Copyright 2006 Rob Marshall
His heart sank again as he looked at his son and thought about what had happened just one day earlier. He had been working when he heard his wife desperately screaming for him. As he rushed in he had seen his wife on the floor next to the fire holding their son. An evil spirit that had been tormenting their son had thrown him into the fire and his arm was severely burned. He couldn’t forget the agony in his wife’s voice as she pleaded with him to take their son to the healer. The spirit was trying to destroy their son and they had to do something.
But now that he was getting close to where the healer was supposed to be, his mind was filled with questions. They had never been a very religious family, would the healer send them away because they sinners? They had no money, would his son not be healed because they had nothing to give to the healer? Everything else they had tried had failed, were they destined to be disappointed again? He cried as the fear overwhelmed him and his mind was flooded with thoughts of having to tell his wife that their only son had not been healed, and that there was no more hope.
When I read stories in the Bible it’s too easy to forget that they tell us about real people with real pain and struggles. This story in Mark 9:14-29 is just one example. I’ve read that story so many times and I often get drawn into the drama surrounding the disciples. I don’t think about what this father must have been going through.
As we bring our prayer requests to God there are many things that go through our minds. Like the father in this story we may have a desperate need and we know exactly what it is. But many times our prayers aren’t quite this serious. Not that they aren’t important to us, but we’re somewhat unclear about what it is that we want.
Our prayers need to clearly express to God the things that we want. The Bible tells us that God searches our hearts, but it also tells us to “present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). And in James 1:5-8 we read that a person who doubts is like a wave of the sea, tossed about by every wind. That person cannot expect to receive anything from God because he is double-minded.
When we doubt we are torn between different things. We may say we want one outcome, but in our minds we’re not really sure. For example, I might want to be healed from the flu, but at the same time I would rather not have to go to work in the morning, and having the flu is a good excuse.
Have you ever had times when you wanted two different things? Or when you weren’t completely sure what it was that you wanted?
One of the most important “secrets” to getting our prayers answered is to bring requests to God that are clear and definite. And the first part of that is being clear about what it is that we want and being sure that we really want it.
The father in this story from Mark was absolutely clear about what he wanted and how important it was to him. More than anything else, he wanted his son to be healed and he was going to do all that he could to see that it happened.
Take a look at your prayers. Are you praying for specific outcomes? Are the answers you are looking for the things that you really want?
Something that has helped me get some clarity about what I want is to take the time to put my prayers on paper. And then I ask myself a few questions about why I want what I’m asking for. Knowing what I want, and why I want it, helps me be committed and single-minded about my prayers.
My simple formula for faith is:
Desire + Expectation + Action = Faith
Being clear about our desires, and how important they are to us, is the first step toward effective faith and answered prayer.