Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:2-8 NIV)
Vss. 1-5 are bright and positive, the kind of thing you might hear from a well-meaning brother trying to encourage you. The last two, however, have always given me fits. Over the years I've seemingly had more doubt than faith--at least its the doubt that looms larger in my memory. Through all the doubting moments, my basic confidence in who God is has remained solid, even though I've chaffed at the painfully slow pace of growth in my own life. That confidence is from God alone, as my own nature is skeptical.
Still, I've never been able to accrue much confidence in my worthiness to expect answers to prayer. I know, the Catechism answer is, "No one is worthy to expect answers to prayer. We're not even worthy, in our flesh, to approach Almighty God at all. But the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all unrighteousness, so from His perspective, we're pure as the driven snow." What a wonderful, powerful truth! I KNOW it is true, yet, applying it to myself to the point of having confidence in God's willingness to answer my prayers seems beyond me.
Of course, God's commands to pray--without ceasing, in Spirit and in Truth--are distinct from His promises to grant what we ask. Our duty is to pray in obedience to His word, not to try holding Him to His conditional promises. The TBN crowd insists we have the authority to demand God live up to His promises, but demanding anything of God is presumptuous at best.
I'm afraid faith isn't one of my strengths, and I still struggle with the double-minded man part of the above passage. The enemy constantly flogs me with passages such as this, but there is now, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who are the called according to His purpose. When I feel that condemnation I rejoice, because it's wasted on me!
Praise God! Thanks to His assurance, I know who He is, and I know who I am in Him. That's all I need.