“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
The word “ask” conveys the idea of imploring. There is an element of deference in proper prayer. Jesus never used this term for “ask” because He asks on equal status with the Father. However, we come to the Father as finite beings asking something from the infinite One.
and do not receive,
God does not answer every prayer because there are conditions to answered prayer. We found some of these conditions in 1:5-7,
Jas 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
because you ask amiss,
The word “amiss” means improperly, badly, incorrectly. The improper request in this case is praying with motivation of personal pleasure.
that you may spend it
The word “spend” connotes to consume, squander, waste. Some people excessively spend money on pleasure. This is what the prodigal son did with his inheritance (Lu 15:13). Paul, on the other hand, did another kind of spending,
2 Co 12:15 “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
on your pleasures.
“Pleasures” is the same term as in verse one. It is from the root for hedonism, the philosophy of pleasure. If it feels good, do it.
God answers prayer when we pray legitimately.
There is a legitimate ask and a non-legitimate ask. God established prayer on certain conditions but we can misuse it. God does not hear the prayer that seeks personal pleasure. The thesis of prayer is to give deference to God’s will who sovereignly provides for us for He does not always give us what we want but He always gives us what we need.
Some of us pray and God does not answer our prayers. We say, “Why does God not answer my prayers? Does He hear me? It appears that the heavens are silent.” The problem lies within us.
1 Jn 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
If our motivation in prayer is to gain place, pleasure, power and prestige, then we ask amiss, improperly. This kind of prayer disgraces God. God honors prayer motivated by His purposes.
Mt 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”