Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in … The GardenAugust 13, 2013
The Gift of AdversityAugust 13, 2013
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.”
Prayer is not about getting; it is about getting to know.
I had a friend approach me recently to pray over him because of a difficult situation he was facing. Notice I said pray over him, not for him. He explained, “You’re a man of great faith and God says great faith brings answered prayer.” I raised my hands and prayed loudly, and then sprinkled him with oil. His wife suddenly canceled the divorce and his femur bone was miraculously healed! Not really.
But what about Jesus’ faith promises, as in his insistence that with enough faith we can do ( and get ??) anything? 21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21
Can Jesus really be saying our prayers will be answered – as we specifically ask them – if our faith is strong enough? If I can muster up enough faith then I can get God to acquiesce and give me what I want? Is there a grading system for faith?
That’s starting to sound like a works-based prayer system.
Whatever Jesus means, he cannot mean the answers we want will just drop out of a prayer vending machine if we can just put in a big enough faith voucher. One doesn’t have to look any farther than Jesus’ own Gethsemane experience: Jesus prayed three times for the impending crucifixion to go away.
If you want to be encouraged by an example of answered prayer, despite nothing more than a desperate, weak and pleading faith, let’s look at the father of the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9. The boy is flopping around in the fire as Jesus arrives on the scene. The disciples have tried and failed to drive the demon out. The father asks Jesus if he can heal his son, and Jesus replies, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
In one of the all time great Biblical lines, the father cries out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I love this guy. He’s so much like me, and I’m guessing you, too. “I’m trying to believe, Jesus, but you’ve got to help me even with that! Help!”
Now, don’t miss this: Jesus immediately heals the boy. He did not stop to pray before healing the boy. He just rebuked the evil spirit. You see, Jesus led a life of engaged prayer. He was in constant contact with his Father. He knew his Father intimately, so when this critical time came, he was already “prayed up.”
Jesus’ focus is on our hearts. We must view his prayer promises through this same heart prism. Changed hearts are where we find the life that is truly life. A changed heart is a softened heart. A changed heart is a compassionate heart. A changed heart can see beyond the current circumstances to the eternal perspective of God’s loving character. To know that we have already received “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”2A changed and praying heart is the key to life in the kingdom: the A+ life.
1. 2 Corinthians 12 2. Ephesians 3:20