The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Praying in Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/22/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.
This is seventh installment of a series on prayer preached at CityLight Manhattan. For previous installments, please visit intelligentcharismatic.com.
The Role of Faith in Prayer
We’ve taken the last six weeks to establish that prayer is important. We’ve talked about personal prayer and corporate prayer; praying what God shows you, and the power in the laying on of hands. We’ve spoken about fervent prayer, and even praying in tongues!
Prayer is powerful! But the power of prayer is lost if we don’ pray in faith. Here is my question as you read through (and/or listen to) this message: When you pray, do you believe it will happen?
If you want to see your prayers answered, you have to learn what it means to pray in faith. Are you ready?
My favorite Scripture passage on faith is Hebrews 11. This is the Great Hall of Faith. This chapter tells the story of men and women who have grabbed hold of what it means to pray in faith, and seen their lives absolutely transformed as a result. But before the testimonies even begin, Scripture defines faith:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Heb 11:1
Faith is the substance of your prayers. It is the active ingredient that truly matters. Faith is the evidence that what you are praying for will come to pass! When someone asks you, “How do you know God will do it?” Your reply can simply be: “My faith is the evidence, and I know the promise of God is coming!” If you don’t have faith, you have nothing; but if you have faith, you have everything you could ever need.
For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. – Heb 11:2
Anybody who ever got anything from God, got it by faith. We’re going to look at some specific examples. For now, it’s important to know that faith works; and if it worked for the “elders” (i.e. people who didn’t have a written record of God’s faithfulness), it will work for you (someone who does)!
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. – Heb 11:3
The creative process that jump-started our universe happened by faith. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). Then God spoke. He said, “Let there be light” (v 3) and there was light. God spoke over something that wasn’t shaping up to be what He desired it to be; and everything changed! The same pattern will happen in your own life when you speak (i.e. pray!) in faith. Things that seem shapeless and void will suddenly take shape according to God’s word; but you have to speak by faith!
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. – Heb 11:4-6
Let that last statement sink in. Let it ring out over your prayer life. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” If you go to God, you have to first believe that He is; and as you make the conscious decision to trust a God you cannot see, He will reward you with a tangible manifestation that He is there.
Look at what faith did in the lives of other heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. – Heb 11:8
When God called Abraham to leave his home (Gen 12), Abraham didn’t have any proof that his destination would be better than his current location! But he had his faith. God often calls us out of our comfort zone, but gives us limited (i.e. partial) information as to where exactly He is calling us. We know what we are leaving behind; but we don’t always know what we are getting in return! That is faith: making the decision to trust that God knows best.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. – Heb 11:11
Sarah didn’t have a Bible to rely on! She didn’t have memory verses about men and women in Scripture who had been healed. All she had was her faith. God spoke; and she listened. She made a decision to trust God; and as soon as she had faith, she received “strength to conceive seed.”
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. – Heb 11:17-19
Do you remember what God called Abraham to do after he and Sarah had their baby? He told Abraham, “Take now your son…, whom you love…, and offer him…as a burnt offering” (Gen 22:2). Imagine what Sarah must have thought about God’s command! But Abraham obeyed by faith. He trusted that God knew what was best. Faith helps us to respond with obedience whenever we are tested; because it reminds us that everything we have to give comes from God anyway!
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. – Heb 11:24-26
Faith empowers us to refuse to live in comfort, and instead step out on the word of God! Faith reminds us that the fruit of obedience is more desirable than any treasure we can gain on earth!
By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. – Heb 11:29
It was faith that enabled Moses to lift up his hand (Ex 14:21) so the people of Israel could pass through the Red Sea. It was faith that sent the waters crashing back down on their enemies.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. – Heb 11:30
It was faith that caused the walls of Jericho to come crashing down. What obstacles stand in the way of God’s promises over your life? What impediment is He willing to move when you make the decision to simply believe?
The Importance of Faith
There has been a common theme in my meetings with our church members lately. Our people are going through some stuff. We have men and women who are facing immigration trials in real threat of being forcibly removed from the United States. We have people contending for financial increase who need the money to survive!
Whenever you face an impossible situation, here is what you need to remember: nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37)! You have to keep your eyes on Jesus. You cannot afford to think about all the what-ifs: What if God doesn’t come through? What if my miracle doesn’t happen? What if God isn’t real? Get all of that out of your head! You have to have such tunnel vision that you refuse to even so much as think about anything other than the fullness of God’s promises coming to pass over your life.
