Prayers of Faith
Below is a submission by Mark pertaining to Faith prayers. He makes some good points on how we can damage our own faith when prayers aren’t answered. Here are a few scriptures that spoke to me while reading his submission –
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Isaiah 1:15-16 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
Matthew 17:20-21 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Lastly, I recommend these 3 posts –
How to get answered prayers Part 1
How to get answered prayers Part 2
Thank you Mark for sharing your experiences –
The answer (of how I had come to separate myself from God) came to me in this way, from a verse I sort of invented, because that is the way I had remembered the verse. It is this, from Heb. 11:6.
In my life I have seen as a result of the faith message, that because I understood that I was to seek Him, and rely upon Him for my heart’s necessities, and even believe that He would reward one such as I, even here, that a coldness can easily creep in, in a stealthy way against God when one believes he has met as well as he can the conditions of verses such as these, without seeing the promised blessings. In other words, when one believes that his faith is strong or at least acceptable enough, and yet answers to prayer seem to be set at bay, one begins to question the goodness of God. Because, after thirty years, if one can not make the faith teachings work well in his life, the subconscious has no recourse but to blame God. Which is to say that if it seems that I am complying with the dictates of the faith message, and that I have the requisite faith to receive answers to prayer, or at least am growing in faith in a way which God should approve, then something must be amiss, and it becomes easy for the undercurrents of thought to assemble themselves against God and His goodness. In short, because answers to prayer were not forthcoming, and I had been promised that they would, my spirit became crushed under the weight of the belief that God was not such a friend as I had been taught.
When one believes he or she has met such conditions as laid down in the faith message, and yet answers to prayer are not, and times of travail are ever flowing, and God seems to show His blessings through testings which steal the fire of love for God, the heart learns to shut down and it informs the subconscious quite loudly, that surely God is almost mocking your faith; even though consciously I would never allow myself to dwell on such things and thoughts for a time. But thoughts concerning God crept in upon me, and I had no way to say, “but surely these thoughts are fictional, just look at the joy God has given me”. And how could I think such a good thing when joy always seemed to be hiding in someone else’s backyard and not to be found in any end of the rainbow that came my way?
But then recently God reminded me of this verse, which was basically saying (to me) that for God to bless me I must understand with every fiber of my inner being that GOD IS GOOD. Nothing else matters in our walk if we do not see this clearly. I had never really let that thought of His goodness blossom in my heart. I can believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him all I want, but if I have let myself forget that GOD IS GOOD and there is NO BEING THAT HAS GOODNESS LIKE GOD, then my faith must not reach its end, because God can not reward me fully until I understand that there is nothing that God would rather do than pal around with me and show Himself friend-worthy and blast me with blessings, except for the fact that there are those things which restrain His blessings toward us.
What I had let myself forget is that God so wants to be trusted because He wants every experience of our life to flow with Him, just like you and I want to bless others at times. BUT MORE SO WITH HIM. WE DO NOT BLESS OTHERS NECESSARILY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IN US or because we promised we would and now we are obliged by our promise. WE BLESS OTHERS WHEN WE DO BECAUSE WE ARE INSPIRED BY GOD’S AGAPE LOVE TO DO SO. AND IT IS THE SAME WITH GOD. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE OF HIS GOODNESS WHICH HE CAN NOT RESTRAIN THAT HE DESIRES TO BLESS FIERCELY. If we believe that He will answer our prayers, it does not make it so unless we believe that He answers prayers simply because it is joy for Him to do so. We should understand that He wants us to know that we can restrain His goodness when we do not see His immense heart of graciousness which He so greatly desires to have pulsing in us. This is not meant to reinforce the faith message; sometimes it seems that prayers are not answered. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT GOD DOES NOT WANT TO ANSWER THE PRAYER. It only means that there is some restraint upon Him which serves to keep Him from doing that which He has the power and desire to do. He is bound by certain restrictions which He has allowed to affect His family upon earth.
