Real life doesn’t seem to primarily function in formulas. If we do A and B we will get “C”… There are unknown variables in life that formulaic thought processes cannot account for. When we try to reduce life down into formulas it doesn’t seem to live up to expectations…
So as we approach truths about prayer let us not be overly simplistic and make prayer a formula. If we pray ten minutes a day and do such and such then we will receive “C.” Pray is to wonderful to be boiled down in such ways. That being said, there are some conditions that need to be met to be effective in our prayers…
As we move forward with these truths about prayer let us apply them to our hearts without the hindrances of formulas clouding our minds.
The first and most vital truth that needs to be applied to our lives about prayer is the necessity of Faith…
We must have faith that God hears our prayers
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a] it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Footnotes: Mark 11:24 Some manuscripts are receiving
Verse 22 – We see that Jesus was a little nonchalant here, He was expecting His prayer to be answered… the disciples were blown away … Jesus believed it so the moment He spoke it in pray. God desires that we would pray with this same faith and belief…
Verse 24 – Having faith in the power and ability of Christ to answer prayer is to have faith in a certainty… Putting our faith and hope in the Lord is not like hoping pigs fly. It’s like having faith and hoping that the sun will rise and set… it is a solid thing… We may not even see it, or notice it, but it’s there and we will see the effects…
Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[a] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[b]
Footnotes: Mark 9:24 Some manuscripts add with tears Mark 9:29 Some manuscripts add and fasting
Verse 14 – This verse shows us that when we lack power (and faith) in our walk with Christ we are left with an argument. Arguments have never been what has advanced the Kingdom of God, it is only by the power of God that the Kingdom of God moves forward. It’s good to be educated in the things of God, it has great value, but it cannot stand alone and have transformative power. God tells us to seek understanding, but knowledge without power is dry theology that does nothing more than allow us to say, “I’m right.” God help us as a Church to have something more than just a good argument. We would much rather have the power of Christ over a good argument any day of the week…
Verse 18 – This is the reality for the powerless church. God created the Church to be His agents and ministers to a hurting and bound world! When we don’t functionally live in the power of God, and it is a faith composed only of words, the needs that only the all-powerful God can meet go unmet. Resulting in God’s name being profaned, His glory unrealized and those hurting remain in the pain that God desires to free them from.
Verse 19 – Jesus address’ the disconnect between information (the argument) and experience (the power). They lacked the faith to believe God for great things. Some may say, “Well it’s not always God’s will to heal someone.” But as we read on we see that in this situation it was God’s will to heal. We as a Church must live in the power of God that we would not carry the title, “O faithless generation.”
Verse 23 – However small the fathers faith was, it was faith that lead him to bring his son to Jesus. He would not of endured the physical toll and cost of seeing Jesus if there wasn’t some kernel of faith that believed this Jesus could do something for him. I believe the “if” came into his heart when he experienced the faithless and prayerless ministry of the disciples. Christ’s encouragement to him was to remove the faithless “if” from his heart…
Verse 24 – “Help” is many times the deepest theological prayers we can pray. The key to his son’s healing was that the father ran to the right place with his unbelief and doubt. He didn’t wallow in it, or accept it as, “that’s just the way it is…” If we’re struggling with a lack of faith in our prayers we need to be clinging onto the feet of Jesus crying, “Help… !” Too often we allow doubt and unbelief to drive us the opposite way we ought to go…
Verse 29 – So what was missing in the disciple’s life that Jesus had? Simply put, prayer. It was the prayer life of Christ that inspired our Saviors faith. It’s hard to have faith in someone we’re unfamiliar with. A deep and active prayer life will inspire the greater faith that God desires to live out in our lives. The opportunity for miracles present themselves but they are missed because we are not “prayed up…”
Where does this faith and confidence in Christ in prayer come from?
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Verse 21 – The work of Christ at salvation has given us everything we need to have victory and walk in faith in our prayers. Our confidence isn’t in ourselves it’s in the powerful blood of Christ. It’s with this confidence and this blood that we can enter into the holy place of prayer…
Verse 22 – “…full assurance of faith!” Drawing close to God in prayer knowing and living in His work ignites this “full assurance of faith.” We don’t come as second class citizens, but as children of the King with “hearts sprinkled clean… and… washed with pure water.” We can come into this holy place of prayer because of Christ’s work…
Verse 25 – Finally this kind of prayer life is anything but selfish, but it holds on to faith and drives other toward Christ!
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Verse 5 – This verse gives us some insight as to the nature of God… “gives generously to all without reproach…” Our God is not a miser, He’s not a God playing monkey in the middle, or making us jump through hoops. Our God is extravagant in His kindnesses toward us.
Verse 8 – If we have no faith there is no need to expect anything from God in our prayers… My friends please don’t get this word twisted, this is not a sentence, this is a wake up call! If we’re struggling with faith don’t give up on those desperate needs. With our mustard seed, in faith pray for those desperate things before Christ, and make our prayer the prayer of the father, “help my unbelief… “
The Prayer of Faith
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[a] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Footnotes: James 5:16 Or The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power
Verse 15 – The prayer of faith is a powerful thing. In it is the power to save, heal and even raise the dead to life. This gift of prayer is something within us all if we only grasp a hold of it…
Some final thoughts:
Childlike faith is need in prayer, just as in Salvation. The basic idea is that at a certain age a child believes whatever a parent says, no matter how wild it may sound… So to our faith in God in our prayers needs to be this radical…
Jesus tells us to “Pray the Lord of the harvest for workers,” are we being a ready prepared worker?
Are we living in the righteousness of Christ that “great power” would accompany our prayers?
God is calling every believer to a ministry of prayer!
We as the Church desire to be used in great ways by Christ, but many times we get caught up with the condition of field we’re working for Christ. This is the wisdom an older minister gave that has been a help to me. Ministry has very little to do with the conditions of others, and has very much to do with the condition and preparedness of our own hearts… Let us examine our own hearts concerning faith and prayer, and ask the Spirit of God to dig out any weakness that would be hindering our ministry.