Christianity 201

July 1, 2022

The Important Caveat of Faith-Filled Prayer

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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In yesterday’s devotional, we were encouraged to entertain the idea of praying more boldly, praying specifically, and of exercising greater faith as we pray. We were told to be on the lookout for doubt, which can compromise our prayer life.

However, there are times when our audacious prayers seem to, as one described it, “bounce off the ceiling.” (That is as if to say, never reach the ears of God.) Are there some details we’re missing? Perhaps.

Bruce Cooper writes from Halifax, Canada where he lives right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean; he served 35 years with the Canadian military; and these days on his blog, Reasoned Cases for Christ, focuses on the study of Christian apologetics. Clicking the title which follows will link you to where this first appeared, which is encouraged.

A Fig Tree

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here.

These are the Scripture verses that Andy quoted in Matthew 21:18-22 NASB which read as follows: ”

Now in the early morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves alone; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?”And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.”

This is one of the quotes from Jesus that I acknowledge I do not always thoroughly understand, as it applies to practical application and anticipated results and I would imagine that I am not alone.

Taken at it’s face value, the teaching that Jesus gave us is relatively clear. We are to act on our expressed faith and believe (not doubt) that we have received what we have asked for, and by doing so, we will indeed receive it.

The thing is, Jesus is a lot smarter than I am, and that being a given, He obviously knew that these words of His could be and would be, misunderstood, yet He said them anyway. And not only did He say them, but He preceded them by stating “Truly I say to you” or as the Kings James words it, “Verily I say to you”. Those preceding words are always a red flag to His revealing of an important truth that Jesus wants us to grasp. So this “truth” that Jesus is explaining to us, is of strong importance. This “flag” on this vital truth, should instill in all of us, a need to comprehend what is being taught and how it applies.

And just to further expand on this teaching Jesus gives us, He includes the metaphor of attributing a mountain to be moved, which can easily represent a major difficulty that we might be encountering. Adding that particular metaphor could easily open up this teaching to additional instances of misunderstanding. Yet, once again, knowing that this was a possibility, Jesus went ahead and said it anyway. And considering that Jesus tells us that He never speaks on His own but only gives us the words that His Father gives Him to speak, this instance of teaching, according to other Scriptures, could and should be taken as coming directly from God the Father.

This would be one of those “name it and claim it” verses in Scripture that we so often run into. And if we take these verses of Scripture in isolation, it would be difficult to discern any other teaching from these Scriptures, other than the face value directive Jesus gives us, that I have previously indicated.

The key words in the preceding paragraph are “in isolation“, because in Scripture, there is always a possibility and a danger of misunderstanding what we are being given, when we ignore or disregard other Scriptures that gives additional guidance on a given subject that we are looking at. That is why it is vitally important to search the Scriptures and form our understanding on a given subject via “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” as indicated in Isaiah 28:7-13.

The “kicker” in this instance of teaching, is that what we ask God to do, in order to be granted, must be in accordance with the will of God. How do I know that you ask? Because God’s Holy Word tells me so as recorded in 1 John 5:14-15 NASB which reads as follows: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Emphasis is mine.

You will note that in Matthew 21:22 Jesus is indeed linking this teaching with us asking God in prayer to do something, as is John, so we are dealing with the exact same subject.

And this is the part that I do not always understand, whether what I am asking for, is in accordance with the will of God. God is sovereign when it comes to His will. That means it is His decision and will that takes precedence, not mine. And God’s will encompasses His purposes, not mine, and His glory, not mine. Our Father indeed, does know best.

And therein lies the dilemma, at least for me, because I sometimes do not know the will of God on a request that I am making to God.

My wife has dementia and in spite of many prayers asking for her healing, her situation is not getting better, so this is how I pray.

I ask God to heal her, if it is His will, and if it is not His will, for reasons that I do not personally understand, then I ask God to be with both of us, as we walk through this difficulty that He is allowing, and that in the end, whatever it might be, according to His purposes, that He be glorified. I do ask for and obtain God’s grace, when it comes to being patient with her and with regard to loving her. And God’s grace is given new every day, day by day. And no, it is not easy, in fact, some days it is very hard, but God has and does, sustain both of us, and this I do know, that it is His will to sustain us, and He does.

Not every one gets physically healed now. Not every mountain is moved. Not every request is responded to as we ask. And there can be many reasons why this is so. As the Scriptures tell us, sometimes it is because we don’t ask (James 4:2), sometimes we ask for the wrong reasons (James 4:3), and sometimes what we ask for is not in accordance with what God has determined for us (His will) (1 John 5:14-15). This is why it is so vitally important to seek the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word on a given subject and not build a theology on just isolated portions of Scripture. All of what we are given has to be considered, not just those portions that we build a stance on, at the expense and exclusion of others.

But if it is God’s will, there will be a physical healing now, that mountain will be moved and that request will be answered. But even there, where our request is answered, it is answered in accordance with God’s sovereign timing, and not ours. And ultimately, when we leave this world, all will be healed, all will have our desires met and we all will be satisfied. How do I know this? God’s Word tells us so in Psalm 17:15 NASB, which reads:

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

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