If you want to have results, you have to have faith!
When Faith Fails
Do you know what happens when we focus on the what-if’s, instead of the promises of God? Doubt creeps in. And doubt is the most damaging, destructive force that can ever impact your prayer life. Look at the contaminative effect doubt has on our relationship with God:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – Jas 1:2-8
Life is not easy! You will go through trials that test your faith! But your responsibility is to keep your eyes on the promise of God: even when it seems impossible, and especially when it seems irrational.
God will give you what you need! But you have to ask in faith. If you doubt, you are “double-minded” (v 8). That means God wants you to have the mind of Christ so you can pray like Him (2 Cor 2:16); but when you have doubt instead of faith, unnecessary blockages materialize that can interfere with what God wants to do in your life.
Faith is the key ingredient that causes the answers to your prayers to materialize. Even if you have all the other elements in place – you know your word, and you take time to pray – your efforts will not bear fruit unless you mix them with faith!
When you doubt, you can get so scared that you actually talk yourself out of doing what God has called you to do. In 2014, God called me to write a book. He downloaded the vision for every single chapter in a matter of days. I felt the burden to write it: it felt like something had been deposited in me that I had to get out! But then doubt started to creep in. I had only been a full-time pastor for one year. What business did I have writing a book? I was only twenty-seven years old. Who did I think I was writing a theological dissertation? There were so many doubts! But I had to choose faith over those doubts.
I pushed through those doubts, and I wrote that book. I had to have such tunnel vision that I forgot about all the what-if’s! I had to protect my faith by intentionally blocking out any discouraging thoughts that worked their way into my mind. And I’m glad I did. The book has been such an immense blessing to our church community. One of our members sent me the following message yesterday:
“I feel like you were reading my mind while I was walking through the words of your book – every question & doubt that I have was clarified.”
Wow! It wasn’t easy; but it was worth it!
I was sitting on the couch last night talking with my wife about this message. I asked her how many times she had been through a situation where it was almost impossible to keep her faith. I wanted to know about her struggles to keep her faith in the midst of trying circumstances.
Before she was pregnant with Clive (our first son), she worked with a woman who was also trying to get pregnant. Try as she might, her co-worker could not conceive. The process had been going on for years. The woman was considering in-vitro fertilization. She was researching all her different options to try and conceive. So she printed out a copy for Rachael, too. “Just in case.”
Imagine my wife’s faith-battle as she tried to continue to believe for conception as someone without faith printed out a packet of information on IVF and left it on her desk. My wife made a decision: I am going to believe, instead of doubting! She threw all that information right in the trash; and not long after that, we were pregnant with our happy, healthy son!
When doubt rears its ugly head, you cannot afford to let it breathe. Cut it down immediately. Put your eyes back on the promise of God! He will do what He said He will do; but you have to have faith!
When You Have Faith
Here is what happens when you silence the doubt, and give voice to the faith:
Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” – Mk 11:20-24
When you have faith, mountains will move! Whatever things you ask for in prayer, you will have them!
The disciples marveled at Jesus. They wondered, What is it about this Man that makes His prayers so powerful? So He told them: “Have faith in God” (v 22)! Do you want to know what made Jesus so different than you and me? FAITH! He had a perfect relationship with God, which led to perfect faith in God. Jesus had a perfect understanding of who God is, and complete confidence in everything God would do.
But I Don’t Have Faith
So what do you do if you don’t have the faith required? Should you go home and repent, and wish you were a better, stronger Christian? Absolutely not! Whenever you need faith, all you have to do is ask for it.
Do you know what the disciples did when they didn’t have enough faith?
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” – Lk 17:5
They asked Jesus to increase it, and He gave it to them!
Do you know what a man who needed a miracle did when he didn’t have enough faith?
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24
He asked for help, and Jesus helped him! If you don’t have faith, don’t panic! Don’t beat yourself up. Simply ask God for help:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matt 7:7-8
Pray In Faith
God will do everything He has promised. When you pray, stop giving yourself an easy way out. Don’t waste time planning what your life is going to look like if you don’t get an answer to your prayers. Don’t waste time rationalizing a reason why God might not show up.
Faith is built as you wait for God’s promises. Guard it with all your heart. If you need more, just ask! Pray in faith, and watch God come through.
© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.