Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
– Mark 11:24 ESV
What an interesting verse. Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Is that it? Can I honestly pray for just about anything, believe I’ve received it and it will be mine?
Some people, who take this out of context, surely think so. In fact, some people have gone further than just asking and skipped right through to claiming. After all, that’s what Jesus is telling His disciples here, isn’t it?
No, Jesus isn’t encouraging His disciples to lay claim to their whims and desires and they will have it. True prayer is not a demand accompanied by really really really strong feelings of belief so that if the prayer isn’t answered we say, “Aha! You did not believe strong enough!”
There’s more to it than that. If you flip over to John 15, Jesus teaches His disciples the importance of bearing good fruit. I’m not sure if this came at the same time that He cursed the fig tree in Mark 11, from which we read the verse above. Nevertheless, spare a moment to read the following,
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
… No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.
– John 15:7-11, 15-16 ESV
Did you catch all that? There are a few key aspects in this passage that I hope we don’t miss:
Key One: if you abide in Me and My words abide in You
Key Two: by this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit
Key Three: abide in My love
Key Four: keep My commandments
True prayer comes only out of righteous living. Abide in Me, comes the command. To explain that, Jesus gives the example of a vine and its branches (John 15:1:6); the very life, purpose, drive, and meaning comes only from the vine, apart from it the branch is dead. Bear much fruit, He continues, so that the Father is glorified. Abide in My love, by keeping My commandments.
We need to stop preaching the false message that life can be lived apart from Christ and yet still be fruitful, still be Christ-like, still be Christian; it’s not true! The Word of God is not what we choose to make it; we don’t pick and choose what passages we like and which ones we set aside.
We do not command the Lord to heal or save or fulfil our wishes, we do not order God what we want done. More so, when we don’t let His Word dwell in us, when we don’t live and breathe Him, when our complete lives are not for His glory, when we are not following His commandments, we as believers need to stop! No, we shouldn’t be praying like everything is OK; no, we shouldn’t be serving in the Lord’s house when He isn’t welcome in every aspect of our lives; no, we cannot break bread and claim to share in His suffering while our hearts aren’t broken before Him; no, we shouldn’t be leading others when our own lives are out of whack!
In fact, our prayer should be one and one alone,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
– Psalms 139:23-24 NASB
That is my prayer; and until my will is aligned to His, like His is to the Father’s, my prayers are meaningless and futile; my life is dead.