Summary: What does unanswered prayer say about our level of faith? Many of us believe we're walking in more faith than we really are.
A couple of years ago I came face to face with a very sobering and heart-wrenching revelation: my faith was not where I thought it was.
But I didn’t know that until “I didn’t see” the faith results I was seeking. I had convinced myself that my faith was at a place where it was not.
A very dear childhood friend had fallen into a coma and her doctors were guardedly optimistic. I prayed for her recovery and healing. That’s what a person of faith does who believes in the power of prayer. She died.
When I read verses like Mark 11:24 – Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them – I believe them. So, why didn’t my prayers get answered?
The Bible had the answer. But it was not easy to hear.
Do you remember the story of the father who brought his lunatic son to the disciples for healing? The record is found in Matthew 17.
(14) And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
(15) Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for oftimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
(16) And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
(17) Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
(18) And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
(19) Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
The disciples’ question in verse 19 caught my attention. “Why couldn’t we cast out the devil?” The father brought his son to the disciples because he believed they could cure him. The disciples had the same expectation. Why? The answer is found in Matthew 10:1.
And when he (Jesus) had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
The disciples had cast out devils before. So why was this devil different? Was he more powerful than the others? Was he uglier? Ladies and gentlemen, the devil was not the issue.
I’m going to make this personal: “Jesus, why didn’t my prayers get answered?” Like the disciples, I expected my prayers would be answered because many had been answered before.
I’m sure the disciples didn’t expect the answer that Jesus would give. I certainly didn’t.
Returning to Matthew 17. Look at the first part of verse 20 – And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief.
The disciples’ lack of faith was the issue. Barry’s lack of faith was the issue. I had faith. The disciples had faith. We just didn’t have not enough. Jesus’ response was straightforward, not sugarcoated and to the point. He didn’t give the disciples a pass. He didn’t give me a pass. He won’t give you a pass.
Jesus laid the responsibility for the child not being delivered squarely on the disciples.
Simply put, the disciples didn’t have enough faith to cast out the devil. Please let this sink in.
Now look at the truth Jesus gives the disciples (and Barry and you) to deal with the unbelief.
(20) And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
(21) Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
The first thing Jesus tells the disciples: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed ... nothing shall be impossible to you.”
We have wrongly taught “mustard seed faith” in the Church.
Four chapters earlier in Matthew 13, Jesus gives the parable of the mustard seed.
(31) Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
(32) Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
We have been taught that all we need is a little faith – like a grain of mustard seed – to see God move. But that is not what Jesus is teaching. He didn’t tell the disciples that a little faith is all they needed to cast out the devil. Instead, He paints a picture of the type of faith they needed in this situation.