Today I went to YouTube just to listen to any teachings or the like concerning Mark 11:22-24. I have been meditating on that passage of scripture lately. What it reveals is really quite amazing. Let me quote it here for your convenience.
Mark 11:22–24 (ESV) — 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 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. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
I was quite amazed with the different teachings on this passage on YouTube. Serveral people spoke on Mark 11:24 and only one of the people I listened to brought up Mark 11:22-23. What I noticed is that people had a tendency to include presuppositions and other beliefs into the interpretation of that passage of scripture. In speaking on Mark 11:24, some even neglected the lesson in Mark 11:22-23. I was amazed. What Jesus said is so simple and yet people stumbled all over it. The reason I believe they stumble over this passage is because it is really hard to believe. However, there is a component in prayer that was overlooked by everyone I listened to regarding this passage of Scripture, which I will discuss shortly.
Let's break this passage apart and get the context.
- Jesus previously saw a fig tree and went to it to get something to eat because he was hungry. When he got to the fig tree he saw that it had no figs, just leaves. A fig tree with leaves should have the fruit also, so something else was going on with this tree.
- Jesus cursed the tree
- When they passed the tree again, the disciples noticed how it had withered
- Jesus taught them a lesson
- If you say something and believe AND don't doubt in your heart then it will be done for you
- Therefore, when you pray, believe that you have received what you have prayed for and you will have it
Now some go into Mark 11:25-26, but that is not the context here at all, but an additional sidenote about unforgiveness.
The message that Jesus is presenting is quite simple. When you pray believe and don't doubt. If we can do that then we will have what we pray for. More precisely, believe what you say and don't doubt and it will happen. The people that I listened to about this passage of scripture neglected to speak about the doubt part. One person read that part of the passage, but did not elaborate on it.
If what you say or pray for has not happened then what should you do? One of the first things we tend to do is to go on a witch hunt. We tend to look for things that we have done wrong such that God will not answer our prayers. However, the answer is rather simple. We don't receive becauuse we either do not believe or we doubt. Doubt counters the belief that we have, which means that it is possible to have belief (faith) and doubt at the same time. Consider the incident when Peter walked on the water and then began to sink (See Matthew 14:22-31). Peter became afraid because of what he saw while walking on top of the water. Jesus later asked why Peter doubted. This means that fear brought on doubt, which countered the faith that he had for walking on the water. If faith and doubt could not occur at the same time, then Peter would have immediately dropped under the water once he doubted. Instead, be began to sink, which means he did have some faith, but was doubting because of what he was seeing around him.
Another thing to notice about Jesus teaching her is that it wasn't exclusively about prayer. Jesus didn't pray for the fig tree to wither. He merely spoke to it and what he spoke manifested itself into the fig tree such that what he said came to pass. Jesus didn't say to the fig tree, "Wither and die." He said, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again." One way that could happen is that the tree die, which it did. It could also happen by the tree remaining in the state that it was in, namely simply produce no fruit. So what Jesus spoke could have happened if the tree was alive or not. Perhaps Jesus meant for the tree to die and that is what happened. In any case, he didn't pray, but rather spoke the word believing that what he said would happen and of course, he had no doubts. He then applied that principle to prayer, since we are typically speaking when we pray.
This means that we should take heed what we say when we believe and that we should guard our hearts from unbelief or doubt. Now there are other passages of scripture that shed more light on prayer such as praying according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15). However, in this case the message is simply believe, speak, receive and don't doubt.
We must also consider that this was not a theological encounter that Jesus had. He was hungry and cursed a tree because it had no fruit. Too many people that speak on our subject passage of scripture take a religious stance instead of just sticking with what Jesus said. Believe, speak, receive, and don't doubt.
What about forgiveness. Verses 25 and 26 are not conditions for what Jesus had already said else Jesus would have made that point. Jesus said basically, "in addition to that, forgive." The point is that when we pray we should forgive so that we would be forgiven. Jesus does not say that not forgiving will hinder what you say from happening, though it can. How can it, if I said that forgiveness is not a condition for receiving what we say or pray for? Because unforgivenss can cause us to doubt. If we speak or pray for something and we consider our heart with regards to unforgiveness for someone, then we are likely to believe that God may not answer our prayer because of unforgiveness. However, this can apply to anything. We may believe that not reading the bible a certain amount of time each day can hinder our prayers, thus producing doubt. So again, we simply need to believe, speak, receive, and don't doubt. Doubting will hinder our receiving and doubting can be produced by many other things (fear, guilt, feeling of unworthiness, etc.).
Of course there is more to prayer, but this passage is more than about prayer. It is about believing purely or wholely (no pun intended). There are two questions that arise at this point (at least for me).
- How do I believe?
- How do I not doubt?
.We want to ensure that we believe, and that can be done by feeding upon and knowing the word of God. The word of God spawns faith (Romans 10:17). If we don't know the word of God then we can stand on it in confidence. Attempting to put our belief to action will easily result in doubts because our foundation has not been established in the word (See Matthew 13/Mark 4 on the parable of the sower and seed). We want to be sure that we know how doubt can arise and squash it when it presents itself. Doubt isn't thinking, "What if this doesn't work." Doubt is when you try to answer that question. There will always be a temptation to doubt, but we don't have to accept it, but instead squash those doubts with the word of God that we have come to know and depend on.
See the full article on this topic on this website. I will post it not too long after publishing this blog post.
God bless you always! Remember to eat, drink, and digest the word of God and know God for yourself. Believe, speak, receive, and don't doubt!