Doubt is a killer of prayers. According to James the person who doubts should not expect his/her prayers to be answered by God. This revelation is troubling to me because I find it difficult, even in the best of times, to remove all doubt from my life. Perhaps you have been able to overcome the doubt in your life, but I am positive that there are many other Christians just like me who struggle with doubt in their lives.
To be honest this is a passage that I struggled with because I know my tendency to doubt. I wondered if I could ever have my prayers answered. While reading through A Chain of Jewels from James and Jude I was encouraged to learn that my understanding of the verse may not be what James intended. Donald Fream, the author wrote:
The doubter is here at variance with himself, unable to decide whether or not, or to what extent, he should put personal confidence in God. This is opposed to the faithful man here, who has confidence in God to the extent he believes God knows and God cares; and with this confidence he is ready to surrender to God’s knowledge and care. The man of faith does not have to know all the answers himself, for he has confidence in God (p. 24).The key to understanding this passage is focusing on the comparison between the faithful man and the doubter. The man of faith does not have all the answers. In fact there are many things he does not understand, but based on what he does know and the experiences that he has had he places his confidence and trust in God. Faith is not about having all the answers, understanding how God will work, or being 100% certain. Faith is about surrendered our lives to God and trusting Him to do what is best.
The doubter then is not one who simply does not understand or is uncertain about how things will work out, but is the person who has not put complete trust in God. They move back and forth between trusting in God and working their own schemes. They are unsettled in what they believe and the commitment they have made.
This understanding has proved to be a great help. I freely admit that there are many things about God and the Bible I simply do not understand. There are things I wonder about, such as how God created the world and how Jesus’ death takes care of all the sins of all the people who believe in Him, but I still trust God. The key is not our knowledge or our understanding, but our commitment to our Creator and Savior. Just because we don’t understand how something will work out doesn’t mean we are doubters if we trust God to do what is best.