Faith. It’s something I must admit I struggle with, particularly in prayer. When I pray, do I pray in faith? And what does it mean?
When the tree Jesus cursed withered, the disciples were amazed and asked how it could wither so quickly. Jesus answered,
Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22)
Have faith in God. What does that mean? What are we believing about God?
We’re believing first that he is a good God. That he is a loving Father that only gives good gifts. That if we ask him for bread, he will not give us a stone. Or if we ask for a fish, he will not give us a serpent.
We’re believing that he hears us. That even the tiniest prayer we breathe, he hears. No matter how big, or how insignificant our problem may be, he sees and hears our cries.
We’re believing that he has the power to do what we ask. That no thing we ask is too big for him.
We’re believing that he wants to bless us. That he won’t withhold what is good from us for no good reason.
We believe that he has an overriding plan for our lives. And that plan is good.
With all this in mind, Jesus then says,
I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:23-24)
Some people take this verse to mean that whatever we ask God for, he must give it to us.
But sometimes we ask for something thinking it’s bread, thinking it’s fish, when in reality it is a stone or a serpent. We pray, for example, to marry that girl or guy at school and ten years later, we are thanking God he didn’t give them to us.
Or sometimes we pray for something good, but God has something even better planned for us. For example, we pray for a certain job, only to have God give us an even better one.
So to just pray believing God will give us whatever we want does not guarantee we will get what we ask for.
My problem, however, is not in these areas. My prayer is in the other areas. Do I believe that God really wants to bless me?
I think about my current job that I just got back in April. It is in almost every way much better than my previous jobs over the past 8 years. Yet because of all the difficulties I faced in getting the job, I was wracked with doubt as to whether God would give it to me. I suppose it didn’t help that I had applied for that very job a few years back and didn’t get it. So many times I had prayed for things, and was disappointed. I suppose it’s a testimony to the grace of God that I got the job anyway.
Another friend I know is facing terminal cancer. It looked hopeless. The doctors said it was hopeless. My friend asked for prayer. I prayed, but with little hope. Certainly not praying, “believing I have received it.” Do I believe that God has the power to heal? Certainly. I guess it’s just that I saw him choose not to heal another friend of cancer (she passed away a year ago) that makes me doubt. And yet, God does seem to be healing my friend now.
What am I trying to say? First, God certainly responds to faith, and is pleased by it, but he is not restricted by how strong our faith is.
But second, I should pray with more hope. With more confidence. Because God can and will answer prayer.
As one man once said, “Lord, I believe. Lord increase my faith.”