I didn’t realize how little faith I had until God began to answer my prayers and I found myself completely astounded. That sounds like it would be anti-Biblical, and though I am still trying to understand it, I don’t believe it is. You are about to enter my brain and witness a theological battle. It is a little deep and may be confusing to everyone but me. Prepare yourself.
I was reading the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew chapter 8. The storm was raging wild. He pointed out the disciples lack of faith and then continued to calm the storm. He didn’t ask them, “Do you really believe that I can do this?” before calming the storm. He simply did it. Other times, like in the very next chapter in Matthew, before Jesus healed two blind men, He asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?” and then told them, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14 even though the disciples didn’t see how five loaves and two fish could ever be enough. He healed the woman crippled by an evil spirit for 18 years without a question or mention of her faith (Luke 13). He healed a lame man in John 5 even though when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well he responded, “I can’t, sir.” Then there are times when Jesus says plainly that it was their faith that caused them to experience the miracle. To say that faith is not important in experiencing a miracle is to clearly be anti-Biblical; however, it seems that God performed miracles despite a lack of faith as well. It often served to boost faith or to open doors for Jesus to prove a point to those looking on, such as the healing of man’s deformed hand in Matthew 12.
I know that I will never be able to understand everything about why God does what He does when He does it, but I guess that is not the point. I am not looking to justify a lack of faith, because the Bible clearly says that without faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). Matthew 21 says that if we have faith and do not doubt, we can order certain things to happen and they will happen. In John 16, Jesus talks about asking for things in His name and our requests being granted.
Jesus constantly talked about faith in various ways, including a mustard seed in Matthew 17 and Luke 17. Now that’s an interesting story. Jesus didn’t say that faith “as big as an apple tree” will cause the mountain to move, but rather faith “as small as a mustard seed”. It seems that God would honor the bigger faith, right? Why would He give any importance to the mustard seed faith?
I know that our relationships with God are not simple formulas where A+B=C, but it is rather about our response to God and His response to us. My relationship with God has not been a linear increase over the years, but rather a mess of ups, downs, circles and squares. What makes sense to our human minds, the Bible says is utter foolishness to God. God has an entirely different reality than we have come to understand. I wonder sometimes how much I have written my worldly wisdom into my philosophy of how things work in God’s reality.
We cannot earn grace, just like we cannot buy a miracle. God chooses when and where to do His work. However, it still matters how we seek God. Our prayers clearly have an impact. Jesus tells the story about an unjust judge granting mercy to the persistent widow because she wouldn’t leave him alone (Luke 18). In Daniel 10, God sends an angel out of response to prayer. In Mark 5, the woman was cured because she fought the crowds and reach out to touch the cloak of Jesus. Clearly our prayers matter. Clearly God responds. James 4:2 says that we don’t have because we don’t ask. I have discovered this past week that God answers prayer, and often much quicker than we anticipate, especially when we dare to pray in specifics. Other times, we can pray for something for years and still be waiting on an answer.
I am still learning what all of this is about. However, there are some conclusions that I can draw from the Bible about the kind of life that I am called to live. I am called to live a life of faith, and faith is a decision. When I pray over someone for healing, I am called to have complete faith that God will heal that person. Ultimately, it is God’s decision if He will do it or not. However, my ideas of whether He will or not should be completely irrelevant to the level of faith that I choose to have about what God will do.
This past week I have witnessed two healings. It was incredible. There was intense spiritual warfare present in both circumstances. It was incredible, but it’s not like God came down on the wings of angels. He just did it, like He does it every day. Well, actually He does. I believe that we are called to walk in faith to the point where we just come to expect miracles in our daily life. We do that here in Ambato, and we see miracles in various forms every single day. I can say without a doubt that my faith in God is a hundred times stronger now than it was in the past through witnessing His hand at work, though I am still learning how to walk in this confidence in every situation.
In the past I struggled to put all my faith in God’s will to heal someone or to do a certain action, because I thought that if I put all my faith in what God might do, I would have to give up my faith if God did not come through like I was expecting. However, that’s not true. My faith is not that childish. I can put all my faith into a prayer that God will heal the child with the tumor, knowing that God is just as powerful whether He heals the child or not. Here is the key: I do not put my faith in answers to prayer. I put my faith in God’s power, His goodness, and His love. I do no put my faith in my influence on God’s will in prayer. I put my faith in God’s power, His goodness, and His love.
This is such an abstract and difficult concept to understand, but we need to get there if we want to not be driven crazy by these questions about unanswered prayer and whether or not we have enough faith. I may have some angry comments after the words that I am about to say, but I ask you to truly take the time to think deeply about this before rushing to an answer or a conclusion. I don’t believe that God answers prayer based on the level of our faith, as if faith could be measured in teaspoons and cups. I believe that God answers prayer because He wants to, because we have the courage to ask, and because we have put our trust in Him, apart from the answer or our own pride about having a role in the process. This shouldn’t cause us to stop going to Him; rather it should cause us to run to Him more. If I truly understood how good God is and how much He desires to give us the Kingdom, I would spend all my time in prayer interceding for every need and every person that comes my way. How many miracles do we miss because we do not ask? How many answers to prayer do we miss because we ask half-heartedly without actually watching for the answer? I am convinced that God answers a lot more of our prayers than we realize, but we miss the answers.
We ask in total faith, but our faith does not depend on the answer. Our faith depends on God’s power, His goodness, and His love and these are things about God’s character that never change. Therefore, my faith has no reason to waver. I will never understand why God does the things He does or why He does not answer like I want Him to. His ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I don’t see the whole picture. I may be asking with every good intention and with complete faith, but I would hope that God would act in His supreme wisdom for the greater good even if it is contrary to the prayer that I am praying. My point of view is so limited and I often operate out of an egocentric place. Lord, please let Your will be done, not mine. My greatest prayer is that my heart would be like His heart, so that every day I can learn how to pray more and more conformed to His will.
I will continue to claim God’s promises. I will continue to intercede on behalf of those God places on my heart and in my path. May He never say of me, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” I will pray because it matters. I will have faith because it matters, and God’s unchanging character will guard that which I have entrusted to Him until the day when all mysteries will be revealed and everything hidden in darkness will come to light.