The Permeating Influence of Prayer

“… in everything by prayer and supplication …”

Those two words:  “in everything.”  Prayer is intended to permeate every aspect of life. This sounds extreme but not to the Apostle Paul who wrote it to the Christians in Philippi.

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) — 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Prayer isn’t just for religious services, bedtime, mealtime, or for a crisis. Kind of like milk, it is for anytime and everywhere–“in everything.”  Our prayers can reach further than we can imagine. Yes, God hears them, yet their directional influence isn’t just heavenward.

Prayers from the soul  touch our heart’s affections; our heart’s direction; and our heart’s vision. They affect our virtues, priorities, habits, weaknesses, and strengths. They do this because they come from the soul, the very heart of our being, with heart-felt passion and hope.

A prayerful soul finds itself surrendering. The nature of prayer by definition surrenders to the Father’s will, the Savior’s Lordship, and the Spirit’s work–“not my will, but Thy will be done.” This day-to-day surrendering disturbs the lurking pride and self-righteousness that flatters us. The aroma of Jesus Christ conquers such foulness as the soul bows in delightful posture to the true King. A prayerful soul disturbs and undermines other similar characters (i.e., anxiety, fears, loneliness, doubt, regrets, shame, confusion) that have found hospitable quarters in our lives. Prayer from the soul to God permeates far and deep in the life of the one praying.

A prayerful soul will find the well, and within the well is the sweet waters of joy, peace, love, forgiveness, liberty, life, encouragement, inspiration, wisdom, and the abundance of our Father’s grace. This water is meant to feed into every aspect of the believer’s life. The Holy Spirit’s delight is to cause the well of living water to spring up from within each believer’s soul. Prayer taps the well and the soul drinks from its life.

Like the sun rising in the morning and creeping across the landscape, so the light of one’s dependence upon God “in everything” grows in the prayerful soul. Prayer helps the believer see his desperate dependence on God–dependence “in everything” at all times. Our relationships, occupations, education, economics, as with our growth in the knowledge of the Kingdom of God are affected by the bowing heart that is looking upward with hope. This active prayerful soul grows in the light that God is the center and source of all reality. All things are by Him and for Him, and to Him belongs all glory and honor for all that is honorable and good.

How does one’s prayers permeate every aspect of life? The simple answer is:  by doing it.  Recorded in Matthew 6:6, Jesus said get alone with God the Father. Be sincere; be surrendered; be simple. The easiest spiritual exercise is prayer. Grab your Bible and shut the door behind you and let your praying soul drink from the well and lay hold of the great and gracious God.

The Collaboration of Faith and Unbelief

We have recorded in the Gospel of Mark 9:14-27, an incident and conversation that gives insight to the subjects of faith and unbelief.  A father brings his son, who is possessed by a demon, to where he heard Jesus to be. Jesus isn’t there and nine of the disciples try but fail to cast the demon out of boy. By the time Jesus shows up on the scene, the dad’s faith is wounded and wrecked. The dad’s faith has gone from full blown confidence to being on life-support.  We can relate to that, right? Trusting in God for an answer to prayer one day and the next day our faith that He heard our request is in the basement digging a hole. The reality is more like faith one minute and unbelief creeping into our minds within the hour.

In this story the dad confesses to Jesus that he wants to believe, that he’s trying to believe, that there is a little bit of faith in Jesus down deep, but that unbelief has swelled within his bosom. He cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

What does Jesus do? Does Jesus shake His head in disappointment and murmur, “We’ll, I thought I was going to be able to help this man’s son, but now I can’t because of the father’s unbelief.”

Does Jesus rebuke the dad and say, “Your doubt is what keeps your son in bondage to the demon!”

Does Jesus turn to the disciples and say, “This is why you couldn’t cast the demon out of the boy!”

Does Jesus say to the dad, “When you have rid yourself of the doubt and unbelief and can believe without wavering, then come back and see me.”

