Little Johnny was a 5 year old rambunctious little guy. He told his daddy he wanted to be a brother and his dad told him, “Pray every night for a little brother or sister and I guarantee God will give you one.” Johnny prayed every night! But after a month he got a little skeptical and quit praying. Months later his mother went to the hospital. When she came back home Johnny’s parents called him into the room. Johnny came in and there on the bed was a little bundle and his mom and dad said, “Congratulations little Johnny, you’re a brother!” They pulled back the blanket and not only was there one little brother, there were two–Twins! His dad looked at him with a big grin and said, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” All little Johnny could say was, “Whew, dad! You better be glad I stopped praying when I did!”
Mark 11:24-25 (TNIV)
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Jesus is our example for prayer and we should take His wisdom to heart. However to fully understand prayer, we must look at the big picture and not cherry-pick verses that we like. In verse 24, Jesus seems to be saying that anything we ask for we will receive, no matter what it is….which means…..regardless of whether it is good or bad for us, or whatever the case might be.
Let’s look at another verse concerning prayer:
Mark 14:36 (TNIV, Jesus is speaking)
“Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Here are a few more things we find as we look at the wisdom of Jesus concerning prayer in these verses:
1. Our prayers must be prayers of faith…… which involves taking our prayers to the Father. You may be saying, “Well, duh!”, however, as a pastor, you don’t know how many people I come across that want God to help them but they will not go to God in prayer. Can’t figure that out…..unless it has to do with….a lack of true faith.
Additionally, we must be willing to accept God’s guidance and wisdom. “Lord, please bless my ministry” as I use bootleg software on my computer. “Please Lord, bless my marriage”, as it was born out of adultery. You get the idea. My point is, if you are not applying God’s wisdom, (don’t steal, don’t commit adultery), then you obviously don’t have the faith to believe that God owns the outcome……you are trying to control the outcome with no regard for God’s wisdom.
2. Our prayers must be prayers of expectation. Simply put, if we don’t have faith that it can happen, it probably won’t.
3. Most importantly, it is important to understand that the prayers of bitter people cannot penetrate the walls of their own bitterness in their heart.
Again, if we harbor bitterness for anyone in our heart, do we really have faith that God owns the outcome? Forgiving others is hard work. It’s funny to me that to some people I talk to, they would rather do something really hard…..run for miles, work in the sun all day, wash the dishes for a week (for you men reading this, LOL), change dirty diapers….most anything….rather than struggle to forgive someone they feel has wronged them.
I heard it said best like this: “True faith changes the heart. Real prayer dismantles pride and vengeance, filling the holes with love. Real faith seeks peace.”
Lastly, I want to say this about prayer: When we have true faith, we look for the blessing instead of what WE want.
I had a friend, Marcia that passed away last year of cancer. Yes, I wanted her to live longer. However, I saw the blessing. She had cancer for quite some time and it wracked her body. If she had died a couple of years earlier, she would have died alone and homeless……as it stood, without going into the whole incredible story….she passed away after finding the one true love of her life…a man that treated her good and cared about her rather than cared about only using her for their financial gain. God, indeed, Jesus, blessed her immensely and now she is in His arms.
Faith, faith, and more faith involves loving, loving and more loving……Jesus!
ADDITIONAL NOTE: You might notice that verse 26 in not included in most modern translation. If you are interested, you can read why here.