Andrew Fountain - Learning How to Pray in Faith


Full sermon notes - Learning how to Pray in Faith

“The trust of a child”

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  • As I said last week, by looking at the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, we are going back to the basics
    • The rest of the New Testament is built on this
    • It is so important that you know what I am preaching is Jesus’s words, not mine
    • That is why I always make sure the words I am preaching from are up on the screen
  • I hope you all have your Bibles with you
    • But I want to put the words up because it’s Jesus words, you need to hear
  • Jesus’ teaching on prayer
    • 3 parables (not including today’s)
      1. The Friend at midnight
      2. The Unjust Judge
      3. The prayers of the Pharisee and Tax collector
    • Condemns prayers of Pharisees and heathens
    • The Lord’s prayer
    • Some teaching moments with the disciples
    • The mini-parable of the “asking son”

Mark 11

  1. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.
  2. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
  3. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
  4. And when evening came they went out of the city.
  5. In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
  • Not that Jesus was vindictive against fig trees, it was a “living parable”
    • There are those who God is expecting fruit from but their lives are worthless

Mark 11

  1. Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.”
  2. Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God.
  3. I tell you the truth, if someone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
  4. For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
  • Does this mean that if you believe hard enough...?
  • Story of a couple with a two-year old daughter dying of cancer
  • This text is the basis of much dangerous teaching, mostly from what is called “the prosperity Gospel”
  • Faith is actually faith in “our faith”
  • We believe that God wrote the whole Bible
  • So it must be self consistent
    • How did you get here? —I came on the train.
      • Have you been on a trains today? —no!
      • Either she is lying, or you need to understand how they can both be true
    • Anne loves flowers
      • Anne doesn’t like roses
      • But you said she loved flowers
      • Note the difference between general and specific

1 John 5:14-15 states “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

John 15:7–17

  1. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.
  2. My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.
  3. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.
  4. If you obey my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and abide in his love…
  5. My commandment is this — to love one another just as I have loved you.
  6. No one has greater love than this — that one lays down his life for his friends.
  7. You are my friends if you do what I command you
  8. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that abides, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
  9. This I command you — to love one another.

Version: based on NET Bible

  • Begins and ends with the promise
    • What is the condition at the start?
      • abide in me
    • how do we abide?
      • commandments v10
    • What is the commandment?
  • What is the condition at the end?
    • fruit? —it’s the same thing. The fruit of the Spirit is love etc.
  • If we were to look at the larger context we would see Jesus talking about the Holy Spirit
    • Abiding in Jesus is the same thing as being filled with the Spirit
    • The Spirit produces these fruits
    • The Spirit is leading our desires in prayer
  • But belief in the NT is never reduced to forcing oneself to “believe” what he does not really believe. Instead, it is related to genuine trust in God and obedience to and discernment of his will. (Carson, Matthew, 446)
  • So let’s go back and look at the previous verses:

Mark 11

  1. Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God.
  2. I tell you the truth, if someone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
  3. For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
  • But this passage must be saying something
    • If this is not a faith that we work up, what is it?
    • A better word for faith is trust —because trust is personal. (Faith has been distorted in our culture)

“The trust of a child”

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So let’s get practical

  • how do we do this?
  • “The Parable of the Asking Son”

Matthew 7

  1. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.
  2. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
  3. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
  4. Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
  5. If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!


Image source: Ian Britton

  • What does it mean to pray in faith?

What is Faith?

  • Faith is a trusting response to a promise or commitment (which must come by revelation, e.g. preaching)
  • “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17
  • So faith is always a response to God’s promise or revelation about himself
  • e.g. Heb 11 God said to Abraham “leave your country and I will make of you a great nation”
    8. By faith Abraham obeyed
    when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance,
    and he went out without understanding where he was going.
  • Faith is a response
  • Did Abraham get up one day and say “I think I’m going to have faith for a great nation today?”
  • The Jews had faith that God would free them from the Romans—what was the problem?

There are two parts to faith

  1. the promise
  2. trust in that promise
  • There are so many weird ideas today about faith
    • People talk about “the power of faith”
      • Faith has absolutely no power in itself, it is God who has the power
  • Here is a chair.
    • The fact that it is a chair implies that it can be trusted to take my weight
    • I am going to trust that it is able to by standing on it
      • It is either going to take my weight or break, ok?
    • now what determines which of these two things will happen
      • My faith, or the strength of the chair?
    • All faith is, is believing and stepping out in trust, faith does not have any power
      • My act of faith was simply to get on the chair
  • This is equally true with our salvation
    • We don’t achieve forgiveness of sins by the power of our faith
    • We simply climb on Jesus —it is his work on the cross that saves us
  • People who don’t even believe in a personal God talk about “the power of prayer”
    • It is giving the glory to prayer rather than faith—let me illustrate
      • imagine Google comes across some of my computer problems and decides to buy them off me for $1 billion.
      • Luke’s next birthday, I say “whatever you want!”
        • He asks for a Porche—which of course I buy him.
        • His workmates ask how come he has a Porche—“I’m really good at asking” —how would I feel?
          • No, he has a relationship with someone who has buying power
    • Prayer is just asking, it has no power. It is God who has the power.
      • Now if they said “The Power of Prayer to God” I would have no quarrel
  • It is politically correct nowadays to talk about “faith communities”
    • somehow you can group together Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists etc under “people of faith”
      • the word “faith” can be very abstract. Sometimes “trust” is a better word
    • If someone asked me “do you belong to a faith community”?
      • I would say, “No, I belong to a community that trusts Jesus Christ for everything”
  • Not a faith community, but an evidence-based community
    • I trust God because of the evidence that he is real
  • Repeat: There are two parts to faith
    1. the promise
    2. trust in that promise
  • So what were the people who were healed responding to?
    • With many people he actually spoke a word of healing, like “get up and walk”
      • when he knew there would be a response of faith
    • In his home town there was very little faith, so Jesus didn’t try to heal
    • Was there ever anyone who Jesus tried to heal but they didn’t have quite enough faith?
      • No. —How come?
        • because he never started—he saw what the Father was doing: giving faith
  • Did Jesus ever turn down any requests? (think carefully)

