Do you pray? If so, how often? Prayer is of great value for the believer in Jesus Christ. It throws you into the throne room of the living God. It cements your relationship with Him. It helps you to look for and recognize the hand of God. I think we have a surface understanding that we need to pray. But I don’t really think we understand our deep desire and deep need to pray. Prayer is something that a Christian must do, and not just at meals. It is vital for your soul. It keeps you thinking right and godly thoughts. It settles your anxieties and fears. It gives you peace and aligns your will with His will. It has been said that prayer to the Christian is much like breathing for our physical bodies; without oxygen to breathe, we die, and without prayer in our Christian lives—well, we just shrivel up. It was Church father Jerome who said, “Let the divine scripture be always in your hands, and give yourself so frequently to prayer that such shafts of evil thoughts as ever assail the young may thereby find a shield to repel them.” That is one aspect of prayer: It is a divine shield to repel our evil thoughts.
Of course, Jesus understood the power of prayer. His closeness to God the Father is ever on display. He didn’t just tell us to pray, He modeled prayer for us so that we would get it. One such occasion is in Mark 11. Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Monday of what we call “Passion Week.” On Tuesday, He came in and attacked and assaulted those in the temple because of false worship. By the time we come to verse 22, it is Wednesday. On the next day, Thursday, will be the Passover meal, on Friday the crucifixion, on Sunday the resurrection. These are the last days of our Lord’s life and ministry, the last earthly days he shared with His disciples. It is remarkable that what was on His heart was prayer. It was a crucial topic for the disciples to understand as Jesus headed for the cross and returned to His Father. Now, nothing that our Lord says in this passage is new. He is emphasizing something that He has already taught the disciples and wants them to engage in. The question is why? Why a lesson on prayer? Simply put, the disciples for the last three years have lived in the presence of God. Anything they needed, He provided. It seems to me that when they were with Jesus, prayer had diminished. Everything that they needed came directly from His hand. When they needed protection, He provided that. When they needed direction, He provided that. When they needed food, He provided that. When they needed wisdom, He provided that. But things were going to change dramatically. They were going to go from having the Son of God there within arm’s reach, to not having Him there at all. This was a massive shift for them to handle. For us, all we’ve ever known is a life of faith in Christ. The only access we’ve ever had is prayer. When we heard the gospel, we prayed to be saved. When we struggle with temptation, we pray to be delivered. When we need something, we pray to have provision. When we want wisdom, we ask it of God. The disciples were about to become like us—totally dependent on One whom they could not see. Because of that, they needed to know that the same power and the same resources were available and accessible to them after His return to heaven that were available and accessible when He was present. And this text, at this time, in this week, tells us how important the lesson is that all of heaven’s resources are at the disposal of the believer who prays.
Let me show you the passage, Mark 11:22–25: “And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”
We see here four components of powerful and effective prayer. The first is to remember and trust God. Verse 22 says, “…Have faith in God.” When we go to God in prayer, we go to Him with a vast history of what He has already accomplished. We are not going to a God who is weak; no, He is strong and mighty. He is sovereign and all-powerful. He will do what is according to His will and according to His character. Thus, we can trust Him. He is good and He wants to avail Himself to you and through you. If you want to have an effective prayer life, you must trust God. You must trust His power, but you also must trust His purpose, His promises, His plans, and His will. In other words, you have to trust that He knows better than you do.
Second, believe that God will do what is according to His will. Verse 23 gives us an analogy to illustrate the effectiveness of prayer. Jesus uses the imagery of throwing a mountain into the ocean to show the disciples and us that we can take the really difficult things, the hard things, in our lives to Him. There may be some serious issue confronting you, some grave concern that doesn’t seem to have a human solution. Have faith. Believe that God will do great things. The power is with God. The issue here is whether you believe God, or whether you doubt God.
The third element of effective prayer is simply to ask. Verse 24 tells us to “…pray and ask…” But remember, this is not about selfish desires. James says, “You ask and you don’t receive because you ask to consume it on your own desires.” The beautiful model for that is in Mark 14:36, where our Lord in the garden, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood in anticipation of His own crucifixion, cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup [the coming suffering from bearing the sins of the world] from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” The Lord understands our cries. He understands the cry for healing. He understands the cry for a better marriage. He understands the cry of the heart over rebellious children. He understands the struggles we have with money and finances. He understands all that, and He holds you in His heart and will never forsake you. He will never withhold any good thing from you; all things will work together for your good if you faithfully ask.
The final element of effective and powerful prayer is to be right with God. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. That is exactly what He says in verses 25 and 26. The word “forgive,” aphiemi in the Greek, means to hurl it away, get rid of it. This isn’t talking about salvation. We’ve already had the judicial forgiveness of salvation. This is talking about the sins that are part of your life as a believer that stand between you and the Lord. Not to forgive will have your prayers hindered so that they fall on deaf ears. This is powerful, beloved.
Now, let me ask you, when are you going to pray? Knowing what is before us, we need to remember to trust our great God. We need to believe that God will do what is according to His will. We need to ask according to that will. Finally, we need to make sure we are in right standing with God when we do pray. In other words, be right with people and with God; seek forgiveness. All that, beloved, unleashes God’s will and power in and through your life. So, let’s start praying.