It’s Wednesday morning of Passover Week and Jesus and His disciples are headed back to Jerusalem when they pass the fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before. They noticed it was totally withered, so Jesus took this opportunity to teach a lesson on prayer, which would become imperative in the days ahead since He would no longer be physically with them. Mark 11:22-25 gives us 5 components of effective Prayer:
- Historical (remember). Matthew 21:20 How did the fig tree wither so quickly? The power came from God and was accessed through prayer. Confidence in prayer starts with remembering how God has displayed His power in the past. Isaiah 46:8-10 says do not forget I am God. In Psalms 77:1-20 the psalmist begins by asking if God will ever help? and then remembers what God has done – he is comforted by history. Psalms 105:4-5 & Psalms 143:5 remind us to remember and meditate. Memories are an asset in prayer. A good reminder is the old hymn, Count Your Many Blessings, Count Them One by One!
- Theological (trust). In verse 22 Jesus tells His disciples to have faith in God. Where should we put the emphasis of faith in prayer? Do “I” have faith? Our faith should be in “God,” not in us. We need to trust in God, not in faith. To trust in God means to honor 1)God, 2)His Kingdom, and 3)His will. All prayer should honor God by trusting His power and have the goal of furthering His Kingdom by following His will. James 4:3 & 15 and 1 John 5:14 tell us that if we ask and don’t receive it’s because our motive is wrong, He will listen if we ask according to His will. We need to remember that God does know best.
- Spiritual (believe). Verse 23 promises that whoever (any of us) asks with faith can move a mountain. Of course this is not meant to be a literal mountain, it is a figure of speech, probably coming from the phrase, “movers of mountains,” which is what they called rabbis that could solve big problems. If we are confronted with an overwhelming problem and believe without doubt, if we ask and if it is in God’s will, He will solve the problem.
- Practical (ask). Verse 24 says that we can pray for anything, but we must ask. This does not say that we can ask for whatever greedy desire we have; it must always be consistent with God’s will.
- Moral (forgive). Verse 25 tells us to forgive others, so that God can forgive us. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer, “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” Full forgiveness of God can not happen if we hold a grudge against someone else – that’s sin, and if we want God to hear our prayers we need to forgive so God can forgive that sin in us, then He will hear us (Psalms 66:18).
The disciples apparently came to understand Jesus’ little lesson in prayer because later in Acts 1:12-14 we learn that by prayer the church was born!