Summary: What does the Bible teach about the promises of God and faith in those promises.
Ask, Believe, and Receive
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.
23 "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.
24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
The Bible tells us that without faith we cannot please God. It is out of faith in God that we are able to ask confidently and know our prayers will be answered. It is vital that we as Christians understand the importance of praying in faith and equally so to understand just what it means to pray in faith. This passage above is frequently quoted but seldom understood. Verse 24 is often used out of context to teach a well intentioned but false promise that Jesus guarantees that we will have everything that we ask. If we look at this in context we see that the intended focus is to accomplish a purpose. We are promised that we can move mountains, “therefore believe you receive them and you will have them”.
The promises of God have been turned into a ‘selfish gospel’ rather than a kingdom focused life. As we shall soon see, there are very clear examples given in scripture that reveal the promises of God and how these fit into our Christian walk. As followers of Christ, we can walk in absolute confidence in God and know our prayers are making an impact according to God’s design. Lets first look at the purpose and focus of our prayers.
Ask according to His purposes
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
This passage offers a crucial piece of information so that we understand the motivations behind our prayers. Most Christians are taught to ask according to their own purposes, but the Bible teaches that we are to ask according to God’s will, not our will. Scripture teaches that if we desire to follow Christ, we must die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The promises of God are only to the followers of Christ. If we are not following Jesus Christ but are following our worldly desires, this promise does not apply. We will look into this a bit farther in this message, but it is important to understand now that we must be following His commandments so that we can bring glory to God. John 14 illustrates this:
13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.
What is the purpose of receiving what we ask? It is to glorify the Father through the Son who answers our requests. So we don’t get off target, Jesus stressed the importance of loving Him through keeping His commandments. When we present our requests to God, it is necessary to understand that we are not seeking our own kingdom, but God’s kingdom. No where is this illustrated better than this passage in 2 Chronicles 1:
11 And God said to Solomon: "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life -- but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king --
12 "wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like."
This passage began when God revealed Himself to Solomon and promised to grant him what he asked. God tested Solomon to reveal what was in his heart. Solomon had just become king over Israel and he understood that he was placed there by God’s hand to lead Israel in the ways of God. Solomon’s test was to seek his own will or to seek the will of God. Solomon asked only for what he needed to accomplish the purpose God had called him to do. If Solomon had been so short sighted that he only sought his own greed, he would only have received a temporary pleasure and would have struggled or even failed in his calling. Solomon did not have to ask God for pleasures, wealth, or anything self-centered. It was God’s desire to bless Solomon, but the most important thing was for Solomon to seek God’s kingdom first.