PRAYER AND FAITH
“Prayer is the power by which that comes to pass which otherwise would not take place.”
There are some incredible statements in the Bible about prayer. Here are three:
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name, Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:2, 3 NASB
“I’ll tell you marvellous and wondrous thing that you could never figure out on your own.” Jeremiah 33:3 MSG
“Is one of you ill? He should send for the elders of the congregation to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer offered in faith will save the sick man, the Lord will raise him from his bed, and any sins he may have committed will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and then you will be healed. A good man’s prayer is powerful and effective.” James 5:14-16 NEB
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Matthew 21:21, 22 NASB
Jesus is quite specific. Faith is the indispensable ingredient in powerful prayer. He taught that patience and perseverance, the evidences of our accepting God’s promises at face value, will always be a part of the kind of prayer which “moves the hand of God.” Faith does not wait to feel, or understand the ways of God: Faith believes, acts and claims the promises of God and thanks Him for His faithfulness.
Consider these two passages of Scripture. They picture more eloquently the benefits of faith and the consequences of no faith than any other.
- “And whatever you pray for in faith you will receive” Matthew 21:22 NEB
- “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” Matthew 13:58 NASB
It would seem that a lack of faith (unbelief) like no other power in heaven or on earth, limits God. Somewhat sobering!
Paul gives us a valuable clue in understanding the mystery of unanswered prayer.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NASB
Our enemy’s purpose is, as always, to question the integrity and dependability of God. Our only defence against this determined enemy of God is the shield of faith.
“…taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16 NASB
Faith is the believer’s protection against Satan, AND the Holy Spirit’s catalyst by which prayer works.
It was in faith that Jairus’ daughter was raised from death (Luke8:50), the woman with the blood issue was healed (Mark 5:34) and the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:13), and the blind were given sight (Matthew 9:29). Lack of faith, on the other hand, kept the disciples from healing the epileptic boy (Matthew 17:20).
Faith honours God by its trust, and God honours our faith. Faith’s basis is the Word of God: by it we bring everything to God in prayer.
PRAYER IN THE LIFE OF JESUS
Jesus was a man of prayer.
One of the paradoxes in the life of Jesus is that he, the eternal Word of God, who always lived in perfect fellowship with the Father, totally free from all failure and contamination of sin, whose life and ministry were consistently animated by the power of the Holy Spirit, still felt the repeated need to withdraw from the business of ministry for refreshment and renewal of the spirit through prayer.
In the four gospels there are at least 17 references to our Lord’s practice of prayer and many additional implied references. We have one extended sample of our Lord’s intercessory ministry in John 17, but there are fragments of his prayer found throughout the gospels.
The prayer which is familiarly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer is simply an outline which Jesus gave his disciples as a guide in prayer (Matthew 6:9-11, Luke 11:2-4).
It is certain that Jesus prayed often and for long periods even though we do not have written records of such. The writer of Hebrews give us a dramatic insight into the Lord’s Prayer life when he reports that Jesus “in the days of his earthly life offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to God”. Hebrews 5:7 NEB.
Prayer was a regular habit. He prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35) and, on some occasions, all night (Luke 6:12, 13). He prayed during the great events of his life: at his baptism (Luke 3:21), when he performed his greatest miracles (Luke 6:12, 16; 9:16), the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), and in the time of great anguish, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Matthew tells about the place of children in our Lord’s Prayer interest (19:13) and Luke, once again, reports how he prayed for his disciples by name (22:31-34).
The prayers uttered on the cross are significant. Three of the seven utterances were petitions: “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:34; “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46 MSG; and “Father, I place my life in your hands” Luke 23:46 MSG.
Admittedly Jesus was God and therefore totally unique. However, he was also a perfect man, a complete human being, tested in every way like us. He had similar needs to ours to know the Father’s assuring love and perfect will. Therefore he prayed before he chose the twelve (Luke 6:12-16), before he revealed specifically his impending death and resurrection (Luke 9:18-22) and before the ordeal of the cross (Luke 22:41-44), all of which reveal his deep need of fellowship, wisdom and divine grace. How much more do we need to know this strengthening ministry of God’s grace available to us through the ministry of prayer! How do we think we can get by in our lives without similar prayer and communion with the Father!!