We are just over halfway through our current sermon series on prayer. We have learned that God’s desire is for us to bring all of our cares to Him in prayer (no matter how large or small). We have studied the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer, and talked about the necessity of listening to Him. We’ve highlighted some hindrances to prayer - specifically, unconfessed sin and an unwillingness to forgive others. We have considered praying with people in their moment of need, and even discussed the importance of preparatory prayer. This has been an awesome series so far, and I look forward to hearing more from God about prayer in the weeks to come.
This morning we are going to talk briefly about the prayer of faith. While all prayers are a demonstration of faith to some degree, the prayer of faith is much more. Sadly, many people offer their prayers with little hope or expectation that God will actually answer. They may have the faith to voice the prayer, but nevertheless substantial doubt remains that He will actually respond...
God calls us to a level of faith far deeper than a surface-level belief. You see, we can believe something to be true in our heads without it having much impact on our hearts. But when our belief in Jesus matures into full-blown faith, it will not only change our minds but it will also transform our lives. While belief is merely an acknowledgement of the truth, faith is daily living in the light of that truth. Put simply, faith is belief in action which becomes an integral part of who were are.
When profound faith intersects with passionate prayer, the results are spectacular. Today we are going to describe what the prayer of faith is, discover the basis for the prayer of faith, and talk about how the prayer of faith endures.
DVD TEACHING SEGMENT (Not available online)
I. THE PRAYER OF FAITH (James 5:13-15, Mark 11:24)
You may have heard this example before… Suppose that there was a severe drought in the land. There were two farmers, neighbors, both desperately praying for rain for their crops - for their livelihood. After praying, one farmer waited for the rain; but the other farmer went to his field and started preparing for rain. Which one do you think was praying a prayer of faith?
The Bible promises us that the prayer of faith will restore the sick and bring forgiveness to the sinner. It is a prayer that get results, by stirring God to action. It is a prayer that both claims and secures an answer. The key element to this type of prayer is deep, abiding faith.
People who have a rich faith in God don’t simply pray for and then wait upon answers, but actually act upon the answers as if they are certain to be given. There is a strong and unwavering expectation that God will come through. Because the prayer of faith is rooted in God’s promises and divine will, there is an intrinsic confidence that His answer will be “yes”. Because of their assurance and lack of doubt, the person praying in faith will actually behave in a manner that anticipates God’s answer.
While some prayers seek an answer from God, the prayer of faith claims an answer that God has already given.
II. GOD’S WORD PRODUCES FAITH (Romans 10:17, Hebrews 4:16, 1 John 5:14-15)
Faith is based upon the word of God, which He spoke through the Holy Spirit and recorded on the pages of the Bible. When the words of God are heard and believed it produces faith within the heart of a person. There is no other producer of faith apart from the revelation of God, which is most clearly demonstrated through His written word. Therefore, reading and applying the Bible is foundational to a prayer life characterized by faith. God’s Word and prayer must go together.
As a person develops a more comprehensive understanding of God’s word, their faith grows and matures. This should lead to increased confidence in prayer, because their growing knowledge of His word empowers them to pray in with greater assurance. As we become increasingly aware of His promises and character, our prayer life is radically transformed.
One of the prerequisites to praying with certainty is praying within the will of God. When we are praying for something that is not clearly revealed in the will of God, we have no basis of absolute assurance. In these instances, the faith we express is based on an uncertainty. This type of prayer may demonstrate a degree of faith, and it is certainly a valid form of prayer, but it is not what the Bible means by the term “prayer of faith”. The prayer of faith claims a promise or answer already expressly given in God’s word. It leaves no room for doubt.
III. HOLDING ON TO THE PROMISES OF GOD (Numbers 23:9, Luke 11:8)
One of the divine attributes of God is that He is perfectly faithful. He cannot lie, and never breaks His promises. Therefore, as we learn and begin to claim the promises of God in prayer we can know for a fact that His promises will be kept. This is imperative if we are to have enduring faith that perseveres in prayer.
When the will or promise of God has already been made expressly known, then we have every right to hold God to His word. As a matter of fact, God expects us to and may even test us to see if we will. Thus, if we don’t receive the promised answer immediately we must persevere in prayer and continue to ask, knowing that it will come at some point. If we give up our petitioning, we fail the test and our frustration indicates that we don’t truly believe that God honors His promises.
Before we conclude this message, I want to make an important distinction so that we can hopefully avoid any misunderstanding. There is a false doctrine which is prevalent in the American church today. It is the notion of “name it, claim it” prayer or the “prosperity gospel”. This concept misinterprets Scripture to argue that God will do anything we ask (we name it) if our faith is strong enough (we claim it). Such a belief is a misinterpretation of Scripture and is simply not true…
I have seen many people over the years who have become greatly discouraged, some to the point of depression, because God did not answer their prayers in the manner they desired. Some even persisted in prayer for several years, but to no avail. He did not heal them of their cancer, or save their struggling marriage, or give them whatever it was they sought… and they reasoned that it was because their faith wasn’t strong enough. As a result, they became bitter and resentful toward God.
But the name it claim it philosophy leaves out one critical detail… God always answer our petitions in accordance with His will. When His responses are different than what we’d asked for, it does not necessarily mean that we lack sufficient faith. It may mean that His will for our situation is different than what we desired, and that we must learn to trust that He knows best. This forces us to come to grips we a troubling reality - sometimes in this present, earthly life God allows and uses difficult circumstances to display His glory. Our present health, wealth, and happiness is not His most pressing concern...
In the end, we must distinguish the faithfulness of God from the faith of the believer - they are not the same. Faith is an attribute of the Christian. Therefore, the prayer of faith is focused upon us how we pray, not upon how God answers. The more I grow in Christ, the more I realize that prayer is not so much about changing God’s behavior as it is about changing my own behavior. Prayer strengthens my personal faith as I consciously rely upon Him and actively seek His will for my life.