Pray in Faith
Key Verse 11:24
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We are learning what prayer is all about. The Bible is full of teachings about prayer. And we cannot possibly exhaust all its teachings on prayer. But we can look at some fundamental passages relating to prayer and ask God our Father to give us the wisdom we need to conceive these teachings in our hearts and minds. Every believer in our Lord Jesus knows in their hearts the significance of prayer. He or she knows that prayer is an intimate and necessary part of their lives— that unless they pray, their relationship with God suffers greatly. And no believer wants that to happen. Rather, every genuine believer in our Lord Jesus hopes and prays to learn as much as they are able to about prayer. They also long for their prayer life to deepen and to mature so that they can remain in communion with the Father. Therefore, as we learn to pray we realize one of the most fundamental elements of prayer, and that is— faith. Every believer in our Lord Jesus knows that faith cannot be separated from prayer, nor prayer from, faith. They are inseparable. In other words, faith is the stuff of prayer and prayer is the stuff of faith. That is why we must come to understand the relationship between prayer and faith, and faith and prayer.
The moment a man or woman renounce their sins, accept Jesus Christ into their hearts as Lord and Savior, and commit their lives to live for him and to serve him, something wonderful happens in their souls. Yes of course they receive the salvation promised to those who believe, but they also begin to pray. And prayer becomes very much a part of their lives. More than that, their prayer life develops. It does not start out mature, but it undergoes a growing process that lasts a lifetime. So, if we look at the prayer life of a new believer, we see that it is very much related to their conscience and faith. Though prayer is more profound than we can describe it, to a new believer, it involves their conscience and their faith. If their conscience before God is clear and does not accuse them, their faith can easily be strong. And if their faith is strong enough, then their prayers will be answered. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have faith— to understand it more fully.
What, then, is faith? How do we understand or define faith? We have the description of faith from Hebrews 11:1 which tells us that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is an incredible statement about faith that wonderfully tells us almost all we need to know about faith. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT) And then if we also consider what our Lord Jesus said about faith, we will come to understand the essence of faith much better. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (24) What then is faith? Faith is to not doubt in prayer, or not doubting prayer.
God our Father is the one who urges, compels, pushes us to pray. It is our Father God who assures us that we may actually pray to him— that it’s actually what he wants us to do. So he cannot but answer us if we pray. He tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) How can I knock and he refuse to open or seek and not find? It is absolutely impossible for me to ask and not be given. Who do we think our God is! We should see how faithful and dependable he is and how certain his promises are.
We may have been a Christian for some years. So it’s hard to look back and see clearly what we were like. But can you remember how difficult it was at one time to believe! There was a time we didn’t trust God. Rather, we trusted ourselves. It was inconceivable for us to simply trust God. And why was that? Because faith is based on the knowledge of God— faith is related to knowing God— how much we know God. When we don’t know God we have no faith. The depth of our knowledge of God measures the depth of our faith. And our faith, whether great or small, reveals how much we really know God. In other words, we need to know God more and more, that we may have more and more faith. Even our salvation is based on knowing God. As our Lord Jesus says: “Now this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Once we didn’t know God, but God helped us exercise faith, and we came to know that he is indeed God almighty, and that his Son is indeed our Savior. Now we know him, and our faith is in him, and we can believe. At times we can believe even without any difficulty.
Let me explain. When we were younger Christians, we still doubted when we were in trouble. We couldn’t fully trust that God will come to our rescue, that he will take care of us. We feared many things, what people thought of us, how they would treat us. We were often insecure about our future, anxious about what would happen to us if we lost our job, if we had no money. We didn’t know if God would forgive us when we were overcome by our sins. We did not know if God would grant us victory in this/that area of our lives. Our faith was weak. We had faith to believe that Jesus gave his life to redeem us, and that he rose from the dead, but we did not have the faith to trust God to take care of us and supply our needs. Then we came to know God better. We studied the word of God and grew inwardly. We tested and tried God in many situations, sometimes willingly and sometimes unwillingly. But God proved himself our defender, our provider, our caretaker time and again. We came to know him better. And as we came to know him better we also grew in faith. But it wasn’t like this at the start our journey. It was difficult to believe as we believe today. Maybe some of us still have a hard time believing! Why is that? Because, faith is based on the knowledge of God, based on knowing God. The more we know God, the stronger our faith is. We can believe without any difficulty. And if we believe, God will answer us. Let us learn from the beginning to be people of faith, people full of faith. Don’t live by your feelings or emotions or by your thoughts and reasonings— learn to live by faith. And as we learn to believe in God, we will find our prayers answered.
Faith comes by the word of God. It comes from hearing the word of God. As Paul tells us in Romans 10:17. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Faith comes to our hearts when we hear the word of God, especially as we hear and interact with the promises of God in the Bible. When we see a promise, a word of promise, it is not only a word of encouragement as most Christians view it. It’s like cash in the bank, ready to be drawn and used according to the need or the situation.
