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A Life Changing Experience
The Prayer Of Faith
It's wonderful, the way in which we pray. And in the fourth lesson of this series, I want to challenge you with the prayer of faith. Very often, when I was a young believer, I would come to a sick person and say "Lord, if it be thy will, heal this sick person. If it be not, let the funeral be not too expensive, comfort the widow". And that didn't always encourage the person to believe God because it wasn't the prayer of faith.
In James 5:14, we're told if a person is sick, to call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him the prayer of faith. What is the prayer of faith? Jesus defines this prayer in Matthew 17:20. He says "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'move from here to there', it will move, nothing will be impossible unto you".
You remember in our last lesson I dealt with praise. That results from beginning to thank God when prayer is answered. That is one of the essences of faith. We hear from God, (Romans 10:17). We believe it. And even before we see it, because faith is the substance of things not seen, we begin to see it.
For six months I was working as at teacher at a school in Inniskillen, and I'd been praying. One morning, God woke me up and said "I will do a work among these boys, are you prepared?" I said "no." I sent away for the decision books to help the boys who were going to come to a personal knowledge of Jesus as Savior. And the day the books arrived, that very day, eight boys received the Lord! It was not only important that I sought the Lord and praised the Lord; but that I heard from God, and then I moved in confidence.
People say faith as a grain of mustard seed just means a small amount of faith. No, a grain of mustard seed is not only small, it is pure. You cannot cross mustard seed with any other seed. It's distinct and by itself.
So the prayer of faith means there is a commitment as you pray. In fact, Mark 11:22, Jesus said "Believe, have faith in God. If anyone says to this mountain, throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he says, it will be done for him. Therefore, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours". Be positive before you see it happening.
In one of our healing meetings here God came in with a new tremendous experience. I like fish and chips, because I am originally from England. And a man came into my meeting with fish and chips. I said "Brother, this is not a restaurant!" "Ah no," he said, "but I have a stomach ulcer, I cannot eat anything fried. For 11 years I've never had anything fried. But when God heals me today, I'm going to have my first decent meal of fish and chips." That's faith! He got healed, because he was moving in faith before he saw anything happen.
And so, Jesus answers one other thing in Mark 11:25, "When you stand praying this way, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins". In addition to believing, you must forgive anyone who has wronged you. An unforgiving spirit will prevent access to God.
In our own family we had a problem. I said "God, I know I have the wrong attitude." God said "Alright, write them a letter. Confess what you've done." I confessed this attitude, the person said "come and see me." When I went to see them, they said, "You poor student in Oxford university, you need a new pair of shoes." I said "I certainly do!"
And out of that I got a real confidence to ask God to convert people. And the following week, eight people gave their lives to Jesus in Morden, in a special mission we were on. Some years later, when I got married, and needed a house. Then this lady died and she left me enough money in her will to buy my first house. Jesus says in very clear words in Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these material needs will be added to you." But I had to get right on my attitude, I had to forgive.
Thirdly, and I think this is important in the prayer of faith, there should be a public statement. After God has given the promise privately, the word says in Matthew 17:20-22 "Say to the mountain". Stand and publicly confess it.
Watchman Nee says in one of his books he had no success in one particular island. One young convert came along and said "Well, the heathen say that you have never had rain when they fixed the day of idol worship. Now this year there will be rain". And Watchman Nee said to himself, "Oh dear, oh dear, what's this young man said? What's he stood for?" These people know, they fix the day, they're fishermen. They know what the weather is going to be. He was concerned that they were going to look foolish. And the young man said, "Where is the God of Elijah? He stopped the rain, he started the rain." And when the morning of the day seemed bright and fair, and everyone looked and laughed at the Christians. But halfway through the morning, the rain began to fall. It got so bad, that in the middle of the idol procession, it washed away some of the worshippers! Then God said that He's the God of Elijah.
There has to be a public statement. Elijah said "The God who answers by fire, let Him be God".(1Kings 18). He knew it in the private place, he declared it in the public place.