Just as when someone falsely accuses us of doing something wrong, and we protest because we prefer to be seen by others as having better intents than that, so also does God want to be viewed as having extremely good intent regardless of what occurs in this world or in our life.
Comparing Two Ways of Prayer
To make this more clear, I compare two ways of prayer. The first way of prayer is for me, self focused, and here are the steps involved in this prayer:
I may praise God that the need will be met by Him (as we were taught by faith teachers). I am not praising Him for Who He is primarily, I am simply using praise to manipulate God into answering my prayer. I may listen to videos or teachings which will substantiate my belief that I can manipulate God by having faith in His word and in His promises regarding answered prayers.
If the answers to prayer are too few and years drag on without relief, anger at God may set in. There is a sense of wonder at whether God has abandoned me. These emotions are kept under check and under the surface as I keep telling myself that God will pull through for me someday.
And so I Absorb myself in the love of God for me. He wants to bless everything about me, but some blessings will wait until heaven arrives fully. His heart of blessing is not changed by our passing into heaven. He does not wish to hold out on us while we abide on earth and then change His mind after our passing and then decide He really wants to bless us in heaven. His desire to bless is unconditional. The most practical way of sensing His love for me is to understand that He would love to be closer to me, and to respond to my every serious desire and need. Thankfulness towards Him becomes more natural as I understand that He wants to answer my prayers in every detail, if that were possible on earth.
3a)If the prayer is answered, I acknowledge that it is because of His goodness and mercy alone. It is not my faith in His promises for me which has bought the answer to prayer, it is only doubt against Him and His intentions toward me which interferes in the answer to prayer. I can only interfere in the answer to prayer. God would love to answer more prayer except for the interference which we as humanity give Him.
3b) If the prayer is not answered in the way I would have liked, I trust in Him to supply me with joy regardless of the outcome. I do not blame myself for unanswered prayer even though I may somehow be hindering the answer to prayer. I can not blame myself because I can not be sure if the source of the hindrance to answered prayer springs from within me or without.
And so the enveloping ourselves in God’s love for us becomes a foundation for mature prayer. It acknowledges God’s power and desire to answer all prayer, even though such prayers may not be answered as we wish. Because He wants to answer our prayer, it is easier to love Him, because His love is not completely impractical…it is a love which wants to touch us on earth.
Not a Diatribe Against Faith Teachers
For purposes of the unity of faith in the Body of Christ, I do not wish to imply that the faith message as it is usually taught is necessarily inappropriate for all believers. There are those who have gifts of healing, faith, and miracles (1 Cor. 12: 9,10).
People with these gifts may tend to see almost everything that has visited earth since the fall of mankind as being supplied through the hand of the enemy. Thus, they may take a very aggressive stance against diseases, oppressions of any nature, financial deprivations, and even acts of nature such as hurricanes etc. The trick for the believer is to acknowledge in truth whether following the more mature faith teachings as they are presented to us is beneficial for them individually. For some who have had continued serious physical or other serious difficulties, it is very satisfying to the ego for a time to believe in these teachings, until one finds that God is not honoring the prayers being offered up in the way which would seem in accordance with faith teachings. And so every believer needs to find their own niche in God, to learn how God wants them to relate to Him. There are some who are at home with God more when they surround themselves with the knowledge of His promises toward us.
Also, this is not a diatribe against the teachings of those like Joni Eareckson Tada, who has suffered greatly through physical handicap. There are those who have offered up their prayers to God as strenuously as they are able, and yet have not received needed breakthroughs in answer to prayer. These ministers of God should be upheld and not looked down upon by those in the faith movement lest they be taken in by a spirit of condescension. For those who may look down upon her teachings (that God is to be looked at primarily as one Who gives strength within difficulties) I would say, pray for her and see if your faith can heal her. And if you must blame her difficulties on her lack of faith, pray for her faith. To walk in love is better than walking in faith without love.
