MORE ABOUT FAITH AND PRAYER
A. Introduction: Last week we began to address some misunderstandings about prayer and faith which are
popular in many Christian circles today. That lesson is part of a larger series we’ve been working on all
summer—learning to praise, pray, and thank God continually no matter what our circumstances are.
1. We pointed out that a lot of the popular preaching today focuses on how to get our prayers answered so
that we can be blessed, rather than on how to pray in a way that glorifies God.
a. This message gives people the idea that if you pray and believe in a certain way you can change your
circumstances, stop your problems, and get what you want out of life.
1. But the Bible makes it clear that many, if not most problems can’t be easily fixed or changed.
We live in a sin damaged world and there is no way to avoid problems, trials, pain, loss, and
death. Jesus Himself said that we will have tribulation in this world. John 16:33
2. Most mountains can’t be moved. We must learn to deal with the mountain (our circumstances)
through praise, thanksgiving, and continual prayer.
b. We addressed a Bible passage used to say that through our faith, we can move mountains and kill
fig trees. And we can have what we say, if we believe we have it before we see it. Mark 11:23-24
1. This misguided interpretation of the passage is man centered rather than God centered. It’s
about our technique and what we need to do to get what we want. It’s about us and our faith
rather than God’s greatness, majesty, goodness, and faithfulness.
2. The context of the statement makes it clear that this isn’t a blanket statement that anyone who
wants something, or wants to change something in their circumstances, can get it by using a it
technique: Speak and believe that you have received it before you see it and you will have it.
c. Jesus made this statement to men who had left all to follow Him (His apostles). Jesus was
preparing them for the hardships that they will face they go out to proclaim His death, burial, and
resurrection. He wasn’t teaching them how to use their faith to get what they want out of life.
1. Jesus was just a few days away from being crucified. He would soon return to Heaven and
send the apostles out to fulfill their mission. At this critical point, Jesus was assuring them
that God would help them, and get them through what lay ahead as they trusted in Him.
2. A year earlier, in the context of these men doing ministry, Jesus talked to them about mountain
moving faith. When the apostles were unable to cast a devil out of a boy, Jesus told them that
if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can move a mountain. Matt 17:14-20
A. Later, when the disciples asked Him to increase their faith He said: If you had faith (trust,
confidence in God) even as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, Be
pulled up by the roots, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you (Luke 17:6, Amp). B.
Mustard seed faith doesn’t refer to the size or type of faith—it refers to the object of your
faith. Faith is trust or confidence in someone. Jesus was assuring them that if their faith
is in Him, they can do what He has told them to do because He will provide the power.
C. Jesus wasn’t giving them a technique to get their prayers answered. He was urging them
to have constant, continual trust in God.
2. We have more to say tonight. First, I want to make a few points clear. I realize that some of what I said
last week is very different from the standard teaching that many of us have heard on Mark 11:23-24.
a. I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone. If you are moving mountains in your life on the
basis of Mark 11:23-24, I’m happy for you. However, very few people get the results they expect.
The mountain doesn’t move when they speak to it. And that has concerned me for a long time.
1. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in the importance of our words and learning to speak in line
with God’s Word. I certainly do believe it. But this has become a technique completely
disconnected from trust in Almighty God. It has become about our faith instead of His power.
2. Nor am I saying that we don’t have the authority to resist the devil and pray for people in the
name of Jesus, with an expectation that we’ll see results. I believe we can and should do both.
b. A number of you had good questions following last week’s lesson. Some of the questions centered
healing, since this verse is often used to tell people how to get healed.
1. Let me say clearly, I believe that it’s always God’s will to heal. But I also realize that not
everyone gets healed. I am troubled by the fact that we don’t see more healing—not
something that the doctors do—but genuine, supernatural healing by the power of God.
2. I’ll be the first to say I don’t know why more people aren’t healed. But I’m not willing to
ignore it or to pass it off to none of those people prayed correctly.
3. I believe lack of healing is due in part to the fact that there are so many non-biblical ideas and
techniques about faith, prayer, and healing. God can’t confirm this mess. I don’t have the
answers, but until we address these issues, I don’t believe we’re going to see much healing.
B. As further proof that Jesus was preparing these men for what lay ahead of them in Mark 11:23-24, look at
what Jesus said to them just two days later at the Last Supper. The Gospel of John gives us a lengthy record
of what Jesus told His apostles the night before He was crucified (John 13-17).
