If you were to observe me praying (which would be weird, but okay), you probably would not come away thinking, Wow, he knows how to pray the prayer of faith.
Rather, you would observe at least two things about me:
- I’m easily distractable.
- My prayers are characterized by faint hope more than faith.
I don’t pray the bold, confident, God’s got this, prayer of faith that is found throughout scripture. Rather, I pray tepid, half-hearted, I sure hope God comes through, prayers.
Frankly, this stinks. When I compare my prayer life to scripture, I find myself sorely lacking.
Verses like Mark 11:24 show me what is possible through prayer:
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
This is absolutely staggering. Prayer, when joined with faith, gets things “done”. In other words, God responds in real, world-changing ways to the prayer of faith.
To be clear, I don’t mean that there is some sort of magic in prayer. Like if I say all the right words and mix in a dash of holy water, God is obligated to do whatever I ask. God is sovereign and will do whatever he pleases.
But God has also promised repeatedly that he responds powerfully to the prayer of faith.
If I want my prayers to be effective, they needed to be propelled by faith.
Which brings me to the key question: what characterizes the prayer of faith?
Or, more personally, how can I more consistently pray the prayer of faith?
The Prayer of Faith Is Based On The Promises of God
The things God has promised to do in response to prayer are utterly breathtaking.
In James 5:16 we read, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Then James provides an absolutely stunning illustration:
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit (James 5:17-18).
The Lord wants us to come to a mind-boggling conclusion when we read this verse: my prayers are just as powerful as Elijah’s.
Elijah prayed and in response, God unleashed a three-year drought.
I pray to the same God and he promises to respond with the same power.
Isn’t that incredible? The prayer of faith connects me to the God who heals the sick, raises the dead, causes droughts, uncorks hurricanes, rescues sinners, provides manna in the desert, and turns Pharisees into apostles.
This is why Jesus can make promises like:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
The prayer of faith isn’t powerful because of the one praying. The prayer of faith is powerful because of the God I’m praying to.
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He is the omnipotent One, the King of Kings, the one who sustains the universe by his power. Amazingly, this same almighty God has promised to do great things in response to prayer.
Charles Spurgeon said this about the power of prayer:
My own soul’s conviction is that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe, that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those other secret forces which men have called by name, but which they do not understand.
So how do I pray the prayer of faith that gets things done? By believing God’s promises.
The Prayer of Faith Believes God Rewards Prayer
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
There are many times when I pray what I like to call “atheist prayers”. Yes, I believe God exists, but my prayers are so weak and faithless that I might as well not believe God exists.
These are not the kind of prayers that God responds to. If I’m going to honor God in prayer, I must believe he exists (which I do) AND that he rewards those who seek him.
I must believe that God is eager to do great, world-changing things in response to the prayer of faith. I must believe that God is on the edge of his seat, just waiting to pour out blessing in response to my humble, faith-filled prayers.
Do I really believe that God will reward me when I seek him? Do I believe that God delights to reward my prayer of faith?
Honestly, there are many times when I don’t really believe that God is eager to reward me. I don’t view God as a good Father who delights to give gifts to his children.
I forget that Jesus said in Matthew 7:11:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The prayer of faith is fueled by the knowledge that God loves to reward those who seek him.
The Prayer of Faith Is Persistent
Unfortunately, I get worn out pretty easily when it comes to prayer.
When I first start praying for something, I’m all business. I’m fervent and passionate and totally in faith. I’m going to take heaven by storm. Nothing can stop me from getting what I want.
I know that God can and will give me what I ask for. It’s easy to pray the prayer of faith in the beginning.
But as time goes by and my prayer goes unanswered, my faith starts to wane and my passion begins to subside. I don’t pray as frequently or as zealously.
I used to pray for this thing every single day, but now I only pray for it once a week. Then once a month. Then just every so often.
Why does this happen to me? Why do I peter out so quickly in prayer?
I think there are a number of reasons. I lack the discipline to keep praying for a long period of time. I also lack the necessary faith.
When I don’t see God move quickly, I assume that he won’t move at all, which keeps me from praying the prayer of faith.
Let’s go back to Luke 11:9-10, which I referenced earlier. In these verses, Jesus speaks against the lethargy that so quickly overtakes me.
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Do you notice how Jesus uses words that increase in intensity? He starts with asking, which is a simple, relatively passive action. Just ask.
Then he moves to seeking, which involves actively looking for something. Finally, he mentions knocking, which involves beating your hand on a door again and again until it is opened.
Over time my prayers tend to decrease in intensity. Jesus tells me that as time passes, me prayers should actually increase in intensity. The longer that God delays, the harder I should pray. I shouldn’t assume that a delayed answer means no answer at all.
I don’t usually know why God doesn’t answer my prayers immediately. What I do know is that he is good, wise, and faithful and that he loves to give me good things.
So I must keep asking, seeking, and knocking. I can’t let time and laziness take the edge off my prayers. As time passes, the prayer of faith petitions God with even more passion and intensity.
The prayer of faith keeps praying even when the answer doesn’t appear immediately.
The Prayer Of Faith Hits The Target
J.C. Ryle said:
If my prayers aren’t accompanied by faith in God and his promises, I shouldn’t expect them to “hit the mark”. Or, put another way, I shouldn’t expect God to respond to them.
There are times when, in an effort to manipulate me, my kids will preface a request with, “You’re probably going to say no to this.” When they say that, I’m much less likely to give them what they want. Why? Because I want them to believe that I love them and want to give them good things.
Scripture tells us that God operates in a similar manner. When I pray without faith, I’m essentially saying, “God, I don’t think you’re going to do this, but I’ll ask anyway.” That kind of praying doesn’t honor him.
On the flip side, God delights to respond to the prayer of faith. When I come to him with humble faith, he does life-changing things.
That’s the kind of praying I want to do.