Pray boldly. Go out on a limb. Pray for things that can’t happen without God’s intervention.
It’s easy to think that Jesus had a big advantage—being the incarnate Son of God, as He was—in praying and getting His prayers answered. But He did tell His followers, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it” (Matthew 21:22, NLT).
The first generation of Jesus’ followers apparently took his promises seriously. They prayed for boldness, and received it (Acts 4:29). They prayed for prisoners to be released, and it happened (Acts 12:5). They prayed for the sick to be healed, and they were healed (Acts 28:8). They even prayed for the dead to be raised, and they came back to life (Acts 9:40).
It seems a little different for us, though, doesn’t it? We have faith. But do we have the kind of faith Jesus talked about, the kind of faith those earliest Christians seemed to have? What does it mean to pray “in faith, believing,” as some people have phrased it? It may mean more than the following, but I think it does mean at least:
1) Don’t be timid.
“Come boldly to the throne of grace,” the author of Hebrews wrote (Hebrews 4:16, KJV). Remember Esther’s story? She took her life in her hands and marched into King Ahasuerus’s throne room to make life-changing, world-altering requests of him. His was hardly a “throne of grace,” and yet she threw off all caution and gained what she asked—what she and all her people needed. We should do no less, especially since our king is gracious, merciful and generous.
2) Don’t try to hedge your bets.
Sometimes—particularly in worship services and prayer meetings, where others can hear us praying—we try to “hedge our bets,” so to speak. We may pray, “Lord, heal sister Jackie, but if not, make her comfortable.” That’s hardly mountain-moving faith. We should always strive to pray prayers that align with God’s priorities (“May your name be kept holy; may your kingdom come; may your will be done”), but faith doesn’t hedge a bet. It goes out on a limb. It presses through the crowd to touch the hem of the Master’s garment (see Matthew 9:20-22). It strikes the arrow on the ground over and over and over and over (see 2 Kings 13:14-20). It asks for even the crumbs from the master’s table (see Mark 7:24-30).
3) Don’t try to “protect” God from embarrassment.
Do you tend to pray for “realistic” answers to prayer? Do you ask for “likely” outcomes? Or do you pray mountain-moving prayers? Do you pray for things that couldn’t possibly happen unless God clearly intervenes? Sometimes I think well-meaning Christians try to protect God from embarrassment. You know, if we pray, “Heal now, or heal in heaven,” we can say that God answered our prayer even if Sister Jackie dies. But Jesus didn’t seem to pray that way. Nor did He tell others to pray that way. He said, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:22-23, ESV).
So pray boldly. Go out on a limb. Pray for things that can’t happen without God’s intervention. Pray in faith, believing.