“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
So, I ask for relief from financial distress, safety in travel, smooth relationships, healing from every sort of malady that I hear about.
Aren’t they the best prayers? Don’t those requests reveal my belief in the truth of this verse?
Yes and no. I think my eye gets so fixated on what comes after the comma that I fail to weigh the significance of the words that come before. “If you believe…”
The second part of the phrase really has no substance or benefit apart from the first.
It raises the question, what do I have to believe in order for the second phrase to stand in all its truth? Psalm 145:13 answers that question.
“The LORD is faithful to all his promises.”
“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word. That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking.” ((Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, Reformation Trust 2007, p. 146))
So, if I believe — that is, have unswerving confidence in the promises of God, how will that affect my prayer life? Both Peter and Paul address this question:
“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:4
“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
These verses reveal that through God’s promises He reveals His goal of holiness. The promises that I believe impact what I will pray and what I pray is intended to impact what I become. With promises in mind, my prayers would be focused not on health, comfort, ease, convenience, prosperity and approval but for God to progress His promised plan of transformation within me!
“It’s as though we each look at life through a video camera and ask for changes in everything except the person filming. The cameraman is never in view. We will pray with parents for their straying teenager to straighten out; we rarely pray for the parents not to be fearful, bitter or controlling. We will pray for a person to get a job; we rarely pray that he would grow in faith as he learns not to fret about money. We pray for the conversion of someone’s loved ones; we rarely pray that the believer would grow more loving and honest in the way she treats the loved ones.” ((David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, New Growth Press 2005, p.118))
As a cameraman whose view finder is full of the disruption of joblessness, today I want to believe more and pray something bigger than, “Lord, please bring us a good job.” Today, with reverent trembling I want to pray, “Lord, you have promised to perfect holiness in me–that will mean purifying my heart from so many contaminating loves that reside there.
Let me love your transforming work and the tools you use to accomplish it. I believe you are accomplishing your promised goal of helping me escape the corruption of this world, so I am bold to ask now, allow me to be a participant in the divine nature.
That is a promise prayer too wonderful for me to comprehend. I believe that you are working out 1 John 3:2 and so I say, your will be done Father. In the name of Jesus. AMEN
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure