What does it take to really or truthfully ask God for something and really expect to receive it. We are going to talk about faith and prayer this week. However, first, we are going to focus most of our attention on faith. We will find that faith is very crucial to effective prayer.
Ask in faith
Asking God for our needs, wants, or desires is not a simple matter. For example, think of what?s involved when you want to ask your boss for a raise. You don?t simply ask him for a raise. Usually, you believe that you deserve a raise and you can show him or her the evidence. Secondly, you prepare yourself for the asking session. You want to be sure that you ask in such a way as not to diminish your chance for a positive answer. The same applies to us when we ask God for things?at least in principle.
We said in last week?s sermon that we should ask God for the things that we want. How should we ask God? Is there a biblical procedure or process that we should be aware of? Let?s look at the Bible for some clues.
James 1:5 through James 1:9 (NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
How should we ask God? We should ask in faith without doubting. Let?s look at another verse.
Mark 11:22 through Mark 11:24 (NKJV) So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ?Be removed and be cast into the sea,? and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Again we see that we should ask in faith and not doubt. The Bible reveals to us that we must pray (ask) God believing that we will receive what we ask of him. Now there is much more to it than this. This does not mean that we have a blank check to ask God everything we want and expect him to give it to us. There is the matter of the heart and the matter of motive. These come into play in another area that we will not get discussed in any depth at this time. Let me just say that a righteous person with a righteous heart will desire righteous things (See Psalms 37:4. Also, we have to consider the motive of the desire or want and we must be aware of the will of God (See 1?John?5:14-15; John 15:7).
Without going into much detail about motive and the condition of the heart, which we will discuss at length at another time, let us summarize by saying that we should ask God in faith without doubt when we pray.
True Faith Identified
I say true faith because there is a concept of faith in the Christian community that I do not exactly agree with nor do I consider it to be Biblically accurate in nature. Let?s define what faith is not. Faith is not making a demand on God in the name of Jesus Christ. We can no more make a demand on God then we can of anyone else. Imagine if someone came to you making a demand on you because of what you said or because of your relationship with each other. I can?t say in any way how God would react, however, I do not believe that it is very respectful to demand anything of God.
True faith is not the ability to believe God for the new car or the new house. It is not a confession or doing things to induce faith. What is true faith? Paul gives us a definition of faith that I would like to look at now.
Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith is being sure of the things we hope for and certain of the things that we can see. How can this be? This is a definition of faith but what is faith so that I can be certain of things not seen. Where does faith come from and how can I use it?
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We said in the sermon, “The Importance of Knowing the Truth,” that it is important to know the word of God. Well here is another reason for knowing the word of God, in particular, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith (saving faith in this instance) comes by hearing (receiving) the word of God (The Gospel of Jesus Christ).
Let?s describe true faith.
- Faith is to believe that what God will do what he says.
- Having no doubts about what God said.
- Rely fully on What God says including his mercy and grace
- Faith moves God
- Faith is patient
- True faith is free from doubt and unbelief
- It is more than a simple mental assent nor is it a passive acceptance of fact.
- More than a general or abstract belief in God?s willingness or ability to do something for us
- It is due to the work of the Holy Spirit
- It can be thought of as a divine illumination or spiritual energy within the human soul
- Faith is looking to God and resting in his promises
- Faith demands action
The Enemies of True Faith
There are enemies of faith, that is something that can dilute your faith even to the point where it is ineffective. The enemies of faith are doubt and unbelief. Look at the following scripture.
Matthew 14:29 through Matthew 14:31 (KJV) And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
In short let me say that Peter was just fine until he began to doubt. His faith in Jesus allowed him to walk on the water. However, his doubt caused him to start sinking. Also notice that the doubt that Peter experienced was induced by fear and the fear was caused by the consideration of the environment. How often do we let our circumstances dictate our level of faith?
Prayer and Faith
Effective prayer depends on true faith. If we don?t believe God to do what he says then what is the use in asking him for something. If we have true faith in God then we can ask God in confidence for the things that we want. We need to have an effective faith life if we expect to have an effective prayer life. We need to receive the word of God if we expect to increase our faith so that we can pray with confidence.
Pray With Respect
We should always remember that we are communing with God when we pray. Therefore, we shouldn?t say anything we please. We should pray to God with respect remembering that he is the Creator of the entire universe and that He is our heavenly father. Some Christian leaders teach that we can place a demand on the Spirit when we pray. I don?t fully agree with that at least in the literal sense. We cannot place a demand on anything. We can only with confidence approach God and make our requests and expect him to do it based on what he said and our faith in him. God is faithful to his word.
Our Weakness and God?s Strength
Remember also that we are weak and God is strong. We can?t do anything without Him. Jesus said that we can do nothing without him (John 15:5). Therefore, our prayers to God are from one who has no ability to one who has all power. We appeal to the power of God in our weakness and rely on Him to do what we in no way would be able to do. We rely on the grace and mercy of God. The grace of God because we deserve nothing from him and the mercy of God because we are not dealt with according to our sins. This makes our prayers humble before God knowing that God is true to his word, that we are nothing without Christ, and God loves us and will do what we ask if we ask in faith without doubt.
The Activity of Faith
Prayer then can be considered the activity of faith. We put our faith to use by praying in faith. We gain more confidence in God and our ability to trust him as we learn that God is indeed true to his word, that is our prayers get answered.
Mark 9:17-29 gives us a wonderful example of faith in action.
- Note in verse 20 that Jesus did not respond to the circumstances around him. Two reasons are suggested: 1) Jesus was working on restoring the faith of the father and 2) Jesus wanted to ensure that the people knew that it was by his power that the boy would be healed (similar to the incidence with Lazarus in John?11).
- In verses 21-24 Jesus seems to take the father back through the pain of the problem where his faith seems to have been rejuvenated. In verse 22 we see the man?s pain surfaces and he asks Jesus for help.
- Verse 23?The phrase “If you can?” in the Greek is more precisely rendered “As to the ?if you can??” Jesus points the man back to His own faith (in Jesus)
- Verse 24?The man realizes the source of his faith and realizes that Jesus can help him deal with his unbelief.
- Verse 25?Jesus demonstrates that his concern was for the father?s need. Jesus didn?t wait for the crowd to arrive before casting out the demon. He was therefore not interested in performing in front of a crowd.
Why couldn?t the disciples cast out the demon? Jesus gives us the answer. The disciples did have the authority to cast out demons (Mark 6:7) and they did it before (Mark 6:13). Jesus says that prayer was necessary. Matthew 17:20 also seems to indicate that the disciples had a lack of faith, which would have directly effected any prayer anyway.
What have we gained from this discussion (which is actually a sermon). We have gained the following
- Faith is total dependence on God to do what he said he will do
- True faith is absolutely necessary for effective prayers
- We should ask God for what we want in faith without doubt
- Doubt and unbelief are the enemies of faith
- Fear induces doubt
- Faith comes from hearing the word of God.
- We are weak and God is strong and we should pray with that in mind.
- Trust in the mercy and grace of God to help us and give us the desires of our heart
- We do not have a “blank check” from God so we can ask for whatever we want and get it
Faith and Prayer
Sermon for July 4, 1999
By Pastor William R. Cunningham