Summary: What did Jesus mean when He spoke of all things being possible in prayer if only we have faith?
A CRY FROM OUR HEART: “Why wasn’t my prayer answered?”
- We look at our situation, whatever it may be, and wonder why our prayer wasn’t answered.
- We really wanted that job, but we didn’t get it.
- We really wanted to get pregnant this month, but it didn’t happen.
- We really wanted to find that person to share our life with, but it was just another lousy date.
- We really wanted to quit getting bullied in the lunchroom, but it happened again.
- We really wanted to get a good test result back, but it wasn’t.
- And in the wake, we ask: “Why wasn’t my prayer answered?”
THEN ADD SOME GUILT TO MY CONFUSION: Jesus seems to say that the problem is that I don’t have enough faith.
- As though it wasn’t bad enough that I’m unsure why my prayer wasn’t answered, Jesus then seems to pile on by proclaiming this seemingly open-ended promise about faith. We read it and feel like saying, “Great, it’s not bad enough that I’m disappointed and confused that my prayer wasn’t answered, but now I’m supposed to feel guilty that everything would have worked out perfectly if only I’d had more faith.”
THE BIG IDEA - HOW CAN I HAVE MORE FAITH? Familiarity breeds faith.
- Our focus in these verses tends to be v. 23 with the great promise that Jesus gives. For us, though, it is these closing verses that give the insight we need.
- The disciples get Jesus alone and ask the question that’s on our hearts as well: “Why didn’t our faith bring the answer we wanted?”
- Jesus responds by saying, “This kind of situation can only be handled with prayer and fasting.” There is some question among translators whether the phrase “and fasting” authentically belongs there, but that question is really irrelevant for our discussion today.
- Jesus is not saying, “In the moment of your problem, when you are faced with that child in need, you should have prayed. Why didn’t you all think to pray? You should have asked My Father for help?”
- That’s not the problem. Undoubtedly when the disciples were trying to cast out the demon, they appealed to God. Undoubtedly they prayed fervently. Undoubtedly they called on God’s name.
- The problem isn’t that they failed to pray in that moment of crisis.
- The problem is that they hadn’t adequately prayed in preparation for that moment of crisis.
- What Jesus is saying here is that what the disciples lacked was a close relationship with their Father in heaven. What Jesus is saying is that the answers to these situations come to those who have prayed regularly and intimately and have therefore built up a closer relationship to God.
- Why does it work like that? Because familiarity breeds faith.
- We want faith to be something we can just conjure up in a moment of need, but true faith is based on trust and experience.
- I have faith in you because I have trust in you. I have talked to you countless times. I have seen your faithfulness and your consistency. I know that you can be trusted. Therefore, when I ask in faith, my familiarity with you has created a trust in you that allows me to have great faith in you.