Thursday, July 18, 2013
“You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it” (Matthew 21:22 NLT).
That’s right, anything. So why do you think we don’t get much of what we pray for? If it were true that we will receive anything we pray for if we have faith, then why are there so many people out there who are still empty-handed? I mean, it seems like the bulk of people who are mad at God are holding a grudge against him because they think he doesn’t care about them or isn’t answering their prayer or is allowing unfortunate things to happen to them.
There are two simple reasons why we don’t get what we pray for. The first has to do with our faith, and the second has to do with our motives. So, first, about faith. Jesus himself is telling us in this verse that we can pray for anything and that we will receive it if we have faith. The little clause we either forget or misunderstand is the “if you have faith” clause. It’s kind of the point that Jesus is making.
Our faith makes the difference between a Christian who goes through life like everyone else who isn’t a Christian and a Christian who goes through life living an exceptionally better life than everyone else who isn’t a Christian. And the measure of standard isn’t the stuff we have or the number of miracles we’ve been a part of.
Faith, in large part, is an internal attitude we have towards life. Our faith hangs on the fact that we believe that God is taking care of us and that Jesus’ work on the cross did, in fact, set us free from the clutches of sin and death. Our faith is an expression of the extent to which we are convinced of God’s trustworthiness.
If we don’t really believe that God loves us and wants the best for us, then our faith probably won’t be very strong. And, as a result, our prayers won’t be very fervent. We waste our time when we pray if we don’t actually believe that our prayers make a difference. So faith matters. If our faith is shaky, we can’t expect to receive what we are praying for.
Having faith, though, doesn’t mean that we have all the answers about everything before we take that step and say, “Okay, Lord, I believe.” Faith just means that, in spite of what we don’t know and can’t know, we’re going to trust God. We’re going to let go and let God handle our lives. We’re going to submit ourselves to him and listen to him and follow his guidance. Faith means that we’re his, no matter what.
For a lot of us (since we’re rebellious and prideful), this completely-his move usually happens after we’ve kind of hit rock bottom. We are a pathetic mess and really have no choice but to give up and die a slow death starting on the inside or to surrender our mess to the Lord and let him fix us however he wants to.
Now, second, about motives. “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3 NLT). I think this says it all.
As we grow in God, he helps our nature to reflect his. Our mind, will, and emotions slowly become shaped to be more in line with God’s character. If we are a healthily-maturing Christian, the things we want will eventually be the things God wants. We start realizing that it’s not the stuff in life that will bring us happiness. It’s all the internal stuff that you can’t buy. It’s the peace and joy and over-flowing loving-kindness that we desire more than anything to possess. We hunger and thirst for righteousness (and Jesus promises we’ll be filled).
We seek to be a blessing instead of coveting other people’s blessings. We begin to understand the process of sowing and reaping. We desire to be generous in our time, money, and talent. We pursue excellence for God’s glory instead of our own. We start paying attention to the inconsistencies in our personality, and we do something about it. We rely on the Lord for strength, grace, and patience. We want wisdom and understanding more than riches.
So when Jesus tell us that we can pray for anything, we can. And when he says that we will receive it if we have faith, we will. But if we have no faith or if we’re praying with the wrong motives, then it shouldn’t be a surprise when “nothing happens.”
Let God oversee your entire life. Give it all to him. Then, when you pray, you’re at his complete mercy! This is one way to get on the faith train if you have no faith but want some. And defer to God. If you pray and things don’t seem to change, it doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing will ever happen, it just means that it’s in God’s hands now. Let him decide when and how to bring things about, if ever.
Lastly, remember that it’s not our prayer or faith, in and of themselves, that changes circumstances or people; it’s God. Our prayers and faith are forces in the spiritual realm, but they only have the power they do because of God’s power. Let us humble ourselves before our mighty Maker, letting him rule and reign over our lives. Then, and only then, will anything be possible.
Dear Lord, thank you for answering my prayers and for helping me to understand what faith is and how it influences my prayers. I give you the glory for your work in my life, and I trust you to continue taking care of me and my family. In your name I pray, Amen.
I can pray for anything, and if I have faith, I will receive it (Matthew 21:22 NLT).