Mk. 11:20-26-Jesus uses the cursed fig tree as an opportunity to teach the disciples about prayer. The next day, as they were passing by the tree they saw that it was completely withered. (cf. 11:1-they were on the Mount of Olives…:23-"this mountain"). Jesus was teaching them that not only would prayer work on a single fig tree, but is powerful enough to work on anything, even something as large as the mountain (cf. January 31, Matthew 21:1-22). He begins by saying, "Have faith in God". Here is the premise, or basis for the very content of all answered prayer. This faith…because it is in God…will be established and determined by God. It isn’t that just any prayer will be answered. But, that prayer which is consistent with God…His character, and His will. Pray, ask, and believe that you have received and it will be done.
There are three hindrances to answered prayer that are given, here. First, as we have seen, the prayer is not in harmony with God’s will. There must be “faith in God”…the submission of my request to His final and ultimate decision. See the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:35-36) for the perfect example of this practice. Even the Son was submissive to the will of the Father. Second, the one praying “does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen”. The word “doubt” is a contraction of two Greek words (“dia”…meaning “through, by means of” and “krino”…which means “to judge, to make a distinction, to determine”…when they are put together it means that through the faculty of reason, or rationale, a person is making a judgment, or distinction between two things) and means that a person says that he believes one thing, but in his mind (what he can understand, explain as being possible) he has accepted something else. He says that he believes that it is possible…but because he cannot figure out how it could actually happen (from a human perspective)…in his mind, he has a different opinion that is more dominant. Our mind, our intelligence, our rational thinking must be submitted by faith to God. While what we are praying for may not be possible, according to the laws of this physical realm in which we exist…God is not limited by such restrictions. If He so chooses, God can intervene through His sovereign, divine power and work in miraculous ways. At such times when we reach the end of our intellectual capacity to understand how something is possible…it is by faith that our journey continues into the possibilities of the that which is doable only by faith. “Have faith in God.” The third hindrance to prayer is the failure to forgive others. An unforgiving heart is a sign of an unbelieving heart. For surely, if we are to believe in a sovereign God that can work miracles in the physical realm…then we must also believe that His same sovereignty extends into all areas of our life, as well. Our belief would be an affirmation that we accept that He is sovereign over everything in our life. God has exhibited that He is forgiving of our sins. Therefore, as His children, in keeping with His nature that we have inherited through the work of His Spirit, we should be forgiving of those who have sinned against us. To not do so is an expression that we do not actually accept His sovereignty (we refuse to abide by His will)…and therefore, we do not believe that He is sovereign over the matter that we are praying about. That prayer will not be answered.
Mk. 11:27-33-As Jesus enters the Temple the religious leaders question the source of His authority. He knows that if He says it comes from God that they will claim that they are the resident representatives of God and they know nothing of God giving Him any authority. Or, they might accuse Him of blasphemy…saying that by claiming to have the authority of God, He was making claim to be God. While they would have been right in their conclusion…they would not have accepted it and would have proceeded to have Him punished. So, Jesus turns the table on them. He says that He will answer their question if they first answer one for Him. They agree to do so. I think for a moment, their common sense gave way to their pride. They were probably thinking that there was no question of theology that this pseudo-miracle worker could ever ask that they could not answer. This was their chance to outshine Him in front of the people. "Sure, fire away! Ask us any question You want!" Jesus proceeds to ask them where John the Baptist got his authority…that is what He was speaking of when He asked them what the source of the baptism of John was. They don’t want to say it was from God…because they had opposed John. But, neither do they want to say it was from man…because the people believed that John’s baptism (authority) came from God and then the people would be against them and in favor of Jesus. To avoid giving a direct answer they simply say that they don’t know. Jesus tells them that if they won’t answer Him, He feels no compulsion to answer them.
Prayer: Lord, please teach me the truths that You meant here in this lesson on prayer. Help me to believe in You and not doubt. To submit my mental, rational understanding to You. And help me to forgive, as You forgive. Teach me to pray, Lord. There is so much I need to learn.