Success in life does not depend on chance; it depends on following proven principles. Nowhere is this more evident than in the believer's prayer life. Those who succeed in becoming effective intercessors and prayer warriors follow proven biblical principles. In this issue, I will discuss the important principle of praying in faith.
James highlights the importance of praying in faith in his caution regarding the person who prays: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let, that man thinks that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1: 6-8). Jesus, who spoke frequently on the subject of faith during his ministry, also establishes faith as the key condition to answered prayer when he said, “And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive (Matt 21:22). Faith is essential to prayer because it is the primary means of access to God. In Hebrews11 we are told in 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 is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” James Edward, in his commentary on Romans, says, “faith is the lifeline between God the rescuer and humanity the foundering victim.” In other words, faith is absolutely essential to our spiritual existence. Yet despite its absolute necessity in the Christian life, it is one of the most misunderstood doctrines.
Faith is the Human response to God
Some regard faith as a mere formula, a creed or a set of words with just enough power to save one. Others see faith as faithfulness, a virtue, which the individual possesses independently of the Gospel, thus shifting the emphasis from what is believed to the believer. The biblical view of faith is quite different from these ideas. Faith is first and foremost the human response to God. “It is the response which God's unmerited grace evokes from an individual” (Edwards, 1987). The response of the Syrophonecian woman to Jesus after he turned down her request to heal her daughter is a typical example of this type of response. Jesus, stunned by the woman's undaunted failure to quit, finally yielded to her request to heal her daughter, commending her, “O woman, great is thy faith” (Matthew 15:28 ).
Praying in Faith, An Attitude of Humility and the Heart
The story of the Syrophoenician woman teaches a great lesson about faith, one that finds its greatest application in the area of prayer. It teaches two important truths about prayer. First, God responds to us solely on the basis of humility based totally on the redemptive work of Christ, never on the basis of human merit. Praying in faith, therefore, implies approaching God in an attitude of total humility. That was the kind of attitude clearly displayed by the Syrophonecian woman as she approached Jesus on behalf of her sick daughter.
Second, God responds to the prayer of the heart because that is where faith resides. Faith is always associated with the heart, hope with the mind. Speaking to the Christians at Thessalonica Paul says, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thes 5:8). The breastplate protects the heart, while the helmet protects the head, the seat of the mind and emotions. How we feel is therefore irrelevant. Faith is dynamic; it is always perceived as an act of obedience, based absolutely on the word of God in our hearts. “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is the word of faith, which we preach” (Romans 10:8). Where we stand as a people of faith will often be determined by our speech. As Jesus declared, "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34 b)." The Syrophenician woman's cry not only revealed her desperate state. It also revealed her faith in Christ, the Messiah. Like other Gentiles mentioned in the Gospels, who heard Christ and put their faith in him, she no doubt heard His amazing words of hope and compassion and was similarly moved to put her faith in Him. As intercessors and prayer warriors, let us fully surrender our hearts to the Lord to create in us a humble and contrite spirit, one that He will not despise; one in which His words will find root.
Praying in Faith involves an Absolute Trust in Christ
Praying in faith is not groping after some floating plank when we feel we are sinking. It is approaching God in total confidence based on our relationship with Christ, one based solely on absolute trust in Him. It is here that we fully experience the confidence and freedom to appropriate this great privilege of faith that enables us to enter boldly into the presence of the Father offering up prayers that are pleasing to Him. This is clearly described by the writer of Hebrews. In 4:6 he declares, “ Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace …” and again in 10:19-22, “Therefore brethren, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way, opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart full of assurance of faith (Heb 10: 19-22).
Praying in Faith Implies Acceptance of God's Promises
When we approach God in prayer we should never come to Him with vain requests. Our requests should always be supported by the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews says that “He is faithful that promised” (Heb 10:23 ). God is faithful to do for us only those things which are based on the promises of His words, found in the Scriptures. His promises represent His ultimate will, plan, and purpose for our lives, our families, our cities and the nations of the world. It is as we affirm His promises in prayer concerning a matter that God by His Holy Spirit intervenes in such situations. We must, therefore, make a conscious commitment during our prayers to accept the promises of God despite the circumstances. Sanders views this acceptance of God's promises as the very essence of faith.
The Holy Spirit, Our Paraclete
There are times when God's will concerning the matter we are praying about is not clearly revealed in the scriptures. Let us say, for example, that a lady is praying for directions concerning a particular job she is considering. Besides helping to influence her choice from a moral standpoint the Bible might not necessarily provide her with any specific direction concerning that particular job choice. This is where the ministry of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete becomes absolutely necessary.
As our Paraclete, the Holy Spirit empowers us to pray effectively when we do not know the will of God concerning a particular matter. Paul reflects this truth in his epistle to the Romans where he says “the Spirit maketh intercession for us according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27 ). How crucial is it then that as believers desirous of being successful intercessors and prayer warriors today that we be filled with the Holy Spirit? Our relationship to the Holy Spirit is vital to our success in all areas of our Christian walk. Let us trust Him to fully guide us in this vital area of our Christian walk.