“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my disbelief!” [Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)]
Prayer is calling on God’s power; it’s like calling in the big guns to fight the battle. When doubt in the efficacy of prayer sneaks in, however, it’s more like calling in the big guns but not believing they’re loaded with enough ammunition. I am often like the father in Mark 9 who qualified his request that Jesus heal his son by saying, “If you can.” Like that father, I profess to believe but I need God to help me believe more! Sometimes, the enemy sneaks into my heart and causes me to doubt both the ammunition and God’s aim.
Looking for a feel-good movie to escape from the challenges of the day, we recently streamed the War Room. Not to be confused with the 1993 documentary The War Room, the war room in this 2015 movie is a converted closet with prayer requests covering the walls rather than an Arkansas political campaign headquarters. Focusing on the power of prayer, the story is about a crumbling marriage that is redeemed by prayer.
In one memorable scene, Elizabeth Jordan, the woman in the troubled marriage, and Miss Clara, a prayer warrior extraordinaire, are walking together when they’re confronted by a knife-wielding mugger demanding their money. As Elizabeth starts to get out her wallet, Miss Clara successfully defies him just by saying, “You put that knife down right now in the name of Jesus!” The next scene shows a frazzled Elizabeth reporting the incident to a skeptical policeman while the unruffled Miss Clara enjoys some ice cream.
Even the most positive reviews of this movie were critical of the unreality of those scenes but, as improbable as they were, their inclusion in the movie were necessary because they demonstrate the absolute faith—the total certainty—that is necessary for truly powerful prayer. Facing that mugger, Miss Clara had no doubt that she was in God’s hands and was certain that He would rescue her if she called on Jesus’ name. Later, as she calmly consumed both her and Elizabeth’s ice cream, it is obvious she wasn’t surprised by God’s protection. She expected it, as should we all if we truly believe. After all, nothing is impossible with God!
I’m not sure that God wants us to respond to a weapon-wielding robber the way Miss Clara did but I think He does want us to have the kind of faith demonstrated in that scene. When we come to Him in prayer, we must have faith enough to put our entire lives in His hands. We must believe that our prayers can actually make a difference. Indeed, prayer is the key to winning all those battles we can’t win on our own.
When we pray, do we ask with our lips but doubt in our hearts? When we ask, are we surprised when we receive? Father in heaven, I don’t know why I still doubt when you’ve shown me over and over again that my prayers do not fall on deaf ears. I have faith, dear Lord; please, help me have more!
Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will. [Ben Stein]