Does this verse mean belief is the secret to having God’s power? I can pray for a million dollars and if I believe in that enough it will be mine? This verse has been used in exactly that way before even in certain Christian circles. Can you imagine the pain this has caused? My son died because I didn’t believe enough when I prayed? My daughter is making wild, sinful lifestyle choices because when I prayed I didn’t have enough belief. When we stop to really think about this verse some huge questions arise. Prayer isn’t for us to control everything around us. Can you imagine trying to work out all those prayers if you’re God? Each human being throwing out all their wants to you and many of them contradict one another! Two people who hate each other praying for the other to die. Does God grant the wish of the one who believes the most?
Nonsense! It’s important when we interpret scripture to measure and study verses like this alongside what else the Bible says. The purpose of prayer isn’t so we can satisfy our selfish desires and get what we want. Here’s some other verses we might read to bring this text into a deeper understanding:
1 John 5:14 says, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
Here it’s made obvious that our prayers should line up with God’s will. How do we know God’s will? The first question is asking, “Does my prayer goes against what scripture teaches?” Asking revenge on another human isn’t in God’s will. The very next verse after this one instructs is to forgive.
Here’s another verse for us: James 4:2, 3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask, you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” Our passions or selfish desires are not the will of God, so I can say goodbye to my prayer for a million dollars!
Here’s an explanation by John Piper: “”How is such undoubting faith possible?” The only answer I can think of is that such undoubting faith is only possible if we know what God intends to do for those who believe. Or to put it another way, we can have undoubting faith if we know what God’s will is in a particular situation. How can you keep from doubting if you don’t know what God intends to do? “ Piper also points out that the verse that follows this one tells us to forgive when we pray. If I’m instructed to forgive, this takes care of desires And prayers I might have I have to zap another human being I’m upset with.
How about if we aren’t sure what God’s will is? Here’s an example of something I’ve prayed before,”Lord, I’m not sure about this situation. Here’s what I see needs to happen. I know I don’t see this as You can, so I trust You with this and ask You to act and for the best thing to be done.”
I pray this has cleared up something for someone today.
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