It would seem at first quite unnecessary to speak of the need of faith in relation to prayer. Would one pray if one did not believe in God’s willingness to hear and answer? In actual practice however, we find that
there is often much prayer with little or no faith that prayer will be heard and answered. The truth of the matter is that it is easier to pray than it is to believe. The reason is to be found in the fact that prayer is
the human side of the matter, while faith puts it over on the divine side. We all by nature (I do not say by grace; grace is another matter) have a high regard for our own doing, whereas we are blind to the operations of God. Furthermore, faith is in proportion to our obedience and the purity of our lives and motives, John in his first Epistle states it in this fashion: “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God,” the inference being that if our hearts condemn us, we just cannot work up real
So we are driven back to the first law of prayer: the Atonement. The moment we get our eyes off Calvary real faith goes by the board. It is only as we see our way clear to a satisfactory straightening out of our accounts before God (and how can that ever be apart from the Cross where our sins were dealt with and put away forever) that we are in a position to come boldly before the throne of grace with the burning requests of our hearts.
Faith comes quite naturally to one who is waiting in the pathway of obedience to his Lord and is enjoying His ungrieved presence. We read in I Corinthians twelve, where we have that most classic passage on the working of the Holy Spirit and the gifts He imparts to believers, that it is He who inspires faith, which does not mean that cooperation on the human side is not necessary, for it is man who is commanded to exercise faith and with him it must begin. In the heart of one who is filled with the Spirit, faith is as natural and as unconscious as breathing. It is because we have received the Spirit of adoption that we cry Abba, Father (see Rom. 8:15). If the Spirit is quenched then prayer is quenched. Indeed, faith has its laws. We do not believe by sheer force of will, though there is such a thing as the will to believe, as William James, America’s foremost philosopher and father of pragmatism, used to say.
Faith, Paul tells us, comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. If I may only find the right words – the promise in Holy Writ which will fit the need as a key fits a lock for which it is made – then faith in the hour of prayer is given a sure footing and great things will be wrought. I shall soon be singing the glad song of victory even as Moses and Joshua and David and Paul and the galaxy of Old and New Testament saints were wont to sing as they saw the arm of God laid bare in answer to prayer.
We must indeed believe that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Prayer without faith is a mockery. Listen to the voice of Jesus as He speaks saying: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). We must ask in faith, writes James, nothing wavering. If he is tossed about as a wave of the sea, “Let not that man think he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (Jas. 1:7).
The Saviour declared that all things are possible to him that believeth. We are wont to think of such potency as attributed to faith in terms of hyperbole, if not gross exaggeration. But our Lord was not indulging in poetic license, nor were the words of Him who is the Truth ever those of an extremist. “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:22,23). But the Saviour is not simply talking about faith in God. The Greek brings out the though of the faith of God. Paul seems to have had
this in mind in that passionate cry which is the quintessence of the Gospel: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by
the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is the faith of the Son of God. He could not dwell by His Spirit within our hearts without being not only our humility, our love, our patience, our righteousness, but our very life, and that means our very faith.
When it is the faith of the Son of God which rises within the Christian’s breast in the hour of prayer, not only are mountains of difficulty removed, but miracles such as Jesus our Lord brought to pass are wrought. He said to his disciples that they would do greater works than those which He had wrought. That need not shock us. Greater works are wrought but it is still the Lord working through His disciples. It is “the faith of the Son of God.” Greater works because of Calvary is now the ground of our praying. Calvary and the empty tomb and Pentecost make possible for the believer what was not yet possible in the days when Jesus our Lord walked in Galilee.
Indeed we must not doubt in our hearts as we seek the Father’s face in prayer; nor is it possible to doubt when in union with Christ we lay hold of the promise. Ours is “the faith of the Son of God,” not something worked up in the strength of the natural, but an overflowing joy, a certitude which surges within as we stand united with our Lord in the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).
The story appeared not long ago in The Christian Digest of how George Muller laid hold of the Lord in an hour of crisis. It is told by a captain of a transatlantic vessel who said he could never be the same after having Muller aboard. A heavy fog lay upon the ocean, and the great ship had been brought to a stop. After a while George Muller appeared at the door of the captain’s cabin. He knocked and asked for an interview which was granted. “Captain,” he said, “I must be in Toronto by Sunday.” The Captain, somewhat irritated, gave his intruder to understand that the ship could not move until the heavy fog lifted. “I understand,” was Mr. Muller’s rejoinder. “But in forty years of service for my Lord I have not failed to keep an appointment. I must be in Toronto Sunday.” George Muller asked the captain if he would pray with him. The captain, not a little taken aback, said he would. Together they knelt and Mr. Muller offered a short prayer asking the
Lord to lift the fog so the ship might go forward and he might preach Sunday at Toronto. The captain was about to pray, but Mr. Muller stopped him. He said, putting his hand on the captain’s shoulder, “You need not pray. You do not believe.” As the two walked out on the deck, behold the fog was being lifted. The sun began to shine. In a few moments the ship moved forward. George Muller kept his appointment in Toronto.
Can Christians pray that way? Yes, if they fulfill the conditions, one of which is to believe. Believing is as easy and as natural as breathing when we know God and He possesses us and is given a free rein in our lives. The child who knows a loving parent does not “try” to believe. He rests in a father’s love with a certitude which no eventuality can shake. To doubt God is to make Him out a liar as John tells us in his First Epistle. What could be more heinous?
I find it a helps to interpret trust in terms of expectation. Someone has said that the answer to prayer is often hindered by the fact that when God’s hour strikes and the blessing is sent from the throne, the petitioner is not in a position to receive it in view of the fact that the door of expectation is not open. Some friends once chided George Muller, if I may refer to him again, for saying that his prayers were all answered. His reply was that he had been praying for forty years for two unconverted men, friends of his. He said that he knew that these two would eventually be brought to know the Saviour; for that reason he said that all his prayers were answered. And so it was. Before another year had passed these two men
The door of expectation must be kept wide open. It is not enough to pray for revival. We must be on the tips of our toes in expectation. Without this there is no true faith. God needs time to work out great things which have to do with the salvation of souls in answer to the prayers of his children. The widow who cried, “Avenge me of my adversary,” before the unjust judge, persevered. She held on. She gave the judge no rest. She won because she fully expected to win. The Father in heaven is pleased to see us determined. Our constant expectation moves Him. He is glorified by our faith. Though He tarry long we must not weary. Let us make sure that what we asking is in keeping with His will and purpose. And then let us be bold as we come to the throne of grace. The answer may come at once. It may be on the way even before we ask as we read in Isaiah, or we may be kept waiting many years. In any case may we not waver. Great is God’s
faithfulness. He can be trusted with perfect confidence. His promises are sure; they are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(The above material was taken from Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.)
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