1. Jesus told them that He was going to His Father’s house (Heaven) to prepare a place for them, and that
when everything is ready, He would come and get them (John 14:2-3). Jesus exhorted them: Don’t be
troubled. You trust God, now trust me (John 14:1, NLT).
a. Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus replied that if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the
Father: My Father who lives in me does his work through me (John 14:10, NLT).
1. Jesus said that those who believe in Him will do the works He has done and greater works
because He was going to the Father (John 14:12). Keep in mind, Jesus is talking to the apostle
(apostle means one who is sent). He’ll send them out to do continue His work after He leaves.
2. Earlier in His ministry Jesus actually gave the apostles power to heal the sick and cast out
devils, then sent them out two by two, and provided them what they needed (a test run, if you
will). Jesus reminded them of this fact at the Last Supper. Luke 22:35
b. Jesus assured them that when He leaves, He will not leave them without help. He said that He and
the Father will send the Holy Spirit, who will live in and work through them. John 14:16-18
1. John 14:13-14—You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the
Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it (NLT).
2. After I am gone, as you stay faithful to me I, by the Holy Spirit in you, will help you fulfill your
ministry: Remain in me, and I will remain in you…those who remain in me, and I in them, will
produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5, NLT).
2. Then Jesus said: If you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you
like, and it will be granted (John 15:7, NLT). No one sitting with Jesus that night took this to mean: I
can get a new donkey cart or a new fishing boat. And, I can make all my troubles go away.
a. They would have understood Jesus to mean that they will have what they need to fulfill the
commission He has given them—go out and proclaim Him and His coming kingdom and do the
works that Jesus did in His name by His power.
b. We see this in operation two months later, after Jesus’ resurrection and return to Heaven. Peter and
John healed a man lame from birth in the name of Jesus. Peter commanded the man to get up and
what he said came to pass. He was able to continue the works of Jesus by the power of the Holy
Spirit. Acts 3:1-7
1. Mark 11:23-24 was addressed to a specific group of men for a very specific purpose. Jesus
promised to continue His works through them as they preached His resurrection and repentance
and remission of sin.
2. On this account, I am saying to you, All things whatever you are asking and praying for, be
believing that you received them, and they shall be yours (Mark 11:24, Wuest).
c. When we read the Book of Acts, the record of the apostles’ work as they went out to preach the
gospel we see that they don’t move every mountain or kill every fig tree. Nor do they stop storms
and change circumstances.
1. But as they proclaimed Jesus they did perform signs and wonders in His name by His power and
saw multitudes come to faith in Jesus.
2. It had nothing to do with fixing their circumstances or improving the quality of their lives. It
had to do with glorifying Almighty God and doing the works of Jesus.
C. Let’s address two other ideas that come from misinterpreting Mark 11:23-24—the idea that you must believe
that you have something before you see it and the idea that you can have whatever you say if you believe it.
1. We’ve turned this wonderful statement Jesus made into a strange teaching that the purpose of our faith
and prayer is to get things from God, rather than to commune with our Heavenly Father.
a. We’ve made it about technique and procedure, totally disconnected from faith (trust) in God. Say
the right words, the right way, the correct number of times, and you’ll have whatever you want.
b. I have taught some of these things in the past—and I was wrong. I don’t regret it because I did the
best I could with my level of understanding at the time, and there was some good in the teaching.
1. It has been many years since I taught any of this. As my knowledge of God’s Word grew I
began to realize these verses are used completely out of context, and actually make no sense.
2. We tell people that you must believe you are healed before you’re healed in order to be healed.
In other words you must believe you are something that you aren’t so you will become that.
2. No one in the Bible (Old or New Testament) believed that they had something they didn’t have before
they had it. No one believed that they were healed before they felt better. (Just read the gospels.)
a. It’s true that when Jesus healed some people, He commended their faith. But when we read these
accounts we see that the faith demonstrated looks nothing like popular teachings on Mark 11:23-24.
b. Consider one in Mark 5:25-34. A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years heard that Jesus
healed people, and she pushed her way through a crowd to get to Him. She kept saying: If I only
touch His garments, I shall be restored to health (v28, Amp).
1. Note that she knew she wasn’t healed at that point. But when she touched Jesus’ clothing:
Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel that she had been healed (v29, NLT).