God’s promise is God’s word. In other words, what God promises he fulfills and what he fulfills is nothing less than his great and glorious work. When we come across a promise of God in the Bible, it tells us what God’s work is or what God’s work is all about. If God promises to save, then that’s the work he wants to do. He wants to work salvation. If he promises that he would bless, it’s an indication of the kind of work he wants to do. The promise tells us what God’s work is. When Jesus said to his disciples, at his ascension, that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them and they would be his witnesses to the whole world, he was telling them of the work he wanted to do. When they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it was a manifestation of the work of God. The disciples heard Jesus make that promise and they believed, and locked themselves up to pray about the promise. Then the work of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit became a manifestation of the promise of God. This is faith! Faith came to their hearts by the word of God. They heard the promise and believed it by faith. To them the word of God was like money in the bank that can be cashed and used.
So if we believe the word of God and do not doubt, we will be in faith with it. That is faith. Faith based on the word of God is powerful faith. It’s the faith of the ancients like Abraham who heard God’s call, and God’s promises to him, and took God at his word. He responded to the word of God with faith. So if we believe the word of God without doubting it, we will be in faith. And if we abide or remain in faith, something wonderful happens. We will surely see how trustworthy everything God has said in his Book is. Then we pray and our prayers will be answered.
But we must believe! Otherwise prayer will be ineffective. Our passage today in Mark 11 shows us something crucial about faith and about prayer. It shows the necessity of faith in prayer. The Lord Jesus with his disciples came up from Bethany. He was hungry on the way. When he saw a fig tree, he came to it to eat some of its fruit. But he found nothing except leaves. So he cursed the tree saying: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” The next morning they passed by and saw that the fig tree he had cursed had dried up from the roots. The disciples were astonished. And in response, Jesus said to them: “Have faith in God… 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.”
One must believe when he is praying, because if he believes then he will receive. What is faith? Faith is believing that you received what you pray for. The problem is how can we believe? Some people say, “I want to believe, but how can I? Help me believe”. One time a man was in distress over his son’s condition. He brought his son to the disciples who could not cast out the demon from his son. Then his faith weakened to the point that when Jesus appeared, the man’s faith was almost gone. And he said to Jesus, “If you can do anything for us, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22-25) He said this to the Lord. So, we can say that the man was in a similar situation like many of us. He had an impossible situation, and he let it overwhelm him, until he couldn’t believe that Jesus could help him. Jesus rebuked him saying: “Everything is possible for him who believes.” It was a promise. He needed to hold it and witness the work of God. He needed faith. But he couldn’t muster enough faith.
Like the man we are sometimes believing and unbelieving. We are Christians but we live in an age of science and technology that has saps the faith out of many. We become victims of our own intellect and emotion, feelings and worldly realities— victims of what may or may not be possible. And when we face a problem, we are quick to despair. When we read the word of God we want to believe but we doubt. This man was honest about his situation. He was honest enough to confess his faith and his unbelief at the same time. He said. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” And Jesus accepted his earnest sincere and honest prayer and blessed him.
We must believe when we’re praying regardless of the impossibility of our situation. We know God. We know God’s word. We know God is trustworthy. Therefore, we must believe when we pray. Our knowledge of God compels us to believe the impossible. We must believe because if we believe we will receive what we pray for.
We Christians often have a wrong concept of faith. The Lord tells us: “Have faith in God” (22) and then proceeds to describe the faith that we ought to have. He says: “Believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (24) But we Christians maintain that if we believe that we will receive it then we will receive it. In that sense, then, we have two different kinds of faith. The Lord uses the word “Have received” and “it will be yours” or “will receive it”. Many Christians however, focus their faith on “will receive it (it will be yours)”. We pray to the Lord, believing that we will receive what we ask for. We believe the mountain will be removed— the obstacles will be removed— the anguish of the situation will subside— the matter will be resolved— my son will be better. When we pray we usually focus on the “Will receive” portion of Jesus’ promise. This is great faith indeed. But if we focus ourselves on “Will receive” or “it will be yours” then we inadvertently disconnect “Faith” (or what Faith is) from Jesus’ word “have received it”. This is not the kind of faith our Lord Jesus is talking about. The faith of which the word of God speaks is so strongly attached or associated with “have received it”. It is far more exact than “will receive.” We need to understand this when we look at faith in prayer.
So, again what is faith? Faith is when you come to the place in your prayer life where you can claim that God has already heard your prayer. It is not when you say God will hear you, but that he has heard you. You kneel down to pray, and somehow you are able to say: “Thank you Lord my Father, for you have heard my prayer. Thank you Lord, for this matter is done.” Now, this is faith. It is faith when it is actually associated with the wondrous truth of “Have received”. If you rise from your prayer and proclaim that you believe that God will hear your prayer, even that God must hear your prayer, then nothing will happen. Your decision does not produce effective results. Jesus tells us: “believe that you have received it”. He did not say: “believe that you will receive them, and you will have them.” I pray that our hearts may fully conceive of the delicate association of prayer and faith. I pray that we may fully understand what the Lord wants to teach us here about prayer, and the faith associated with it— how closely bound together they are. Faith, real faith knows one thing and one thing only. It knows that “it is done already”. Thank God for that. Thank God that before we even stand to pray, God has already heard and fulfilled it, even if it might take longer than we expect (in our own perception of time.)