To deal with this subject I would like to approach it from the standpoint of those who are already called to serve Christ and to follow him. From the standpoint of those who are outside of the body of Christ, the Lord God of the universe hears their prayers, yet the response is based on the purposes of God alone and the working of His grace. To us who are the called in Christ, God's response to our prayers is like a father's response to the requests of his children. The relationship is quite different between the saved and those who are not.
Let us look at one of the more often quoted passages of the bible concerning the power of prayer. Though its results appear to only affect the life of the tree, its death had a great impact on those who witnessed the event.
Matt 21.18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! 21 Jesus answered and said unto them,Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
OK, so you have read the five verses, what is the prayer? It is; "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." It appears to sound more like a command than a prayer. The peculiar thing about it is... it is both: a command and a prayer. Remember that I am talking to heirs of the kingdom of God. Those of you who have the Spirit of God residing within them. Those who are walking in a living relationship with our God. There is a reason and a purpose behind the prayer. It was not to punish the tree that Jesus spoke. Its purpose was to display the power of prayer of those who walk with God and believe.
Often the Christian will go someplace alone to pray. This type of prayer does have its purpose as well. Personal communion with God is more intimate and something to be shared with no one else. Or perhaps the Christian will take part in a prayer meeting. This too has its purposes. Corporate prayer of the body is brought forward because agreement is needed so that the hand of God will move in a particular fashion. Its working is based on; "where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there."
To most Christians prayer is a time filled with petitions to the ears of God, sometimes begging, other times imploring Him, to act in some manner or fashion. Where has this idea originated? This manner of prayer, though used in new testament situations, is at the same time seldom spoken about by the new testament writers. In the Greek it is a "deomai" type of prayer; petitions, begging, requesting. It does have its place in our lives yet sadly, with many, it is the only method of prayer that some Christians know. This type of prayer, deomai, is not what is being referred to in Matthew 21.18-22
The power of prayer being referred to in Matthew comes from walking in a close relationship with God. It is vital, energetic, active, lively. This type of prayer is dynamic because God is dynamic. A person can speak this type of prayer for he knows that God is able, above and beyond, to make the prayer come true. He knows that God will do it for him because he stands in a right relationship with Him. John 15.7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. If the words of Jesus abide within you so that they are a part of your life, not empty words but the real thing, then all things that you ask for will be done by him. This especially when it comes to the Matthew type of prayer we are looking at.
This is nothing new under the sun. It has been this way since the beginning of time. An old testament example is one of the stories about Elijah:
1 Kings 17.1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
James 5.17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
"My goodness" you say, "you are talking about Elijah the prophet."
I must admit that Elijah is one of the greats when it comes to the old testament. Yet do you remember what Jesus said? Matt 11.11 "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." If Elijah was of the old and John was the greatest of the old, we who are alive now in Christ are greater than John or Elijah. That is not boasting but simply the fact of a much better covenant based on superior promises.
Make no mistake though, this is all the gift of God. With the Holy Spirit within us and hopefully on us, we also can do great works, in fact... greater works than they. Jesus said; "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
How do we obtain this power of prayer?
Believe the gospel, all of it, and walk accordingly. That means that you do obey the Holy Spirit within you. You will follow His leading. You will do the works appointed to you by God. You will abide in Christ through his word. And you will tarry until you have the power of the Holy Spirit on you to minister. When these are in place in your life, then you can tell the mountain to be removed from here and thrown into the sea and know that it will be done.
Even those who are new in Christ, at times, will pray and have things comes true, as a foretaste of those things that will come, to those who believe. Generally though, I am talking about the mature believer in Christ. When you pray, as Jesus did in the fig tree account, your prayers will be answered.
Because you know that you have the authority and the leading to give the command to the mountain because you are positive, not doubting in your heart, that God will amen the command that comes from your lips, that comes from your heart. This is the type of prayer that is found in Matthew above. This type of prayer is possible for you as well.
As Samuel, the prophet of old, not one word will fall to the ground that comes from your mouth.
As Peter prayed/commanded the beggar at the temple steps, Acts 3.6 ...Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. This happened not because Peter was powerful but because God is powerful. Not because Peter was righteous but because Peter was clothed with the righteousness that comes from God. Not to have things Peter's way but to have things God's way. Because Peter was one with Jesus and Jesus is one with the Father.
You also are the called in Christ, just like Peter, and the same works can occur through you as they did with Peter, as they did with Jesus. If Jesus walked closely with the Holy Spirit and knew that his Father would grant all that would be asked or prayed for, then you too can walk closely, humbly, as a child with your Father and just like Jesus your prayer will also, at those times, be answered.
Don't doubt! Get your thinking in line with "The Way of God!" Then Believe! Remember the words of Jesus in Mark 9.23 If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
Author: Joseph Raymond
Sunday, February 25, 2001
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