Matthew 20

  1. He said to her, “What do you want?” She replied, “Permit these two sons of mine to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
  2. Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”
  3. He told them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give. Rather, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Luke 12

  1. Then someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
  2. But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you two?”
  • what was the problem here? (Jesus had not come as a judge)
  • Herod wanted him to do a miraculous sign, but Jesus refused even to speak
  • This is what happened:
    • usually: the Spirit would give Jesus a revelation of what God was doing in the person,
      • specifically that there was a gift of faith being given
        • (this is what Jesus meant by “I see what the Father is doing”)
      • Jesus then spoke the word, knowing without any doubt that the person would be healed
        • (Jesus was always 100% correct in knowing this)
    • occasionally: (as with the woman who touched Jesus) God gave the faith and then healed without involving Jesus
  • So Faith has Two Parts:
    • a promise or commitment by God
    • a response of trust from us

3. So what has God promised?

  • Sam Storms’ five kinds of faith for healing (Spiritual Gifts p.56f)

Five steps of faith for healing

  1. Faith that God is your sole source for blessing & total dependence on the Spirit
  2. Faith in God’s ability to heal
  3. Faith in God’s heart for healing
  4. That God not only can heal today, but he actually does
  5. The faith that it is his will to heal right now
  1. Faith that God is your sole source for blessing & total dependence on the Spirit
    • that he is your hope and he alone
    • that without the Spirit you can do nothing
      • Who here has that faith?
  2. Faith in God’s ability to heal
    • Matt 9:28-29 Jesus asked the 2 blind men if they believed he was able to heal them
    • They said “Yes Lord”, and Jesus said “Let it be done according to your faith”
      • Who believes that God has the ability to heal? (just about everyone I expect)
  3. Faith in God’s heart for healing
    • Faith in his goodness and desire to bless his children
    • The leper in Matthew 8 said “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean”
      • He had faith for Jesus’ power, but wasn’t 100% sure he was willing
      • But Jesus didn’t rebuke his doubts but healed him anyway
    • This faith comes from a personal relationship with God, when we get to know his heart as a father
      • It also comes from believing his words when he says in Matt 7:11
        • “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
      • I’m not going to ask, but most of you probably believe this
  4. That God not only can heal today, but he actually does
    • Faith that healing is part of God’s purpose and plan for his people today
      • This is an issue where there is disagreement —some Christians believe that God stopped healing 2000 years ago
      • I think most of us here believe God still heals today
    • So when I pray for someone here who is sick, I believe that
      1. God is the only one I depend on
      2. God is able to heal
      3. God has a heart of kindness and loves to heal his children
      4. That God still heals today
    • But what I don’t know if it is God’s will to heal that person right now
  5. The faith that it is his will to heal right now
    • Storms says that in James 5:15 where we read “the prayer of faith shall save the sick”
      • It literally says in the Greek “the prayer of the faith shall save the sick” (p.58)
    • You may have heard “a little knowledge of Greek is a dangerous thing” and that is very true
      • But Sam Storms is a world-class Greek scholar
    • He says that is does not mean “the prayer with enough faith”, but “the prayer based on a specific faith”
      • When God wants to heal someone in this way, he imparts that specific belief that he wants to heal right now
    • Story on p.59
    • Story of Knollys (1599-1691) healing the sick woman (an English Baptist Puritan)
    • Story of John Welch (p.146)
    • You still have to pray how the person is to be healed. Jesus sometimes did things like spitting in the dust... You need to ask God what you should do.
      • (we could have lots of examples from Scripture here)

4. Application

  • I believe if God gives someone the “gift of healings”
    • What that means is that he consistently gives them revelations of his will to heal
    • But all of us can have this on occasion
  • What if we are praying for someone but don’t have a word from God that he will heal them?
    • Story of couple who had 2 yr old daughter dying of cancer
      • There was no specific revelation that God was going to heal that girl
    • Now that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have faith for healing
    • Romans 12:4-8 – we exercise our gift in accordance with our faith
  1. We need teaching on healing as a basis for our faith
  2. We need to pray with whatever faith we have
    • revelation of his will God has given us for that situation
  3. It seems from experience that if we keep using what faith we have, God will give us more
  • How to pray from each of the levels of faith
    • Note that all of the levels are good—we must not despise them
    • Can apply to other things apart from healing

Steps of Prayer

  1. We trust you Lord. We trust in you alone. You are our only provider, our only source of strength
  2. Lord we believe in your power. You are able to heal right now. It is nothing for you. Your power has no limit and you are able to heal the worst sickness in just a moment
  3. Thank you that your heart is full of love for your child. Thank you that you love to heal and you delight in giving the gift of healing to your children.
  4. Lord you have told us to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Lord, your kingdom is about healing as well as freedom from sin. Lord I pray that your kingdom will come in the body of this person here.
  5. What do you pray if God gives you a revelation that he wants to heal this person right now?
    “Be healed in Jesus name!”