~ Yes, You Do Have Faith ~
We take the faith we do have for granted. Walking across the room requires faith and, if for some reason, our legs would suddenly fail us, or our hearts, or even our will, and we never make it, our faith would be challenged.
It's a blessing to be able to have faith in your car. I once owned a car that I could not count on starting after a rainy, misty or cold night. Because of my lack of faith, I had to work at keeping the car going. I needed to get up earlier to test start it before work, so if it didn't start, I'd have time to work on it or put my backup ride to work on alert.
Later, when I became a volunteer on-call EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), a car in which I had little faith was completely unacceptable. A faithful car that would start every time under all weather conditions was a requirement of my commitment.
Our prayer life must be operating at a one hundred percent faith level. Anything less is unacceptable! Jesus made that quite clear in His many references to faith in getting things done in prayer and works (action). However, I wish to suggest that the problems we encounter with the exercise of faith aren't about a lack of faith in general, but an issue of where we focus our faith.
Going back to the hard-to-start car, should my faith in the car fail me one morning, my faith automatically would shift to my efforts in getting it started. (Without some faith in my ability to get the car started, I would not have even tried.) Should that fail, my faith would have shifted to my backup plans to get to work. If they let me down, my faith would then wither away, leaving me feeling defeated and hopeless. Later, my faith may renew itself and give me the will to call a mechanic, my faith shifting to him. Should that focus of faith prove futile, then it's time to eliminate the car from my world and replace it!
You no doubt experienced this shifting of faith yourself, as it is a common part of physical living. But this shifting of faith is deadly in the spiritual world. The inability to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) can also apply to the focus of our faith. Suppose a group of students wishes to hold a prayer meeting after school before going home, and they are not permitted. So, they start a letter-writing campaign to persuade the school board to allow it. Is their faith in the letters or in God? The school board schedules a meeting to decide. The students begin a prayer campaign to soften the hearts of the decision-makers. Is their faith in the number of people praying or in God? Is their faith in the softening of the hearts of the board members or in God?
The petition to God is for the need of these students to pray as a community in a safe place before parting ways for the night. Limited human vision sees the need for many prayer-workers (prayer warriors), the need for letters of persuasion, the need for a divine softening of the hearts of the decision-makers. These needs then become the target of faith, rather than faith being exclusively in God. If the board's decision is "no," it is natural for the students to wonder, "if we only had more people praying" or "we should have also fasted" or "we didn't have enough letters from influential people."
During His trial, Pilate was amazed at how quiet and calm Jesus was and remarked, "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know what I can do to you?" Although He didn't, I can imagine Jesus replying (or thinking?) "Don't you know Who I Am? Don't you know what I can do to you? God is All-Mighty and All-Powerful. The heart of the pharaoh hardened and softened many times, but the Israelites were still delivered from his slavery. Gideon had a powerful army of thousands to fight his enemy. But God told him he had too many warriors and eventually had Gideon reduce his forces to a mere 300. In spite of the hard heart of the enemy or the reduced human resources, God worked mightily and responded to the prayers of His children with victory!
From having teenage David with a slingshot go up against the fully armed and armored giant Goliath to the uneducated and unsophisticated collection of people Jesus chose to proclaim His gospel, God seems to delight in not using human strength. Rather, God continually tells us to take our position of trust and watch Him work. Thus all glory and honor can only be attributed to Him, as it should be.
If only one person wrote a poor letter to the school board, and only one person prayed a humble and simple prayer, and every one of the decision-makers' hearts were hardened and stubborn, it would be just as easy for God to grant that prayer. To God, there are a zillion ways to manifest our prayers in the physical world. We need only to take our position of trust and unwavering faith and get out of His way. If God decides, for our sakes, He needs to raise an army of prayer warriors, He will. If He determines 100 letters of persuasive support should be part of the process of fulfilling the prayer request, 100 letters will come. If He decides the softening of the school board members' hearts is useful, their hearts will be softened. But God also has an infinite number of other options and ways. God just needs to utter the word in response to a request, and it is done.
So while I continue to believe that Christian activism, coupled with prayer (faith with works) is vital, I urge the Christian community and individual followers of Christ to be "single-minded" regarding faith. The object and source of our faith cannot be our ideas of how God will grant our needs and requests, cannot be in our works and sacrifices or in others (as necessary as these are), or even in our prayers. Our faith must trustingly and unwaveringly rest in God alone.
"According to Your will" is a necessary component and attitude of our prayers. However, too often it is applied to the primary request itself rather than to the way the request will be fulfilled. Going back to our example of the students' request to use the school grounds for a closing day prayer meeting, "according to Your will" would be almost always perceived as saying, "but God, if this prayer meeting isn't Your will, so be it; You know best." First, this prayer request would most certainly seem to reside in God's will, for it is a request in accordance to Biblical teaching and is spiritually edifying. So let me suggest that the "according to Your will" often applies to the manner in which God will grant the prayer, not whether He will grant it or not.
The prayer, then, may go something like this: "Our Lord, we are confident that this request of ours in the Name of Christ is in accordance with Your perfect will. We offer this request and desire of our hearts to be fulfilled through the power and intercession of Your Holy Spirit according to the manner, ways, and timing of Your will's dictates. Yes, let this prayer be fulfilled in the manner Your will prescribes, for You are our Source of trust, protection, power, and love. Amen. So be it!"
"God's will" isn't exclusively a matter of a yes or no to our requests. Christ tells us over and over that our prayers in His Name will be granted according to our faith. That is the given promise. The "how" our prayers are fulfilled will be done according to God's will and His mysterious ways. Isn't this wondrous and marvelous?
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © November 4, 2000
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
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