I have prayed prayers that moved mountains and I have prayed prayers that God answered with a different response. However, I have seen some things in common with the ones that moved mountains (as well as ones that met with a different response). The key is, still, humbly, I go to God in prayer and delight in His answer, whether it is the answer I wanted or not. The point is…there is no formula….but there is your heart……….. in humility loving the Father……….indeed, loving Jesus!
Mark 11:20-23 (TNIV)
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” 22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.
First, just a little insight to Jesus’ specific words above, I heard it best said like this, “This mountain (referring to the Mount of Olives on which they stood) could be sent into the sea (the Dead Sea, that could be seen from the Mount). Jesus’ point was that in their petitions to God they must believe without doubting (that is, without wavering in their confidence in God). The kind of prayer Jesus meant was not the arbitrary wish to move a mountain; instead, he was referring to prayers that the disciples would need to endlessly pray as they faced mountains of opposition to their gospel message in the years to come. Their prayers for the advancement of God’s kingdom would always be answered positively–in God’s timing.”
Let me tell you about a girl named Katie that I met some years ago. At 14 years old her mother taught her to shoot up Oxycodone to get high. Over time her father and some brothers had all overdosed and died. I met her at Crossroads as she was going through recovery. She once told me, “Pastor Jan, I have been doing what you told me, folding a towel and kneeling on it every morning and praying. But sometimes God just still seems far away.” I also remember telling her, “Katie, maybe you’re just trying too hard…..He is there, the key is to simply be in relationship with God, and this takes time.”
Months later she finished recovery she rented a room in a friend’s home to further help in her transition. She was a single mother but her husband had the kids. He was still toxic for her recovery as he drank and did drugs. She was doing well, getting along and working through these many issues. And then her car broke down. Without a car she couldn’t work, without work she couldn’t pay her rent and without rent she would have nowhere to stay. She called me. We looked into fixing her car, it was basically totaled and not worth fixing. BUT, I clearly remember her telling me, “Pastor Jan, I just need to trust God”. It’s funny, because at that moment I knew in my heart that she was beginning to really get it!
I wrestled with trying to get a car and finally said to our Communications Director, Kel, that I needed to put something on FaceBook. It was a longshot. Kel said, “I’ll do it!” and posted a request for a car on FaceBook. Seven minutes later (I kid you not!) I received an email from a friend of mine, Heather. She had a car sitting in her driveway that she didn’t know what to do with. And it ran! Two days later this car was in Katie’s hands. Her prayer was answered.
In all fairness, it was not all, “and they lived happily ever after”. Katie months later relapsed after some deep trouble with her husband, went up to Jacksonville and entered another rehab program in which she became a house mother of those in recovery. I only heard from her once since in a text message thanking me for helping her those years.
My point in telling you the ending is that NO PRAYER solves all things, but each prayer stands on its own. Life is a process not winning a prize.
I also had a friend looking for a job that was living in my home. He was not a believer and I spent many hours answering his questions and discussing my life with Jesus. His response was, “If I apply all these lessons that Jesus shares that you talk about (humility, kindness, forgiveness, etc.), but I still don’t believe, won’t that help?” Sadly, my response was that he had missed the point. Jesus isn’t a self-help program, he is our Savior in which we are to apply the first lessons….humility and surrender to His will. I remember offering, a few times in fact, to pray with him for that job. I also remember his well-meaning response each time as he sat there with warm smile on his face, “Jan, if I decide to pray about it, you will be the first one I come too!”
What kind of prayer moves mountains you ask? I have seen a few things that are shared in these two stories one way or another (as well as prayer in general):
1. We must first have surrendered our will to Jesus. We must believe and be seeking a relationship with Him. You say, well that’s not fair! I say, well, one of the truths in life is that life simply isn’t fair. I am certainly willing to pay for my children’s upbringing, but no, I don’t pay for everyone else’s. I have no bad intention. It’s just reality.
2. We must not hold a grudge against anyone in life. Truth is, one of the biggest blessings in life is to forgive. Those who don’t forgive can’t even see the truth in that statement.
3. We must not pray with selfish motives. This, interestingly enough is a heart condition. You may be able to fool those around you….but Jesus sees our hearts. Unselfish motives unclog the arteries and are good for a healthier heart.
4. Our request must always be for the good of God’s kingdom. (On an individual level as an example above….Katie went on to become a house mother and help other in recovery heal)
5. Our request must always be in line with God’s will and accepting of whatever that will might be. If we are not willing to accept His answer to our request, knowing it will be in His best judgment, then we really haven’t surrendered to His love, right? I always say that I would rather have what God wants for me than what I want for me because what I want for me often doesn’t work out (I always seem to make mistakes and can’t always see the big picture!). But what God wants for me works out in the long run.
The bottom line is, to pray effectively, we must have faith in God, indeed, faith in Jesus……not faith in the object that we are praying for.