Now these principles I also find in Paul's letters. I also find it with James. James 1:5 says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given." Believe, pray, move. I lacked a stamp. I said "God, please give me a stamp". He said, "Look at the heel of your shoe". And I found my stamp. Another time we were without a car, and God said "Go to that man". I went to see the man, and he said, "Oh, yes, I've just bought a second-hand car, I'd like to give it to you, if you'll put the gospel text on it." And so, God gives to all men liberally. We need, in Philippians 4:6, "Not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God".
Because this prayer is a prayer of real, wonderful power. Mrs. Abernathy came to us with a goiter. And she said, "I believe God will heal me". We prayed, and sure enough the goiter disappeared. "Now," she said, "this goiter is a result of my only having one kidney. The other was cut out 11 years ago here in Duncannon in the hospital. I want a new kidney, I want a new one now. I'm not going to be anxious. I'm going to believe that the God who made me will give me a new kidney." So we prayed, and three days later in a hospital x-ray, they found two new kidneys. And that was twenty-five years ago. I believe we need to stop being anxious, and put our anxiety into prayer.
Because Jesus said in John 16:23, "In that day you will no longer ask Me anything, I tell you the truth, My Father will give you whatever you ask. Until now, you've asked nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be complete". (John 16:24). And so, very clearly, I believe that we must ask in faith. The certainty that we're going to receive does not cut out the need to ask God. Prayer is an assertion. God is our provider.
I know God already knows our needs, but He appreciates our coming to Him to meet them, because then we acknowledge that we are depending on Him. In Matthew 6:8, Jesus says "Don't keep on vain repetition like the heathen. Your Father knows what you need. But pray 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, give us this day our daily bread'." Okay, how much asking should be done?
First, I believe a double minded person gets nothing. So ask in faith. Commit yourself fully to God. James 1:6-7 says "When you ask, do not doubt. He who doubts like as a wave of the sea, blown and tossed. That man shall not receive anything from the Lord."
Secondly, ask rightly. Don't just say, "Oh, I want this to satisfy my own desires". James 4:3 says "When you ask you do not receive, you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasure." Then, get rid of any sin that is in your heart. Psalm 66:18 says "If I cherish sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened".
Third, don't have an "entertainment for unbelief." In Hebrews 3:19, the Israelites were not able to enter because of their unbelief. "Let us therefore," he says, "make every effort to enter a rest of faith, so that we don't fail by following their example of disobedience." Let us rest on what God is doing... no matter what circumstances appear, no matter what is happening outside, let's rest on God's promise.
A condemning conscience will prevent God from hearing you. In Deut 1:45 it says that they came back and wept before God, but He paid no attention, because they weren't real in their asking. In fact, I believe stubborn resistance to the revealed will of God, is a positive blockage to the prayer of faith. Zechariah 7:13 says "When I called, they did not listen. So when they called, says God, I would not listen". When you pray then, the prayer of faith, do so with a righteous life. I find in the Old Testament, Hezekiah was told "put your house in order, you're going to die." He relied, "I walked before you with a perfect heart." And before the prophet left the room, he was told "go back to my servant, I've given him fifteen extra years." So, in James 5:13-16 "If anyone is in trouble, let him pray. If anyone happy, let him sing songs. If anyone is sick, call for the elders of the church to pray over him. Anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise him up and if he has sinned, they will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other, pray for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
God has threatened not to hear the prayers of the disobedient. Proverbs 28:9 says "Even the prayers of a person who has a deaf ear to the Lord are detestable". But if you come and pray righteously, God will hear that prayer.
Dr. McCall tells of a woman that came and she had heart trouble. The doctor told her "Woman, you need to get a new attitude, a new heart." "No one interferes in my personal business", said the woman. She went to pray in church and she heard a voice saying, "You've never cut the umbilical cord." And her son was married, and she controlled him and controlled his wife. She told them what number of children they must have, the very color of their house. Her son had a mental breakdown. But when she heard that voice of God, she repented and gave her son his freedom. And her son was healed, and the marriage restored. And, best of all, the lady found out her heart trouble had been touched by God. So, when you come in obedience, obedience should give you boldness and confidence.
