Faith and prayer

Like many Christians, I have long wrestled with the idea of faith and prayer.

Why is faith so important in prayer?  Can I work up enough faith to get my prayer requests answered the way I wish?

Yesterday, I was reading the great faith chapter in Hebrews – chapter 11 – when my eyes fastened on verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

There it is again, I thought, the importance of faith. The writer of Hebrews says it is so important that I can’t please God without it.

But the writer doesn’t stop there.  He explains why it is important.  It is important because it shows God what kind of heart I have.

If I am so faint of heart that I don’t believe God exists, I am basically shutting the door on the Lord.  It is like being thrown a lifeline and saying: “I don’t believe the guy at the other end is going to pull me in.  So I won’t grab it.”

However, the good thing for believers is that we DO believe God exists.  Everyone who has believed that Christ died for him and rose again to give him eternal life has a basic faith that the Lord exists.

This faith comes from God himself.  In Romans 12:3, the apostle Paul talks about the “measure of faith that God has given you.”  As believers, we all have some faith.

But often this has not seemed to me to be enough faith to see the more difficult prayers in my life answered the way I wanted.  Do I need more faith than what I have to see these prayers answered?

There is some scriptural support for that view.  Jesus scolds the disciples for having “little faith” when they cry out in fear in the midst of stormy waters on the Sea of Galilee.  In Matthew 9:22, he tells the woman who has been bleeding for 12 years that “your faith has healed you.”

On the other hand, there are places where Jesus healed people who had no faith – including a dead boy.  Perhaps it is the faith of Jesus that brought healing in these cases – not that of the person who was ill.

So, how do I deal with my little faith when I pray?

I think the latter part of Hebrews 11:6 may give a clue.  It is not only important that I believe that God exists, but I must also believe that he “rewards those who earnestly seek him”.

The doubt in my heart can be traced to wondering whether God will reward me when I seek his face.

In effect, it is important for me to believe that God will reward me when I earnestly seek him – even if there is no immediate evidence.

That is the message of Hebrews 11.  All the great heroes of the Bible listed in Hebrews 11 did not see the promise of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in their lifetimes.  But still they believed.

They were not believing a fairy tale.  Their faith was well founded – Christ came, he died, and he rose again.  But they did not see the answer in their lifetimes.

So, in sorting this out, I am coming to see that my faith depends on believing what God says, no matter what I see in my life and in the world around me.  I must believe that God will reward my faith by answering my prayers just as he said he would in the Bible.  If my prayers are in line with what God says in the Bible, God will reward them with a “Yes.”

I may not see the “Yes” while I am alive, but God will fulfill his promises.

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