Prayer without faith is a pathetic shell of a thing, a bullet without gunpowder, an explosive without dynamite. Again and again, Scripture urges us to believe. Whatever side of the sword we are using – whether beseeching the Father or addressing spiritual forces of wickedness – we are to believe that our words are being heard and that the desired result will swiftly follow.
Jesus emphasised this in response to his disciples reacting with amazement when a fruitless fig tree withered away after He had rebuked it. “And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither away so soon?’ So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive’” (Matthew 21:19-22). Do you see how Jesus addresses both edges of the sword? First, He refers to the warfare side that involves speaking to a mountain. Consider the devilish mountains of sickness, lack, bondage, violence and the like. Then, He refers to the beseeching side that involves praying to the Father. “Whatever you ask in prayer,” He decrees. In both instances, He urges the believer to take action – whether asking or declaring – with a faith-filled heart.
James addresses the importance of faith-filled asking. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). Could James have been any clearer? I think not! Here, he speaks specifically about asking for wisdom. Yet, he could really have been speaking about asking for the manifestation of any God-given promise. Clearly, when we are praying according to the will of God, we must add our faith to the mix.
When Paul spoke about the armour of God in Ephesians 6 and the sword of the Spirit – the word of God – which we have already discussed, he avidly instructed the taking up of the shield of faith: “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darks of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). A shield and sword work together, one being held in each hand. If shield or sword is dropped or lost, the other can only do so much before the fighter is overcome by whatever adversary is attacking them. We are to pray the word and believe the word. We are to speak the word and believe the word. The word of God and faith in God were designed to work together!
What kind of faith does God require? Perhaps a level of belief that can only be acquired through years of biblical study, belonging solely to the most mature of believers? Of course not! The faith God requires is a simple, childlike confidence that as our Father, He will hear our cry and act on our behalf. You have this faith – I assure you!
Prayer and Praise
In his letter to the church in Colosse, Paul instructed His readers: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). Here, the apostle paired prayer with praise. Again in Philippians, he did the same: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). In Acts, we see Paul practising what he preached. We read how he and Silas were both praying and singing songs to the Lord while in prison. “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26). Now, I am not going to teach here on the power of praise and worship. That is another topic entirely! What I am going to emphasise is that praying to God and adoring God are meant to be used like two legs walking together. Beseeching the Father and addressing the forces of darkness require energy. Loving God restores energy. If one flows between the two, moving from the one to the other and back again, it is easy to spend even extended periods in prayer, without losing steam.
Now, loving Him can take a variety of forms. It may involve listening to worship music and meditating on the words. It may involve singing to the Lord yourself, whether out loud or making melody in your heart to Him (Ephesians 5:19) – a favourite pastime of mine, not being blessed with a pretty singing voice! It may involve no singing or music at all but rather, simply telling Him how much you love Him and thanking Him for His goodness and faithfulness. It may involve just being silent before Him, fixing your spiritual eyes on His beauty and majesty. There are no rules here. Love Him and then present your requests. Present your requests and then love Him. Rebuke the forces of darkness and then love Him still more. Do you see? This is how we continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. This is how we cut with both edges of the sword while remaining strong in the Lord and the power of His might. He is our strength. When our focus is on Him, we remain steadfast and immovable. Amen and amen!
This is the last part in our TEACH US TO PRAY series. I trust you have been mighty blessed and edified by it!