Today we are in Mark 11:12-25.
The incident with the fig tree seems like a temper tantrum from Jesus. It’s uncharacteristic of the Jesus we have come to know in the gospels.
When you take in the whole context there are two lessons Jesus is illustrating in a tangible and dramatic way.
- Fig trees are for figs. Temples are for prayer.
- Prayer changes things. (an understatement) Prayer can change anything.
This lesson from Jesus gives us two qualifications for prayer.
- Believing prayer changes things. (23-24)
- A heart that forgives changes things. (25)
We’re going to spend three weeks on prayer.
Next week we will talk about faith.
The following week we will talk about forgiveness.
Today will be sort of an overview of the kind of prayer that changes things.
We’re going to talk about the power of prayer, categories of prayer and the conditions for the kind of prayer that God answers.
The Power of Prayer
Prayer is such an interesting topic.
Prayer is the great privilege of the Christian life.
Pray is the great priority of the church.
Prayer is our great source of power as servants of the kingdom of God in this world.
Throughout the Scriptures we see prayer as the catalyst, the fire that lights the great fires in the world.
The Exodus was sparked by the prayers of God’s people in Egypt.
Samuel the prophet who ushered in the kings of Israel was born in prayer.
The national revivals of Solomon, Ezra and Nehemiah were steeped in prayer.
The nation was saved from the brink of destruction when Hezekiah prayed for help against the Assyrian army.
The prophet Daniel was visited by the messenger of God while praying for forgiveness for the sins of his people.
The life of Jesus is punctuated with moments of prayer. The Spirit descended on Him while he was praying, he chose the 12 disciples after a night of prayer, he was transfigured while praying, and the sufferings of Christ were endured in prayer.
The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost came during a prayer meeting.
The first missions movement of the church began when the church in Antioch was fasting and worshiping God.
The glorious visions of Revelation came to John while praying.
Every revival and spiritual awakening begins with the people of God in prayer and worship.
“So it is God’s will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people.” -Jonathan Edwards
Prayer changes things.
The pinnacle of Christian activity in the world is the church united in believing prayer on behalf of the world.
If fig trees are for figs and the church is for prayer, shouldn’t we know something about it?
An overview of types of prayer.
I have found it helpful to think about basic categories of prayer shown to us in the Bible.
Thanksgiving. Confession. Supplication. Adoration.
Rearrange that for a helpful acronym.
A good prayer life includes a healthy balance.
If you are new to prayer or perhaps need a reboot of your prayer life, this may help you.
A challenge for the church. What if we prayed for 15 minutes a day for a week. What might happen?
The conditions for answered prayer.
According to Jesus anything.
Verse 24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Lord make a Ferrari Testarosa appear in my driveway? Lord I want to win the powerball?
We have to take the bigger context into consideration. The New Testament gives us 6 qualifications for answered prayer.
- Believe (Mark 11:24)
- Abide in Jesus (John 15:7)
- Agree with others (Matthew 18:19)
- Align with God’s will (1 John 5:14)
- Right motives (James 4:3)
- Forgive (Mark 11:25)
In other words there are things that will hinder the power of our prayer – unbelief, sin, disunity, self-will and selfish motives, lack of forgiveness.
Is this adding so many qualifications that it isn’t realistic?
These boundaries are normal. They are normal because they describe the normal Christian life. The normal day to day walk of the Christian should be free from bitterness and unresolved conflict.
We should strive for good motives. We should live in the boundaries of his moral will. We should seek unity and partnership in prayer. We should be abiding in Christ.
Do I have to run through this checklist for every prayer? If I struggle with one of these areas, does that mean God won’t hear any of my prayers?
God is gracious. He is gracious with new believers and often answers prayers despite confusion, mixed motives, etc.
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown