“and Jesus answered them, ‘have faith in God.'” v. 22
Jesus cannot be justly accused of being stingy toward us in his call to prayer. If you are interested, go through his teachings and take note the number of times he uses the words, whoever, whatever, and whenever in regard to prayer. Today we see all three of the used in the same moment.
Whoever (v. 23) “Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Jesus offers the opportunity to move mountains to “Whoever”. This means that the invitation to faith is open to any who will step out by faith and start moving mountains. Don’t get hung up on geography and landscaping. He’s not asking you to rearrange the Himalayas for fun. He’s pointing us to the mountains in our lives and in the lives of others. He’s pointing us to seemingly impossible situations and inviting us to have faith to see them changed. The use of the word, “Whoever” is important for those of us who think God only answers the prayers of an elite group who have attained a certain level of goodness. The Roman Centurion was outside the fold of Israel, but his faith made him great in the Lord’s eyes, “I have not seen such faith in all Israel.” Cornelius, another Roman Centurion, didn’t even know who Jesus was, but his faith got Heaven’s attention (Acts 10) and the first Gentile church began in his home when he was converted to Christ. Faith is the great qualifier. “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…” (Romans 5:2) If you have a pulse and you have faith in Christ, you have an open door into his presence.
Whatever (24) “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus tells us that nothing is outside the sphere of God’s power and ability to act. The only limits are the limits of our faith. Again he tells us that faith is the key to answered prayer. This is an outrageous statement and it raises all sorts of questions. Is unanswered prayer always due to our lack of faith? No. Sometimes God will say “No” or “wait” for the sake of his glory and /or our good. Sometimes prayer goes unanswered because our motives are all wrong. Sometimes our disobedience hinders our prayers. I find the most common experience with unanswered prayer is simply that we give up too soon. But it is never because of a lack of power or concern on God’s part. If I go out on a cold morning to crank up my car and it doesn’t start, I don’t immediately conclude that cars don’t work. I check to see if there is a problem. You prayed and your “whatever” didn’t happen. Don’t give up on prayer. Seek the Lord on it. Press into his presence and ask for his counsel.
Whenever (25) “and whenever you stand praying forgive, if you have anything against anyone…”
Now Jesus turns our self indulgence in prayer on its ear. He tells us that whenever we pray we must forgive, or we simply will not be forgiven. Until now it seemed that prayer was all about us getting something from God. But now we see a little deeper into this thing called prayer. It’s not made just to give us what we want, but to transform us into what God wants. God wants a people who will trust him and walk by faith, even in our pain. It takes faith to forgive. When we are in pain, because we have been unjustly treated, we naturally want to administer justice, or revenge. But prayer calls us out of what is natural into the supernatural. Forgiveness is supernatural. Only the Spirit of God can enable us to forgive. Prayer in faith enables us to free ourselves from the bitterness of someone else’s sin against us. We become free when we forgive.
Today the Lord is inviting you to live by faith. Whoever you are, whatever you face, and whenever you are hurting, come and believe. I challenge you to get out your Bible today and look up the times Jesus used the words, “Whoever”, “Whatever” and “Whenever”. Then begin to live in light of what he said.