Honestly, for me they can be kind of uncomfortable verses to hover over. They’re verses about faith and prayer . . . audacious prayer and unwavering faith. Prayer that involves moving mountains and faith that doesn’t doubt it will happen.
Now I believe in faith. And I believe in prayer. But I also find myself believing in reality and reasonability. And I find myself wary of excess, extreme, and expectations that might be born out of selfish motives. I’m so cautious of any sort of “name it and claim it” approach that, if I’m honest with myself, I nod in assent, but recoil with a bit with reserve, as I read Jesus’s exhortation to His disciples this morning.
And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 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. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
(Mark 11:22-24 ESV)
I’m all about the promises of God. But this one is a doozy, isn’t it? Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Whatever you ask? That’s a big promise.
But the thought I’m chewing on this morning is that the promise at the end of Jesus’s counsel to His disciples only makes sense in the context of the exhortation at the beginning. “Have faith in God.”
Not just faith that God can do whatever–for all things are possible with God (Mk. 10:35). I believe that. But faith that God is able to move in us to ask for the right whatever’s.
Have faith that you really are indwelt by the Spirit of God. That a spiritual dynamic really is at play in you. A dynamic that imparts the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16). A dynamic that battles and represses the flesh (Gal. 5:16-18). A dynamic that so knits your spirit to God’s that, even when don’t know what to pray, “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26).
Have faith that through the work of the gospel you really are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). That along with a new life, He has prepared a new work and a new walk. And with that, a need for divine enabling and, sometimes, even divine intervention.
Have faith that with the Spirit in you, and whatever way He has prepared for you, that, though it be with fear and trembling, you can, in fact, work out your salvation believing that God is enabling you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Php. 2:13). And part of that willing and working will involve asking for whatever you need. Even if it seems like a mountain that needs to be cast into the sea.
Have faith in God.
If our sin is being confessed and we are being covered by His blood; if we are abiding in the Savior and are being enveloped with His love; if we are pursuing what we believe to be His work, in His way, willing to wait on His timing, then, says Jesus, “Ask whatever.” Believe it and you’ll receive it. And know it will be yours.
That takes faith. Faith in God.
I believe. Help my unbelief.
By Your grace. For Your glory.