Hope this meets someones heart. Mark
Even though this writing is rather long, I would like to add a few things for clarity.
First, a response to a scripture Joseph has provided (thanks for posting this Joseph).
As far as James 4:3 (see intro, above) is concerned, it seems to me that instead of a gift of faith primarily, I have a “gift” of pride. God restrains His blessings towards me to a degree because there is this thing in me that wants to believe I am better than others, and that if God answers prayers for me, it just confirms that belief for me. And so I receive not because I would tend consume it upon my lust of ego, which is to say I have something in me that wishes to idolize myself for having had an answer to prayer. I have recognized this to be a problem for years and God’s Spirit is chipping away at this pride, but it is an ever constant companion with which I must contend. There is something in me that wants to see me as good, or better than others, rather then to see that God is Good.
So, the point being that there will be some in the Body who have greater hindrances to prayer, even if they are attempting to deal with and pray over these hindrances.
It is not so much my lack of faith which hinders, it is my lack of faith in God being Good. The faith message had me look at how I relate to what prayer I wanted answered, whereas God wants me to look at how I relate to Him when I am in prayer.
For those who are being blessed greatly as a result of faith or any other teachings, may God continue to bless. Mark
Ya, spiritual pride.. I recall going through some examining of self on this topic. My issue pertained to after an answered prayer..
After analyzing it, I found that it was joy of the Lord. Even on this website, I had to question my motive all the time.. pray.. knock.. seek. Originally, He guided me to share the things He reveals to me.. Every time I asked during my gut check, He would say the same thing.. continue to share.
I realized.. if I’m going to boast.. I’m going to boast about my Lord and what He does for His children. It is very exciting and joyful to have the Lord move in my life and answer prayers. It borderlines on spiritual pride, and I have to always keep myself in check w/ Him..
Joseph, isn’t this desire to boast based on the idea we are not up to snuff for God?
And aren’t there countless ways we try to appear as though we are good enough for God?
In my days of going to faith churches (not at all to diminish them) I felt as if I just wasn’t good enough because…
1) The gift of praying in a prayer language wasn’t flowing well in me, as if it was a requirement, a precondition for being loved by God. (Now I no longer force myself to pray this way…which is to say as God lets I pray.)
(Which is to say, let everyone be allowed to pray in the way which edifies them, not in the way which edifies even many others. What works for some will not work for all. We should not be stamped into preset modes. But if praying in whatever particular manner is blessing you greatly, then continue as Spirit leads.)
2) And, frankly, none of the other blessings promised were being received in a way which would be considered abundantly. Yet it seemed as though the joy and blessings others had were not imitation, but often quite real.
And I compared myself to others who seemed to be more loved by God, because they were being blessed in a way that I did not see within me. And in this comparison I fell quite short. And when one sees that it seems as though God has put you on a shelf, labeled “to be blessed…later”, and that later was decades in coming, it simply accentuates the idea that you are God’s throwaway child.
As I have been reassessing the teachings of faith which I received (teachings which were nevertheless necessary) I have seen that there grew in me the idea that blessings were the visible badges of God’s acceptance of me. And that if I was not blessed, obviously God was not too pleased with me. And so I comforted myself somewhat in the manner that Job’s comforters did. (Not that my station could be compared to Job’s, and frankly his strength was greater than mine.) I downgraded myself based on my outward appearance.
I prayed for better health, and it is fine that I did. But there were two reasons I wanted the blessing. One for the obvious reason of health, the other…to feel as though I was living the life worthwhile, as though living “in disease” could not possibly further God’s will for me. The point of a disease was its eradication through faith, and not that I might grow strong in weakness, because the weak were not necessarily exalted in this church setting.
I have seen that I idolized the blessings. They were what would make my life acceptable to myself. It was not the presence of God within that made me acceptable, it was the outward show of glory for others that made me thus. Blessings were badges of promotions by God. I wanted the badge.
Since I idolized the blessing, how could God bless?
