The Path of Prayer
Chapter 13: The Prayer of Faith
"He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Faith is necessary to prayer. Without some such faith it is difficult to imagine how any man could pray. Man could not pray without faith. Therefore the faith which God demands is the first requirement in the man who prays. Atheists do not pray. God sets great store on faith. He makes it the first requisite of prayer, the sole condition of salvation, the one essential of spiritual life, and the universal law of power. It is a shallow interpretation of faith that sneers at salvation by grace through faith alone. Faith is enough. Faith is all God asks. Faith is all Jesus asks: "Ye believe in God, believe also in me." When the ruler of the synagogue was told that his daughter was dead, Jesus steadied his faith, saying, "Fear not: only believe;" and when the distraught father of the demoniac boy cried out against his own despair, our Lord assured him that "all things are possible to him that believeth." Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith it is impossible to pray to God. Without faith it is impossible to have fellowship with God. Without faith man can do nothing with God, and God can do nothing with man. Neither can man do anything with man apart from faith, for faith is the basis of civilization as well as of salvation.
The Law of FaithSaint Paul expounds the law of faith in relation to grace, and Saint James expounds the same law. in the realm of prayer. There is no controversy between them. Faith to both is more than an intellectual conviction, however sincere. It is a moral and spiritual attitude that commits the whole being to accepted and assured truth. Faith is more than belief. The devils believe and tremble, but they do not trust. Faith is trust. It is not an opinion, not a fiction, not a supposition. It is a faculty of vision, a process of verification, an assurance of knowledge, a logic of life. It demands an honest and impartial mind, a pure and disinterested motive, a loyal and steadfast obedience. This is the faith that works by law to the justification of the ungodly, the sanctification of the unholy, and to the mighty power that prevails in prayer. "For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:20,21). The saying in Saint Matthew's Gospel must be put alongside that of Saint Mark 11:22-26: "Have faith in God For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
The Law of Faith In Prayer1) Ask (James 1:5). The teaching of James consists chiefly of amplifications and applications of our Lord's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He begins where our Lord began on the subject of prayer with the simple command to ask. "If any man lack, let him ask of God." The reach of the privilege of asking covers the whole man's need as well as his lack of wisdom. God gives to all that ask, liberally and without upbraiding, therefore "ask, and ye shall receive." There is no limit to the range of prayer. "Whatsoever" is promised to "whosoever," and the largest liberty is given to those who pray. "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). "Ask, and ye shall receive" (John 16:24). Prayer is asking. "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye" (Matthew 6:8,9). Why pray if He knows? Because asking is something different from giving information. God waits to be asked, before He gives the gifts that supply man's deepest needs.
2) Ask in Faith (James 1:6). Faith is explained by its opposite. Doubt is double-minded and unstable. Like a troubled sea, it is driven by the force of the wind and tossed by the surge of the deep; it is at the mercy of a double motion of oscillation and undulation. Internal conditions disturb, and external circumstances drive. Such a man gets nothing because he is not of one mind, and a two-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Ships go East and ships go West,
Whatever the winds that blow;
The set of the sail, and not the gale,
Settles the way we go.
Faith sets the sails3) Ask Aright (James 4:3). It is possible to ask amiss. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures." God takes account, not only of what we want, but of why we want it. He looks at the heart. There are some people to whom He will not give audience. Sin shuts men out. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66: 18). Unbelief shuts men out (Hebrews 4:19; 11:6). An unforgiving spirit shuts men out (Matthew 5:23,24; 6:14,15; Mark 11:25,26). An unstable mind shuts men out (James 1:7). A condemning conscience shuts men out (John 4:14). A self-seeking motive shuts men out (James 4:3). Faith works in those who pray that they may ask aright
4) Ask Righteously (James 5:13-18). The rightness of the asking goes down to the rightness of the asker. The person who prays is the prayer. He is both the petitioner and the petition; the pleader and the plea; the request and the reason. Patriarchs and psalmists fall back on their integrity as an argument with God, and their plea is admitted. The alms and prayers of Cornelius were accepted of God, and Peter declared his new faith in these terms: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34,35). It is the praying of the righteous man that is of great force. Faith is no substitute for right living. It does not cover sin; only blood can do that. It saves from sin, gives victory over sin, and makes men righteous with the righteousness of God. There is no condemnation, but an assurance in the will of God that gives "boldness toward God: and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John 3:21,22).
5) Ask Earnestly. God promises to be found of us when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 13:29). Elijah's prevailing prayer was intense in its passion. Our Lord's parables on prayer emphasize an importunity that persists and insists in spite of discouragement, and the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of His own praying with strong cries and tears. It is the impassioned prayer that prevails.
6) Ask in the Spirit. The prevailing prayer of Elijah was energized prayer. It was inspired, instructed, and empowered of the Holy Spirit.
7) Ask in the Prayer of Faith. Ask believingly, according to the law of faith. The principle is stated in Mark 11:24, and illustrations are in all the Scriptures. The Honor Roll of Faith in Hebrews 11 furnishes illustrious examples of its power, and in verse 13 there is a picturesque description of its method. Like the man in the Gospels who believed the word that Jesus spake and went his way (John 4:50), so these had witness borne to them, and they dared and endured by faith, even dying believing. Israel shouted before the walls of Jericho while as yet there was not even a crack in the solid masonry, and the shout of faith brought them down so that there was not a yard of solid masonry left. Jehoshaphat's singers chanted the song of victory before the battlefield was reached, and the song of faith was mightier than thousands of armed men skilled in war. Elijah's promise to the widow was made in the midst of famine, and in the house of faith there was no lack. The prayer of faith works mightily, for it is mighty with the power of God.
"When ye pray, believe that ye have received, and ye shall have." "Have Faith In God" He never dishonors faith.
Continue to Chapter 14: Praying "One For Another"