In the last Bible study, we learned God chooses to hear, listen, and answer the prayers of a righteous person. Righteousness comes from God because of absolute faith in God, like Abraham, Moses, Noah, and Job displayed in their lives. It is an unwavering faith in God that acts upon what God has said to be obedient to His commands. Righteousness also comes from God’s mercy and forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross to die the death penalty for all humankind. A person receives righteousness from God when he or she acknowledges Jesus is the Son of God, believes He lived and died to save him or her from sin, and confesses with contrition his or her sins to God. Righteousness cannot come from anything we do. Because God is righteous and defines righteousness, it can only come from Him.
As you noticed, righteousness requires belief in God and in Jesus Christ as the saving sacrifice for our sins, our willful disobedience to God and His laws. Belief is the next aspect of the person who prays we will study.
Belief in God is the attribute second most spoken of by the Bible in a person who prays. The Bible writers most often stated it as “having faith in God.” In this category, five Bible verses speak on “prayer” and two teach about the verbs “to pray” and “to ask.”
In Matthew 17:19-21 Jesus confronted the disciples who were unable to cast a demon out of a young boy. He rebuked them for their little faith. When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not drive the evil spirits out, Jesus replied, “Because of the littleness of your faith.” Their belief in the power of God was small. Jesus told them even a faith as small as a mustard seed could make mountains move. Nothing would be impossible when they prayed and fasted with and for this kind of faith. The kind of faith Jesus spoke of in this passage comes from the Greek word pistis and means a conviction of the truth of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and their power to bring about that for which they pray and believe. This faith has implicit trust and confidence in God.
Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 record Jesus speaking further on this. Jesus said belief brings receiving that for which you ask in prayer if you ask without doubting. God grants the prayers of the person who believes when he or she asks from Him. Prayer is tied to faith without doubt. A person who prays, but without faith, has no communion with God, does not know His will, has a heart unchanged by His Holy Spirit, and therefore does not pray in conjunction with God’s purposes. This type of prayer will not effect change in the person who prayed or the situation for which the person prayed. Prayer requires righteousness of the pray-er and belief by the pray-er in the triune Godhead.
Paul had great confidence in the faith and prayers of the Philippian Christians. In Philippians 1:19, he stated his deliverance from imprisonment would occur through their prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul believed in the power of the prayers of believers. He rejoiced expecting God to work in his situation and saw already at the time God’s hand in his imprisonment because men of the praetorian guard and others in prison were able to hear the Gospel. Christ was proclaimed even while Paul remained in prison.
Later in this letter to the Philippians, Paul taught the believers in Philippi more about prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7, he said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul trusted in the power of prayer by believers. Even in the midst of his own personal misfortune, he taught the Philippians not to be anxious, but give everything in their hearts and minds over to God in prayer and supplication. Paul told them to expect answer - do not doubt - and begin thanking God for what He will do in answer to their prayers. He told the Philippians to trust in God and His love that He would hear and answer them so that they would have the peace of God in their hearts and minds even though having peace during their times of trial made no human sense. For Paul, effective prayers came from faith and trust in God, without anxiety, that expected God to hear and answer and caused a peace and eruption of thanksgiving to flow forth from the person who prays. Righteousness and belief are paramount for Paul in his teachings about prayer and in his personal life of prayer.
James agreed with Paul’s teaching on prayer. In James 5:15, he stated, “The prayer offered in faith will restore the sick.” In this part of his letter, James spoke about the elders of the church going to the sick person, praying over him or her, and anointing him or her with oil in the name of the Lord. The elder did not make the sick person well, neither did the oil. Rather, the faith of the praying person in the power of Jesus Christ to heal the sick brought His power to prevail in the sick person’s body to make him or her well. The power of Jesus Christ made the person well. The faith/belief that Jesus could and willed the health of the person brought it to pass in that situation.
John spoke of this same required belief by a child of God. He recorded in John 16:26-27 Jesus said, “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” Jesus told His disciples because of their love of Him that came from their belief and trust in Him and His saving power, God the Father loves them. Jesus will not have to beseech the Father to act for His disciples because the Father will, out of His love for them and because of their love for Jesus, answer their prayers – give them that for which they ask. Love acted out toward Jesus Christ because of belief and trust in Him results in communion with and union with God the Father whose desire is to care for and answer the prayers and requests of His children. The believer’s faith Jesus Christ and His power caused the faith of the praying person to be effective in prayer because of God’s love for him or her.
Each of these men spoke of belief in terms of the Greek word pisteuo. Pisteuo means to think to be true, to be persuaded and place confidence in God and Jesus Christ because of a conviction and trust in the triune God. That trust aids in obtaining what is needed or prayed for, and in receiving salvation.
Relevance and Conclusion
Faith is void without the person or thing in which a person trusts having power to effect anything in the life of the person who believes. The Canaanites and later the Israelites placed their faith in false gods such as Baal, Asherah, and Molech and received no power from these gods to aid them in their lives. Today people who trust and put their faith in things or beings other than Jesus Christ will not receive blessings or help in their lives. If a person places all his or her faith in him or herself to provide all necessary things for life, that person is only human and cannot stop bad things from happening or give life after death. That person cannot provide forgiveness for sin or give eternal life. That person is just that, a created human being. Only the Creator of humankind and all things can give eternal life, cause help to arrive for every situation, heal wounds, forgive the judgment due for sins, and love people even though their sins make them unlovable. Only belief in the One true God can cause our prayers to be effective by God answering them in His power. For prayer to be effective, the person who prays must believe in God and must be made right before Him, made righteous by God's forgiveness of sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for sins.
Today we each must decide what or who we are placing as gods in our lives. We must recognize on whom or what we place our trust and determine for ourselves if that person or thing is almighty, all-knowing, and able to forgive us our sins and love us to and through eternity.
When you look at yourself and your life, in whom do you place your ultimate trust for your life?
God is the only One who has the power to forgive your sins.
He can and will give you perfect peace because of His love for you and His power.
With Him you can walk in strength and trust knowing you have a hope for the future.
Will you lay aside your false gods - those things upon which you relied instead of God?
Will you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and believe only in God?