2. She felt the effects of power flowing from Jesus into her body and restoring her. That’s when
she was healed. Jesus said her faith made her whole, her faith in Him, not her technique (v34).
c. Consider another one Mark 10:46-52. When Jesus and His apostles were on their way to Jerusalem
that last time, they passed by Jericho and Jesus healed two blind men, one named Bartimaeus.
1. As Jesus walked by, the men they cried out: Lord, Son of David (Messianic title) have mercy
on us. The crowd told them to be quiet, but they grew louder. Jesus asked them, what do you
want? They replied we want to see.
2. Not only did they not believe they were already healed, they kept asking for mercy (healing).
Jesus, moved with compassion, healed them saying, your faith has made you whole (v52).
3. Possibly you’re thinking, didn’t Abraham believe that he was a father before he was? No, he believed
that God would keep His promise to make him a father even though he and his wife were both too old.
a. Paul the apostle wrote: (Abraham) grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced
that God was able to do what he had promised (Rom 4:20, RSV).
b. People misuse a phrase in Rom 4:17 to say that we need to call what is not as though it were so that
it will become. However, the context makes it clear that that is not what the author (Paul) meant.
1. Paul was explaining that when God told Abraham that he was going to have a son, Abraham
believed what God told him, and God declared Abraham to be righteous. Rom 4:3
2. Paul then wrote: This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead
back to life and who brings into existence what didn’t exist before (Rom 4:17, NLT).
3. Paul wasn’t talking about something that Abraham did or that we can do. He was talking about
something that God did—made an impotent man and a barren women conceive a child.
4. Maybe you’re thinking: Can’t we decree and declare things with the words of our mouth, like it says in
Job 22:28—Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee (KJV).
a. We must read in context. Job was a man who suffered great loss (his wealth, children, and health).
Most of the book is a debate between Job and three friends as to why he experienced such suffering.
b. His friends concluded that Job was an unrighteous man, guilty of some act of unrighteousness. Job
argued that he has done no such thing. Job 22:28 is found in one of Job’s friend’s speeches.
1. Eliphaz told Job this calamity came on him because of his wickedness. Clean up your life,
and you’ll be restored. God will hear your prayers. “You will decide a matter, and it will be
established for you, and light will shine on your ways” (v28, ESV). The idea is that all will go
well for you if you admit your guilt.
2. All the men were wrong in their assessment of Job’s situation and their advice. The point for
us is that the verse has nothing to do with changing circumstances through our words.
D. Conclusion: I made this statement last week, but it bears repeating. We don’t have a blank check from
God to fulfill our dreams and stop our troubles through prayer, but we do have a blank check for His inward
help, peace, strength, and joy to deal with whatever life brings.
1. Life in a fallen world is very difficult and many (if not most) circumstances can’t easily be changed.
But when we learn to praise and thank God continually through prayer, as an expression of our trust and
confidence in Him, we will have peace of mind in the midst of life’s hardships.
a. We are to continually seek God for help—not begging Him to do something—but keeping our focus
on Him and thanking and praising Him because we’re certain of His help, since we know who He is
and what He does.
b. We trust God to work in our circumstances to bring the highest good to the greatest number of
people possible, along with the most glory to Himself. We leave the specifics and timing to Him.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask God for something more than once. Jesus said that we are to keep on asking,
seeking, and knocking. We are to persevere in prayer with the awareness that God sees, knows, and will
help you. Matt 7:7-11
a. This isn’t begging or trying to talk God into doing something. This is an earnest, heartfelt request,
and an expression of trust in and dependence on Him, because He is the only source of help.
b. Remember the two blind men who cried out to Jesus: Have mercy on us—not in unbelief but with
a dependence on Him and a certainty that He will help us. And Jesus did help them.
3. Learn to praise and thank God continually, in the good times and the bad. Praise and thanksgiving are
expressions of trust and faith in God. Let’s close this lesson with two passages that we’ve referred to in
a. Note how Paul prayed for Christians: We pray that you will be strengthened from God’s glorious
power, so that you will be able to pass through any experience and endure it with joy (Col 1:11, J. B.
b. The psalmist wrote: Whoso offereth praise glorifies me (KJV) and he prepares the way so that I
may show him my salvation (NIV) (Ps 50:23).