Photo: Abdul Rahman, flickr
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt … you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:18–22
Our passage comes during what was the original Holy Week of Jesus’ death and resurrection, although the disciples didn’t realize it then. (And yes, I’m a little out of sync with the church calendar with Lent starting tomorrow. Think of it as a taster of things to come…) Jesus and his friends were walking from Bethany to Jerusalem when he encounters an unfruitful fig tree. He makes it wither, which amazes the disciples. But the fig tree symbolized Israel, for neither were they reflecting God’s fruit.
Then Jesus says that we should have faith and believe. That if we hope and trust in God, looking to him for our fruitfulness, he will answer our prayer. Of course, this can get tricky if we believe it literally, in a mindless “The Bible says it; I believe it” sort of way. Then we become as a demanding child, insisting that God should give whatever we ask in prayer.
Those who care for young children can see this folly acted out. Of course we aren’t going to give kids endless sugar or let a toddler climb a ladder unaided. God might similarly turn down some of our requests. Perhaps our most poignant experiences of learning from and leaning on God have come through unanswered prayer. They certainly have for me.
But Jesus wants us to have faith and believe. While we become downhearted quickly, thinking that our circumstances or another person will never change. I know I’ve been prone to this stance of unbelief. For instance, a former colleague and I couldn’t reach a meeting of the minds in terms of expectations or delivery, and I wanted to give up. But I knew I had to examine my own attitude, so I asked God to help me see her as he created her. Slowly, and sometimes painfully, I began to change in my outlook. And our working relationship improved.
What mountains need moving in your life?
For reflection: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).