Brothers & Sisters,
There is something I wish to share with you today that may or may not be new to you. The concept is not new to me, but the simple profundity of it is gaining serious traction in my spirit. I’ve been reading through the gospels recently, and I’m struck by the amount of times that Jesus talks about the importance of faith, particularly as it pertains to answered prayers and miracles. He says things like “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5.34); “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5.36); “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9.23); etc. And those are just a few examples from the Gospel of Mark! On one occasion, when his disciples are unable to cast a demon out of child, Jesus does so with ease. They ask him why they were unable perform this exorcism (for he had earlier given them authority to cast out demons and heal all diseases), and “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17.20). Again and again throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, he links faith to power. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received (or are receiving) it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11.24)
As I write this, I’m wrestling with how deeply to explore this subject with you. I confess that my temptation, as usual, is to explore the complexity of his teaching, acknowledge all the nuances, and search for any exceptions to the rule, so that we might understand what Jesus really meant by these words. It couldn’t actually be as simple as he made it sound, could it?
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil , know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7.7-11; cf. Luke 11.9-13).
What if we just received these words like a child? What if we stopped making excuses for our crazy brother Jesus, explaining away the simplicity of his words in order to make them more palatable to our modern, more sophisticated sensibilities? Where would we even start?
Well, I’ll tell you where I’m starting. I’m starting by praying for things that I want — things that I think God would be happy to do, according to the goodness and love of God, especially as it is revealed in Jesus’ ministry, not my own experience. I want these things to be tangible, observable, measurable, so that when God answers these prayers, I will know, and my faith/trust in Him will continue to grow. After making the request, I then continue, day after day, by imagining the final result and thanking God for accomplishing it, until it is finally accomplished. I feel his power increasing in me through this practice, and I believe he wants to do the same in you.
Without having to understand everything before you try, will you just try? Will you dare to reach out in faith and claim what is rightfully yours as a child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit? I pray this week that he would give our church a child-like faith, so that signs and wonders would abound. For we can do nothing apart from him.
“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14.12-14)