Have you ever been praying for something and realized that you don’t really believe that your prayers will be answered? I have.
I think unbelief is one of those hindrances that can, if we allow it, keep us from our prayer closets. This is a little bit intimidating to even bring up. We’ve all heard the criticisms that the “Name It Claim It” groups receive. Some, unwisely, have told someone who is going through a devastating trial that they just don’t have enough faith. Talk about adding insult to injury. It’s easy, in a knee-jerk reaction, to just ignore unbelief. That feels safer. But for those of us that spend a significant part of our time and energy in intercession, it seems like a topic that needs to be brought up if we are going to bear fruit. In James 1:6, in the context of praying for wisdom, it says,
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
It seems clear that if we are to expect our prayers to be answered, there needs to be faith present. In Mark 5:36 (“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”), we are commanded to believe. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we would not be commanded to do something unless it was actually possible for us to accomplish it?
So, what do we do with unbelief? The first thing that is called for is an acknowledgment that unbelief is sin. Romans 14:23 tells us that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Hebrews 3:12 says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” The problem is NOT whether or not we have ENOUGH faith. Jesus said in Luke 17:6, “…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea.’ The issue is if we have faith at all for what we are asking for. So, if we have any faith, it is enough. One mistake I made for much of my life was the misconception that if I believed something theologically, then I believed. But our theology does not always line up with what we believe in our hearts, does it? It is so easy to be double-minded! So, if we have come to see that we don’t have faith for a particular prayer request, we treat that lack of faith (unbelief) like any other sin. We identify the lie(s) we are believing. For example, maybe we’ve come into agreement with the lie that God does not answer prayer. We repent. We renounce the lie(s) that we are believing. We exchange the lie(s) for the truth found in God’s word… “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) Now we are ready to pray again…this time without the hindrance of unbelief in our way. If we still aren’t receiving an answer to our prayers, it may mean that we need to be patient (Hebrews 6:12), or we may need to take a look at other reasons for what we perceive to be unanswered prayer, such as whether or not we are praying in agreement with God’s will, wrong motives in prayer, etc. The main thing is that we do not give in to the temptation to believe that God is anything other that who He says He is! Faithful! A promise keeper!
May we all grow in grace and in the knowledge of God,