Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taking Hold of Answered Prayer

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 ESV)

“Therefore” is there for a reason. Jesus was teaching the disciples something very important about faith and doubt and moving mountains.

Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. (Mark 11:22-23)
The truth here is that we can have what we say when we believe what we say and do not doubt it in our hearts. Now Jesus applies this to prayer:
  • Whatever you ask in prayer. The Greek words that make up “whatever” here mean just that: whatever. There is no request too big for God to handle nor too small for God to care about. The word for “ask” is about what you desire, request, crave or call for. The word for “prayer” is a form of the verb proseuchomai. It is pressing in toward God with your request.
  • Believe that you have received it. Notice carefully here that Jesus does not say, “Believe that God can answer it.” There is an often-quoted saying: “Faith is not believing that God can; it is knowing that God will.” Jesus puts it even finer edge on it here. What are we to believe when we make our request to God in prayer? Not that we will receive it (future tense) but that we have received it (aorist tense, signifying completed action).
  • And it will be yours. What we have secured by praying and believing we have received will eventually show up. “Faith is the substance [underlying reality] of things hoped for [anticipated, expected]” (Hebrews 11:1). We can expect it to come.
Now for the word of the day. I want to talk about “received.” The Greek verb is lambano. It is not a passive word, as we often tend to think about receiving something. It is active. It means to “take hold of.” Whatever we desire or ask when we pray, we are to believe that we have taken hold of it. In Hebrews 11:1, the Greek word for “substance,” hypostasis, was often used to refer to the title-deed for a piece of land. If you held the title-deed to a property, it was the proof that that property was yours.

In prayer, we are to believe, that is, exercise faith, that we have “taken possession” of whatever we have asked. We are to count it as a “done deal.” Even the word we often close our prayers with shows this. When we say, “Amen,” it is not a polite, religious way of saying “Over and out,” or “See You later, God.” It is a powerful word that expresses faith. It is akin to the Hebrew word aman, which is about believing. It is a word of assurance, as when Jesus would often say, “Truly;” in the Greek text the word is amen (actually an Aramaic term). When you say “Amen” at the end of your prayers, let it be a word of faith that what you have just asked God for in prayer, and believed you have taken hold of, is truly yours and will come to pass. That is the assurance Jesus gives.

2 comments:

  1. I've always struggled with these passages a bit for one reason: God's will. If I, for instance, pray that a sick relative will recover, but it is God's will that he/she pass and join Him in Heaven, then no amount of praying/believing on my part will change that.
    I can't seem to see how the two fit together as neatly as the passages imply. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong though. Any thoughts for me? Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for your question, Debbie. It is a very good one.

    Jesus will never contradict the will of God or teach His disciples to do so. He begins this section with, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22), so this is all about God’s will. Paul said that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Word of God reveals the will of God, so faith comes by knowing the will of God. John said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). It is the will of God, revealed in the Word of God, that gives us the confidence, the faith, to believe for it to come to pass.

    Now, we need to understand something about the will of God. There are things that God wills or desires, and there are things that God allows. For example, God allowed Adam to sin against Him, but it was obviously not His desire for Adam to do so.

    God has allowed much evil to continue in the world, even though Jesus came to deal with sin and evil and to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and even though God has given us the authority of Jesus’ name, the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to address these things. However, often the problem is that God’s people have not adequately learned how to stand in this authority and wield this power in prayer and faith. We have not adequately understood the will of God about a great many things and have tended to make our prayers about “IF it be Thy will,” as if God has not revealed His will about much of anything.

    Don’t get me wrong. “If it be Thy will” is a wonderful prayer of consecration, and very appropriate , for example, when we are looking for divine guidance or something like that. And of course, Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). He was yielding Himself to the Father’s will. But have you noticed, this is the only time we see Him praying that kind of prayer? We never see Him praying this way when He is healing the sick, casting out demons or performing any number of miracles.

    Where the rubber often meets the road for us is in the kind of situation you bring up in your comment. We pray for people to be healed in Jesus’ name — and they do not recover, or they may even pass over into glory. Does that mean we were praying for something that was not God’s will? My short answer is that I do not think so. I find that there are a great many Scriptures that consistently reveal God’s desire to heal His people. In fact, I’ve written a book about them, Healing Scriptures and Prayers. And I see the will of God supremely revealed in the ministry of Jesus the Messiah, who never turned away anyone who came to Him or was brought to Him for healing. The repeated testimony of Scripture is that He healed them all.

    So I believe that it is God’s desire to heal. Even so, I think He does allow people to remain sick. There may be a number of things that can hinder healing, but I do not think lack of desire on God’s part is one of them. So when I pray for people to be healed, I will always latch on to God’s desire to heal and stand on the Scriptures where that desire is revealed. And if healing does not come, I will not look for the fault in God, as if He did not want to heal.

    When I think about the will of God, I think of how Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). I consider what heaven looks like, because that is where the will of God is being done fully and completely. For example, is any there sickness in heaven? Of course not; it is a place of health and wholeness. So wherever I encounter sickness on earth, I will pray for healing, that the will of God be done on earth — in the body or soul of the afflicted one — as it is being done in heaven.

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