Literally, “receive” means to take or acquire, get, have bestowed on oneself, take in, hold, contain, greet, or regard with approval. Tangible as well intangible things can be received.
In context with Jas 1:7, the question really has to do with receiving something from God. As there is nothing we can earn from God, per se, anything we receive from Him is a gift. This includes anything from wisdom (v5) to salvation. In keeping with the context of our focal passage, receiving anything generally depends on first asking then having faith.
The word “receive” itself is very important. Any gift isn’t a gift until given. The giving isn’t complete until the gift is received. Until the gift is used, it isn’t fully received. It takes faith to use what God gives. God offers wisdom, even to the point of writing a book and putting in our hands, but until we open that book and read it we have not received it. How much faith does it take to simply open a book and read it? The same could be said of hearing the Word through preaching, observation of creation, or anything else.
What God says must be more than heard (or read), it must be obeyed. Obedience is the culmination of receiving a gift from God. This helps explain why obedience is so closely associated with faith. When the snake bitten people looked at the bronze snake (Nu 21:9), they were obedient, thus demonstrating faith, thus the gift of salvation from the poison was received.
James said faith without works is dead (Jas 2:7). Some would say his teaching is contrary to Paul’s, but they are wrong. In Eph 2:8-9 Paul preached the very important message that we must have the right attitude and think rightly, believing. The natural result of believing is obedience (works). James understood this principle. A lot of people ignore Paul’s expression of the same concept in Ro 2:13. Understanding the concept of receiving gifts from God, a topic generated by Jas 1:7, proves the link between obedience and faith. Eph 2:10 shows Paul also understood this principle. Faith is required and the purpose of believing is to become a doer of the Word. Just as faith without works is dead, Paul conversely preached that works without faith is dead. The two principles are two sides of the same coin, thus I contend that James and Paul really preached messages which are in total agreement, completely without contradiction.
This post is an excerpt (Question 7.2) from my book Ask James one.