The answer to all of those is, NO!

Too many people have been told that if you have doubt, even a little bit, then your faith is neutralized. That is absurd on many levels.  Where do I begin to rebut such an unbiblical idea? The man’s faith is not what cast the demon out of his son, any more than it is your super-duper Christian faith that saved you.  Jesus saved you! Your faith doesn’t do the work, Jesus does. Your faith trusts in Him to do the work, or that He has done the work, but it is Jesus and not you.  Too often we put faith in ourselves, or in other words, faith in our faith. Well, Don’t! Have faith in God.

If you have heard someone tell you that you should have faith in YOUR faith, just grin, say, “No Thanks,” and quote Mark 11:22.

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

The dad in the story from Mark 9, is just like all of us, he has a mix of faith and unbelief. The dad arrived on the scene believing that Jesus could deliver his son and due to let-downs and anti-Christ arguments from the self-righteous religious leaders who were arguing with the nine disciples, this dad’s faith began to wane. He wanted to believe that Jesus could, and yet confessed that he was wrestling with unbelief. He had both faith and unbelief at work simultaneously within the heart.  This isn’t a double-minded man, this is every believer that can admit he/she is not perfect and battles within the mind.

The next thing that Jesus did is a practical example for us all. Jesus reached out to this dad by asking him to tell the story of his son. This personal, caring gesture pulled the dad’s faith closer to Jesus.  It had to have helped him see Jesus as more than a healer, as a caring shepherd. It is as if Jesus said, “Tell me your story. How long has this been happening to your son? I care.”  Jesus accepted this man who was wrestling with faith and unbelief.

The Lord never expects perfect faith, that would be pointless, though he is worthy of it. He only expects imperfect faith because that’s all He’s ever going to get out of us and all of us are going to believe with a measure of doubt mixed in. – John MacArthur

Be encouraged, faith and doubt may be oil and water but faith is the dominate one. Faith trumps Unbelief. Unbelief and doubt do not cancel out, void out, or negate faith. You may struggle with unbelief, but the faith God put in you is still faith, no matter what unbelief or your feelings may tell you. And the faith remains His gift to you.  I remember hearing many years ago a popular preacher say with conviction, “An ounce of doubt will destroy a pound of faith.”  I have no idea what scripture he was twisting to support that garbage. Faith is a divine gift from God (Romans 12:3) and human doubt, fear, anxiety, nor sin nor sickness can destroy God’s gift. A person’s faith may be weak and wrestling, but if God has given a person a measure of faith, then it remains. What you do with that measure is another teaching all together.

If you have been beat up with condemnation or shame because you do not have perfect faith, relax, you’re exactly what Jesus expects. Remember? You’re not Jesus. You are an imperfect human that relies on Jesus to keep you and bless you. Jesus does not require perfect faith or Goliath size faith, He is looking for your mustard seed faith.

If you have been told that God only blesses those with strong, unwavering faith, then you and I would never be forgiven and redeemed, or ever be blessed. Only Jesus had unwavering faith. The dad in our story had messy faith that was ready to give up, and yet Jesus accepted him and answered his request.

Like with this dad, Jesus doesn’t condemn us when we struggle with unbelief and doubts, He wants to encourage our faith and refine it. Don’t focus on your doubts or fears, focus on how good and faithful Jesus is. Remember, He isn’t rewarding your faith, He is doing what He wants to do. Throughout scripture and the rest of human history God does whatever He pleases whether man believes or not. Be thankful that God rules in your life with grace, mercy, kindness, and power in spite of you, and not because of you. Phew! It is liberating to know that it’s not on me, it is all on HIM.

Jesus deals with our unbelief by dealing with our faith. Jesus isn’t focused on your unbelief and doubts, and He doesn’t you want you to either. He wants you to focus on following Him. Follow Him and not your unbelief and doubts, and slowly they will weaken and your trust in Him will strengthen.