Pray Without Doubting

This was the devotion at yesterday’s staff meeting:

Pray Without Doubting

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matthew 21:22

Before you pray, check to see whether you believe or doubt that you will be heard.  If you are doubting or uncertain, or if you are merely trying prayer to see what happens, your prayer won’t be worth anything.  For you aren’t keeping your heart steady but letting it wobble back and forth.  As a result, God cannot give something to a person who doesn’t hold her hand still.

Imagine how you would feel if a person had earnestly asked you for something but then said to you, “I don’t really believe you will give it to me,” even though you had promised that you would beforehand.  You would thing he was mocking you by his request.  You would take back everything you had promised and perhaps even punish him on top of it.

How can it please God when we do the same to him when we pray?  God assures us that when we ask him for something, he will give it to us.  By doubting him, we call him a liar and contradict our own prayers.  By not believing him, we insult God’s truthfulness, the same truthfulness we rely on when we pray.  This is why we say the little word Amen at the end of our prayers.  We use it to express our firm, heartfelt faith.  It’s like saying, “O God, I have no doubt that you will give me what I ask for in prayer.”  [1]

This one was an interesting one, because it sounds like Luther is promoting prosperity gospel.  Ask for it, pray hard enough for it, believe you will get it, and poof, you get it. It doesn’t sound like Luther.  My thought is this was very early in Luther’s career.  But other than that, I’m left scratching my head.

Most of the time I like this devotional book.  Other days, like yesterday, I wish the editor gave us some context: when this was written, to whom it was written, etc.  Context plays an important role, especially when reading Luther.

If anyone could shed some light on this, I’d appreciate it.

[1]  James C. Gavin, editor, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), devotional for January 26.

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2 thoughts on “Pray Without Doubting

  1. I’m sorry I can’t help with the Luther reference, but I can’t.
    However, I’m curious about the assertion itself, that we can, without fail, ask God for something knowing we will receive it. On the simplest level, it is of course not my experience, nor is it the experience of any Christian I know. And I have heard, and known closely, many reports of faithful people being harmed through assertions that “if you take those meds, you are demonstrating that you really don’t completely trust God’s promise” The sort of thing that turns faith into a work, by which we can manipulate God.

    But even if I have some fault that blocks the efficacy of God’s promise, if I am lacking in sincere faith, of the type required (and I can well believe my fault!); what do such folk make of St. Paul’s plea the his “thorn in the flesh” be removed? God did, after all, say “no” to him. Was Paul lacking in faith? Did he not trust God enough? It doesn’t seem likely, but then, Paul was not perfect. No matter how inspired, he was still a fallen man. Well then, what of our Lord’s prayer that the Father would “let this cup pass from me”? Surely, if anyone would be able to ask for whatever he wished, and receive it, it would be Jesus.

    But we are left with the text, and the promise. I think that if I had been an early scribe, copying out the Gospel text, I would have been sorely tempted to leave that out. It is surely the most embarrassing promise in the whole Bible, as it seems so unfulfilled. But its very presence is evidence of the fidelity of the copying. I think we must plumb deeper for the meaning, and the application.

    I would rather trust His character in choosing the best, and correcting my request. I would rather trust God, than trust my own understanding of what I need.

    Blessings!
    -R. Eric Sawyer

    • You raise some great points.

      As I further reflect on this, sometimes the answer is “No.” Like when I play Powerball. I pray very hard and have faith that God will let me pick the right numbers to win the jackpot. To date, I have never won. Maybe God’s answer was just “No.”

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