Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lord, Increase our Faith

I spoke last night on Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Jesus said this during Holy Week after he had cursed the fig tree. This is a hard verse because my immediate tendency is to place all sorts of conditions on the “whatever”. Jesus certainly cannot mean that, can he?

Well, it matters why we are trying to put conditions on his statement. There are other conditions for answered prayer in the scripture besides believing. We are supposed to pray according to God's will. We are supposed to pray in Jesus' name. We are to pray persistently and in agreement with other believers. We are supposed to be those who are abiding in Christ and who are living obedient lives before we can claim that God would answer our prayers. So, yes, there are conditions. My normal reason for responding to this “whatever” is lack of faith rather than the other spiritual conditions. When I respond in unbelief, even the one condition of this verse has been denied.

So given the Scriptural conditions mentioned above, let's look at the promise. First there is the “whatever”. God doesn't promise substitutes, he promises to give us what we ask for. All of the promises of God specify the “it” in one way or another. “Whatever you ask, it will be given you.”

Second, we need to ask. James writes, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). It seems obvious, but we do need to ask. And in another case Jesus challenged his followers to be persistent in the asking.

Finally, we must believe. Mark 11:24 writes it this way, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Here he says that we are to believe that we are receiving them. This occurs before the future tense of we will have them. In other words, our prayer needs to have the faith to believe that the answer is on the way even before it actually arrives. Hebrews 6:12 tells us that it takes faith and patience. There is a believing and a patient waiting. But again, all of this presumes the meeting of all the scriptural conditions for answered prayer. But what a promise! Our faith is so weak at times. We pray and hardly expect God to even hear us let alone answer our prayer. Maybe this needs to be our prayer, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

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