Monday, June 2, 2014

The True Relational Nature of Faith (Mark 11:22-25)

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Have faith in God. Trust Him. Have faith in God, not your own faith. Have faith in God, not your own wisdom regarding a situation. Have faith in God, not the “power of prayer.” That power is God’s power, not the power of a spoken word like some abracadabra. And while we’re at it, have faith in God not the power-of-God like some sort of electric current or force that we simply tap into.

For me, the mountain illustration proves the biggest obstacle to understanding this teaching. To me it is what has turned this passage into the “magic potion” teaching that so many make it. The mountain here may very well be a symbolic illustration much like the fig tree. (I like to think it is about strongholds, but that is purely my own speculation based on nothing scriptural.) I don’t really know. What I do know is that our “faith” is not some magic power we can use to fulfill our deepest desires, our whims, or even what we think is best for a situation.

“Move that mountain!” *bling!*
“Give me that car over there, but make it fire engine red, not white!” *bling!*
“Make that girl fall in love with me!” *bling!*
“Make that person believe in You!” *bling?*

Prayer involves increasing our understanding of the Father’s desires. Even if my dad had been a millionaire, I don’t think he would have been the sort of dad who would have given me every single thing I wanted. He loves me too much for that. He has better desires for me than I have for myself. God is an even better father than that. Since prayer is a conversation with the Father, this teaching is not an example of Jesus instructing His followers in the art of incantation. He is speaking of a discussion that informs us about the Father’s desires so that our requests are adjusted by His will. We are changed before the world around us is.

Somehow, forgiveness is an important key in this faith/trust discussion. Otherwise this is a strange non-sequitur in this teaching moment. Notice the call to forgive, not primarily seek forgiveness. It makes sense when we think of prayer not as a power, but as a relationship. Our relationships need to be right as they reflect our relationship with the Father.

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