"But when you ask [God], be sure that you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord."
- James 1:6-7 NLT
In these verses, James reveals an essential ingredient for answered prayer. Though he is referring to a request for divine wisdom here, the basic principle he reveals in this passage can be applied to almost any petition we make to the Lord. The key word here is "expect." James says that if we pray, but don't really expect God to answer us, we shouldn't be surprised if He doesn't. The dictionary defines "expect" as: "To look forward to, anticipate, watch or look for, wait for, count upon, hope for; believe, trust." These are many of the terms that the authors of the Bible use, especially in the psalms. I thought it was interesting that the dictionary listed "to despair of" as the opposite of "expect." I've often felt that the antidote for fear and despair was expecting God to act on our behalf, and here I saw it confirmed in a dictionary.
Many psalms begin with the psalmist crying out to God in desperation and despair. But often, by the end of the psalm, the author is praising and thanking the Lord in advance for all that He will do for him. What happened in those interim verses? The psalmist chose to expect God to act on his behalf. By an act of his will, he made a decision to take his stand in bold expectation. A good example of this is in Psalm 42. Verses 9-10 (TLB) say: "'O God my Rock,' I cry, 'why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer these attacks from my enemies?' Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, 'Where is that God of yours?'" But the next, and final, verse says: "But O my soul, don't be discouraged. Don't be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise Him for all that He will do. He is my help! He is my God!"
Jesus said, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:24 NIV) The Master is telling us here that if we want God to answer our prayers, we must expect an answer from Him. We know that God called David a man after His own heart. David's verses throughout the Bible are filled with expectation. He writes, "In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:3 NIV) And in Psalm 27:14 (AMP), David urges us: "Wait and hope for and expect the Lord." Expecting God to act on our behalf shows the Lord that we truly believe in Him and His Word. Psalm 130:5 (TLB) says, "I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for He has promised."
I can't guarantee that if you expect an answer each time you pray, you'll always get what you asked for. But I can tell you this--if you pray with a lively expectation, your percentage of answered prayer will increase dramatically. I have seen it in my own life, as well as in the lives of others. And having an attitude of expectancy will produce a peace and joy in our hearts that we would not have otherwise. If you're waiting on God right now for something, wait expectantly, for "The Lord is good to those who hopefully and expectantly wait for Him." (Lamentations 3:25 AMP) May this declaration of faith by the psalmist be yours and mine today: "I will keep expecting You to help me. I praise You more and more"! (Psalm 71:14 TLB)
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to pray with an attitude of expectancy. Guard me from the fear and doubt that would hinder me from receiving an answer. In times of waiting, give me a lively expectation that will sustain me with Your peace and joy. Thank You that my bountiful harvest of answered prayer will bless many, and glorify You!
- J. M. Farro