. It is also important to remember that obedience is better than sacrifice. We live in a busy world full of activities and hustle and distractions. Our careers, families, and other commitments need our time, presence, and attention. We might be caught up in this web if we do not deliberately dedicate a portion of time and channel our strength toward what really matters: service to God.

The simple truth is that God pays attention to those who pay attention to Him. He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). How do you devote yourself to Him? You must be cleansed of your sins and be holy. Then make conscious efforts toward maintaining your holiness by avoiding people, places, and things that can tempt you and make you fall into sin.

Do Good to Others

It is difficult for someone in need to pay attention to the needs of others. However, the reality is no matter how bad your situation is, others have it worse. This means that no matter what you’re going through, you are in a position to reach out to others. 

Giving is one of the ways you can attract God’s blessings into your life. The principle of giving is simple: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38)

The reward for giving is receiving. However, do not do good to others because of the reward you want to get from it. Instead, do good out of compassion for the needy and as a way to fulfill God’s command.

Spend Time In Prayer

Philippians 4:6 tells us to make our requests known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. The shepherd has a relationship with his sheep. They understand the voice of their owner, and their owner knows them (John 10:27-28). This shows why it’s essential to develop a relationship with God. This can be achieved by connecting with God through constant prayer. Spend time praying from your heart, with your own words, as sincerely as you can, and ask Him for the things you desire. Most importantly, ask according to His will and not from a place of selfishness. God will not turn away prayers from a humble and sincere heart.

Final Thoughts

“You have not, because you ask not” emphasizes that we cannot obtain the things we desire by not asking or asking with the wrong intentions will help us align our hearts to God’s will better. We will always have one need or want as we journey through life, and we need to know that God wants to grant our wishes, but we have to get it right. We are to ask with a heart of love and compassion, a heart that strives to always do the will of God, and we will receive answers to our requests in diverse ways.