5/6/2014 12:00:00 PM
When you pray, I know without a doubt that you are expecting something
You either expect that God will answer your prayer, or that He won't answer your prayer. But you expect an answer; otherwise, why pray? I've found over 30 years of public ministry that those who expect answers get them and those who don't expect answers get what they ask for as well.
In the last week of His life Jesus taught His disciples, and us, an important lesson about praying with faith. It really makes all the difference.
The day after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, Jesus encountered a fig tree that didn't provide what its appearance suggested it would:
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
- Mark 11:12-15, ESV
Jesus's action seems harsh on the surface. Why curse a tree for not providing fruit that wasn't in season? But the leaves suggested it would have fruit; they usually came together. Throughout Scripture, the fig tree is used as a type of the Jewish nation, and perhaps Jesus saw in the tree what He saw in the people He came to minister to – an outward appearance of fruitfulness that ultimately didn't offer what it was promising.
The next day, after Jesus cleansed the temple of people who were behaving very much like that fig tree, He and His disciples came by the same way:
As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.' 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. 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.'
- Mark 11:20-25, ESV
I don't know what you need today – a physical healing, a financial breakthrough, a restored relationship or something else. What I do know is that a prayer asking for God to intervene in your situation, without a rock-solid belief that He will do so, will have little effect.
God does not respond to your pain. He responds to your faith. More specifically, He responds to the type of faith that expects great things of Him – what I sometimes call "mountain-moving faith." Among the religious leaders of Jesus's day, certain rabbis and other spiritual leaders were called "rooters up of mountains," meaning they could do the seemingly impossible. Jesus telling the disciples they could do what had been reserved for the religious elites is a paradigm shift that foretells the rending of the temple veil.
God may not literally move mountains for you – Jesus had opportunities to perform spectacular public miracles for the unbelieving religious leaders of His day and declined to do so – but He will be faithful to do what He has promised.
If you've been around me for any length of time, you've heard me say it: the atmosphere of expectancy is the breeding ground of miracles! Your faith invites God to work on your behalf. And in my experience, He'll rarely go where He's not invited.
Pursue what God has for you. Speak to what you need every day – debt cancellation, divine health, restored relationships or whatever else you lack. So often I'll talk to people who tell me all about their problem and I want to say, "I'm the wrong person to hear this! Tell God about it and He will receive it as evidence of your faith that He can solve it."
If you're going to expect something, you might as well expect that He will supernaturally resolve your need. That's what fathers love to do for their children, after all.
- May 6, 2014