And this is what it says in 1 John 3:21-23, "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. we receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. This is the commandment, you believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another".
I had a man come to me. I was with a pastor who knew Smith Wigglesworth, and we had some wonderful evenings. And he said, "I'd like you to pray for me". I said, "But I can't." He said, "But I've got hardened arteries!" I said "No, you have a hard heart". So we had an argument. Then I said, :listen, God has told me he's the healer, I cannot pray for you until you revise your attitude". After the meeting, the pastor told me that this man had previously kicked over the communion table and had a row in the church.
And in 1 Corinthians 11, it says "Some are sick and some are dead, because they don't discern the body." We need to have a boldness and a love which comes out of a real open conscience.
Fifthly, I believe the prayer of faith comes from those who pray earnestly, out of a commitment. Jeremiah 29:13 says "You will seek me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart". Only a man who means business will receive from God. Like Abraham, he had to intercede several times for Sodom. He was anxious about Lot. And it says in Genesis 18:22, that God turned away and went towards Sodom. Abraham remained standing, saying "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from you!" In fact, in Genesis 18:32, he bargained with God. "If there were only 10 righteous people, God would you spare the town?" And in Genesis 18:32, God said "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it". But he couldn't find even ten, and the town was destroyed. However, God saved his nephew, Lot.
And I remember praying in Newcastle, "Lord, like Moses prayed, 'Send me to hell, but save these people'!" And three thousand came to Jesus in the next two years of missions in that town.
When Daniel prayed for the Jews in captivity, he first of all confessed their sins. In Daniel 9:4-9, "I prayed to the Lord," he says, "I confessed, 'O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His commandment of love with all who love Him and obey His commandments. We have sinned. We have done wrong. We have been wicked. We have rebelled. We have not listened. But Lord, you are righteous. Lord, we are covered with shame. And Lord, we are covered with shame because we sinned against You. But you are merciful. You are forgiving. Although we have rebelled against you'." And immediately he began to pray, God began to move upon him with visions of what he was going to do to restore the land.
In the Welsh Revival, Evan Roberts prayed, "Bend the church, save the world". And the widow, in Luke 18:3-7, persisted with the judge, the judge found her a nuisance. "There was a widow in that town who kept coming to him, for some time, he refused, but he said, 'Even though I don't fear God, I don't care about men, she keeps bothering me.'" Verse 7, "Will not God bring justice to His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?" Go on praying! And one man came to me. He said, "I've been seeking this power of God, I'm not emotional." I said, everyone who asks receives, keep asking, keep knocking! Just like in Luke 11:10. "O God," he says "Please give it to me!" And suddenly he fell down under the power of God. For the first time in 11 years, he found out God keeps His word.
Don't look at yourself, look at the promise of God.
And that brings me to a very important third step, accept by faith. First spend a time of asking, until you've heard the word of God, that He's going to do it. Then rest in faith. You remember in John 4, when the nobleman's son came to be healed, Jesus said "Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe". Jesus said, "Go your way, your son will live". He didn't see anything, but he took Jesus at his word. He went his way, and his servants met him and told him that the boy was alive. It was the same hour when Jesus said, "Your son will be healed". The father realized this was the exact time when Jesus said your son will live, and he believed, with all his household.
Frasier, a missionary in Africa, was moved by the Spirit. "God," he prayed, "I want a hundred souls." And one day God said, "you've got a hundred souls that will be saved." He got to the place of hearing from God. And resting on these promises, he and his successor, a missionary in the area, saw all the hundred saved, exactly that number. Frasier, moved by the Spirit, promised by God, "I'll have a hundred saved," got exactly a hundred souls. But he didn't see them in his day, he saw them in the day of his successor. The one that came and followed him in the mission work.
Once God has given you His word, He will keep it, no matter what the circumstances may look like. You can count on Him, He is faithful. Once He has promised you, you don't have to keep on asking and keep on asking.. you can rest and trust Him to keep His word, because He will.