I have to realize that…
1) If I live in poverty, it is not a badge of dishonor. And if I live in wealth, it is not a badge of honor.
2) If I do not flow well in the appropriate, trendy, and more popular gifts of the Spirit, it is merely quite possible that it is acceptable for this time.
3) If I live in a state of outward non-blessing, well then, blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. And blessed are the meek, whose strength is subtle, for they shall inherit the earth. And blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a righteousness found only within.
Is it not possible that living in a low estate only serves to bless my latter estate, that God will wipe away all tears eventually with blessings that gravitate into the future? Is it not possible that your blessings in heaven are partly dependent on how difficult things were on earth for you? Luke 1:46-48, “My soul (Mary’s) magnifies the Lord…for He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” Also Luke 16:25, “But Abraham replied, Son (talking to a rich ungenerous) remember that in your lifetime you had everything…and Lazarus (who ate crumbs from his table) had nothing. So now (therefore, as a result) he is here being comforted (in Abraham’s bosom).
Does not God in His righteousness think, “He had it tough on earth, and He did not run away from my voice. Therefore, to make it up to him or her, I will bless even further because of the trials.” Doesn’t God desire to even everything out that all may see that no trial was wasted?
Though the body may be scattered to the wind, may I yet see God. Let my life be scattered to the heavens.
Though the circumstances press upon the ego, and the comfort buttons, and there seem to be no elevation in them, may I yet see God.
Though I seem weak, yet may I gain quiet and meek strength.
May I learn to ask mostly for the blessing which God seeks to give at this time, whether the blessing be internal or external. May I not look at the day of slow beginnings, of inner foundational work, and despise it. May I see God’s hand evident in all tests that surround my soul.
May I see. All is well. Unleash the well spring of soul, and see that all is as it should be, as we follow the quiet strength. Mark
Joseph, I reread your comment, and of course, at the beginning of my comment I was referring to how we boast of self sometimes…just saying this to avoid confusion. Mark
It is the strangest thing but I think I’ve had to turn my back to a degree on faith teachings in order to understand the truth lying beneath them.
What I used to have faith in was the Doctrine itself, that is, if I believed, then I could receive what I wanted from God. God came in last place in my understanding of the doctrine, just as He is mentioned as the last word in the sentence above, after using the word “I” rather liberally. Who really, for me, was this doctrine about?
I was in love with, and idolized my doctrine, because it promised everything I could want. Therefore I had to lay that doctrine aside for a season.
I used to think I could produce enough faith, I thought, to qualify for the blessing. All I had to do was have faith in my ability to have faith. It was all under my control. What could stop me?
Life did a pretty good job of stopping me.
So now I have seen, “Lord, help my unbelief”, (Mark 9:24). It is not about any production of holiness or faith on my part. It is only allowing God to displace my way of thinking, and to let His way of thinking and seeing eradicate my interference in His handiwork.
Now I see that faith is something which God grants. I only pursue Him in order that He may grow within. It requires a childlike faith which only God can give. Christianity requires only an acceptance of Him within me, He does the work, not me.
I am being crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live. (Gal 2:20)
It is not the faith I can work up that lives. I can work no faith. I can work no deliverance, no healing, no miracles. Only God can do this in me when I have agreed to my own disappearance in this act in which God plays my part for me as I allow Him to evaporate me and my supposed (self- produced) faith.
I am the robot, he is the technician, the owner, and designer, and maker. He has given me a soul and spirit which I borrow from Him for eternity. The robot lives to Him.
He will fix the robot. But He will do it in His time. He wanted to fix some few glitches that I didn’t think were that important first.
P.S. Someone was praying for me, after reading this site. I could feel it. Joseph was that you? Joseph, you dog you!! (:
I missed this post Mark, this was very very good. I’m hopeful that others read it.. Your post defines what it means to “believe” in Christ.
Not sure if I was praying for you.. but if you felt it, I’m sure someone was. :)
Thanks for your contributions Mark, much appreciated.