In this season of prayer in which we are called to intercede on behalf of our country and communities for transformation based on Kingdom values it is well to remember that faith and prayer go hand in hand, for without faith our prayers are hopeless.
Angus Buchan, leading the #PrayforRainSA event on the 30th January in Bloemfontein, in his no-nonsense- straightforward way emphasised that: “God does not answer prayer – He answers the prayer of faith”.
Faith does not only add hope, conviction, dependence and trust to our prayers, but it sustains us through unanswered prayer, because in the midst of tribulations our faith enables us to keep our focus on Lord Jesus Christ who strengthens us and gives us peace.
Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. (John16:33).
The benefit of unanswered prayer
Pete Greig, author of “Red Moon Rising, Rediscover the Power of Prayer”, says that through faith even unanswered prayer can work for our good. He reminds us that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) for our ultimate, eternal good.
Greig says unanswered prayer can take us beyond faith to faithfulness, which will replenish our faith till it is faithful.
“Whenever you meet old people that have been through life and taken (endured) all their trials and suffering and are still rejoicing and still trusting God, there you have someone who has something even better than faith, their faithfulness.
“You will never learn faithfulness unless you have lived through unanswered prayer and still stayed true to God, even though it (your unanswered prayer) doesn’t make sense to you,” explains Greig.
He says our faithfulness equips us to trust God even when we don’t understand.
Catherine Marshall, in The Helper writes, “We are told that ‘without faith it is impossible to please’ God (Hebrews 11:6). Nor can we receive anything from God or get anywhere in the Christian life without faith.
“And in one of the greatest blank-cheque promises Jesus left us, He pinned everything to faith – And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt 21: 22)
Hebrews 11: 1 tells us that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.
Marshall informs that the word substance in Hebrews 11:1 suggests an object or physical property, while the original word in Greek carries the sense of action.
“Therefore, this might be better translated, ‘Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for’,” she says.
Faith is the activating aspect of our prayers that authenticates, confirms and demonstrates our prayers, which, by God’s grace, allows us to co-create our reality with Him, to transform our prayers into our lived experience. Faith is the link between our prayers and what we are praying for.
The bridge of faith
“God has ordained it so that faith is the one faculty capable of bridging the chasm between our limiting humanness and God’s real world of spirit,” says Marshall.
“Faith, then, becomes our inner spirit’s eyes, ears, touch, even wisdom and understanding.
“Only over this bridge of faith can God’s real facts about the particular blessings we need out of God’s rich storehouse be so substantiated to you and me personally that they become real in our experience,” adds Marshall.
She asserts that is why faith always has to be in the present (denoting completed action), as contrasted with hope, which is always in the future.
“It was this ‘presentness’ of faith that Jesus was teaching us when He said: ‘So I tell you, whatever you pray for and ask, believe you have got it and you shall have it’ (Mark 11:24).
“So how do you and I get faith – like that,” questions Marshall?
The answer is in Jesus – the Word (John1:1) and our relationship with Him, for Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
This is confirmed in the devotional God Calling by Two Listeners: “Pray daily for Faith. It is My Gift.
“It is your only requisite for the accomplishment of mighty deeds. Certainly you have to work, you have to pray, but upon Faith alone depends the answer to your prayers — your works.
“It is the envelope in which every request to Me should be placed.”
“I give it you in response to your prayer, because it is the necessary weapon for you to possess for the dispersion of evil — the overcoming of all adverse conditions, and the accomplishment of all good in your lives, and then you having Faith, give it back to Me. It is the envelope in which every request to Me should be placed.
“And yet ‘Faith without works is dead’. So you need works, too, to feed your Faith in Me. As you seek to do, you feel your helplessness. You then turn to Me. In knowing Me, your faith grows — and that faith is all you need for My Power to work,” says the Two Listeners’ revelation.
Marshall suggests that we should communicate with Jesus and seek revelation in relation to our prayer to be sure that what we are praying is in God’s Will through the Holy Spirit.
We also get faith through God’s Word, reading it, repeating it and praying it, because faith relates to how much of the good news of God’s Word we have in us and hear, for what we hear is evidence of what is.
Once our faith is certain, we are able to substantiate both our faith and prayers by our works that extends them into what we do daily.
A father’s wisdom
The most direct or immediate way of substantiating our faith and prayers is by extending what we are requesting in prayer to another, which I learned through an argument with my dad when I visited him for his 80th birthday (although it has taken me many years to finally absorb the lesson):
“The presence of God is with me,” said dad who grew-up and lived the hard way as an orphan, then professional boxer.
“Where I am, God is; where I go, God goes. There is nothing I could possibly fear or want for,” he added.”
“But,” I said heatedly, “what about peace in the world, freedom from hunger, harmony, more equality and equity in this insanity!”
Dad’s battered, old-pugilist’s eyes held mine squarely, as he answered bluntly, “If you want it, be it, by giving it to another”.
Now, years later, I’ve finally learned what he meant; that being one with our Holy Father is having all by giving all, or simply being all you desire for another.
For example, if we feel that we need or desire something (like finances, for instance) and are praying in faith for God’s provision of it, we should thank Him for His faithful provision, then honour the prayer of faith by extending finances to another – thus substantiating what we prayed for and more – for we have also become an instrument of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, demonstrating the glory of His Kingdom here and now, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.