The new word in my spiritual walk at the moment is “faith.” It seems that every time I open the word of God nowadays, God has something to show me. Hand-in-hand with this, has been a lengthy discussion on prayer and the power of God.
Have you ever wondered at the power of prayer, particularly your own prayers? Ever wondered at the power of God and if you will ever see it with your own eyes?
Acts 12:1-17. Peter has been captured by Herod and is in prison. Herod has already by sword executed James, brother of John and he noticed that the Jews were “pleased” by what he had done. So, Peter is next on the list and so the night before his execution, we find Peter… asleep! Imagine that, asleep before execution!
But Peter is at rest, trusting God’s plan 100%.
It seems, based on human reasoning that he will die the next day. But he trusts God’s will and purpose and so…sleeps. He is so fast asleep, that the angel has to strike him in order to wake him. Now that is faith: He so knows the character of God that he will place his very life in God’s hands. Still, he thinks he is dreaming about the angel and obediently just does whatever the angel tells him to do, in faith.
Rhoda also has faith. The church has gathered to pray for Peter, they have been praying through the night. She hears a knock on the door and expectantly goes to see who is at the door. She recognises Peter’s voice and is so delighted to tell the others, that she forgets to open the door for Peter. She is expecting to see Peter at the door and does not for one minute think she is making a mistake.
Now the church has been praying for days and on this night before his execution, they are stepping it up and are praying through the night.
They have plenty of zeal, but alas, no faith.
When Rhoda tells them that Peter is at the door, they tell her “she is mad.” They believe she is mistaken. (Their very words reveal that they do not believe.) Then at the door when they see Peter, “they are astonished!” Talk about not expecting a visitor. (Their behavior also demonstrates their unbelief.)
When they said “Amen,” it was not faith that said “Amen: so shall it be by God’s word,” a faith that knows beyond a shadow of doubt that it will be so.
It was zeal: an enthusiastic and tireless devotion for the things of God and His purposes. Their zeal was not wrong, it is good to be passionate about God, but “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6)
Speaking to believers who are praying James warns in 1:6-7
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, for when he doubts … That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord,”
Jesus warns in Matt 6:7-8
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
I have realised that I can be very zealous for God, yet not be operating in faith.
I have been challenged about my prayer life and the level of faith that goes with my “Amen.” I have to ask myself how much of my prayer life is zeal for the things of God and His purposes and how much is faith? Do I actually believe that by the time I say Amen that I can: like Peter, go to sleep; resting in the total plan and purpose of God; OR like Rhoda: expectantly watch for the answer to my prayer.
Or are my prayers like the pagans, Jesus mentions. Who think that by many words and their zeal, gods will hear and answer?
Are my prayers addressing a Father who knows what I need before I ask Him, and completed in a trust that says Amen in faith? Honestly friends, not often.
No wonder Jesus says so regularly in scripture: “Where is your faith?” or “What happened to your faith?”
My faith and my prayer life, needs some heart work. What about yours?
- How much of your prayer life is about zeal for the things of God, prayer times, prayer meetings that although engage in prayer, do not engage faith?
- Write out a statement of what your prayer life would be life, if it was about doing the business of God rather than getting busy with God?
- What is the heart attitudes and requirements for prayer according to Matt 6?
- Make a list of all the aspects of your faith that you have evaluated this week, making a list of all the insights you have gained and another list for all the lessons that you have learned.
Father forgive me for all the times I have been about praying and making prayers, rather than believing and then praying. I know you are looking at my heart when I pray, to identify faith. Let me not be a person who prays for the sake of praying, but let me be a person that when faith has risen in me, I pray. Grow my faith Lord, so that when I say Amen, it is really a declaration of faith and not a full-stop.
In Mark 11:22-24 it tells me that “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe and you will receive it, and it will be yours.” How do I get this kind of faith that believes my prayers will get answered?
The answer is in v22. “Have faith in God.” Well I say, that does not tell me anything, but I missed the small little letters ‘IN’. Faith IN God, the one who makes the promises. In relationship with Him where I get to know Him, in a love relationship with Him, aware of His presence, His capacity to answer prayers. In relationship with Him, I get to know His heart, I see who it is that I am trusting, (the light in His eye, His face) and I hear the person who gives the promise (the tone of His voice).
When I see and hear Him, fear fades, I know His character, His dependability, His faithfulness. Faith rises because we know Him, our Father, His character and power to hear, answer and provide.
Paul after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus had “seen” and “heard” God like never before. This encounter with God brought about a sureness in Paul that we see evident from the moment of his conversion. Immediately Saul starts praying, in Acts 9:11 another believer is instructed, “The Lord told him: “Go to the house of Judas on Straight street and ask for a man from Tarsus, named Saul, for he is praying.”” From the moment Saul (Paul) found Jesus, heard and saw Him, Saul knew where he had to be, in the very presence of God, praying. There he could receive what he needed.
As his ministry grew, Paul’s life demonstrates this “sureness” in prayer, because he said: “I know what I have believed.” (2 Tim 1:12) He would go to God for everything he needed and everything he needed for others, with the assurance the he would receive because he knew the heart and Person of the One who could provide and makes the promises. He could go to the Lord because He had heard the Lord, seen Him and was confident in who he believed.
He had faith IN God.
This brings us to the end of week 2 in our “Faith, help me with my unbelief” Series.
Week 2: Evaluate My Faith
Start with Week 3 in Faith Series