And when you read any of the gospels, and look at instances of Jesus performing healings, there's this common denominator of him saying, "your FAITH has healed you." (Or some rendition of that) And then there's so many instances of Jesus getting on to people for their lack of faith. When Peter walks on the water with Jesus, and he begins to sink and cries out for Jesus to help him, Jesus says to him afterward, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31)
Then there's another instance when Jesus gets frustrated with his disciples because they didn't have the faith to cast a demon out of a boy, and when the father of the boy brings him to Jesus he tells him that he went to the disciples first and they couldn't heal him. His response: "O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? ... Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt. 17:17, 20)
And again when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and Martha doubts that it's possible, Jesus says to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40)
So why in the world do we continue to doubt? I think we're kind of like Nazareth. Jesus' hometown. We think we know him... we've created this Americanized, Sunday school Jesus that fits perfectly in our little box and he wants so badly to be let out of that box so that he can show us the glory he's talking about with Martha. In Matthew 13:53-58, Jesus is back in Nazareth, preaching, and the people keep asking themselves, "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't it Mary and Joseph's son? Don't we know his brothers and sisters? So where did he get all of these things he's telling us?" And they get offended. Jesus says to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And they very next verse says, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."
I think in America we are so numb to the power of the Holy Spirit because we don't really need it. We don't need faith, because we're so self sufficient. And gosh, I think that's a dangerous place to be. We miss out on miracles because we don't have faith. And we're so numb to the word miracle that we don't even understand what we're missing out on! And maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive to this issue right now because I just got back from a place where you would think, in your American mind, "none of these people should have faith," but they have a faith that is so much greater than you can imagine.
And here's the thing: Jesus even says that if we have this kind of faith he's talking about, we will do things even greater than him. This is the son of God speaking, telling us we're going to do something even greater than what he did. How did we miss that?! John 14:12-14. "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
So this is where I started thinking about faith and prayer being so connected. I think we pray selfishly a lot. "God, do this for me." Sound familiar? But if you look at the way Jesus lived, it was never about him. It was about where God had him. And he even struggled with that at times, like when he asks God before his death if there is ANY way he can not have to go through that, to bail him out. But he ends it with this: not my will, but yours.
That's where I think we go wrong. We don't want to pray for God's will, because it probably doesn't really match up with ours. And since we live in the good ole' Land of the Free, we don't really have to. We can live in our will and get by just fine. But we continue to miss out on the miracle of letting the Spirit that lives within us lead our lives.
I've been learning that prayer starts with me thanking God for where he has me. Because where he has me is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and if I begin by thanking him for that then I'm already living in his will, and asking him to keep it that way becomes a lot easier. I believe that it's when our hearts are willing to be where HE wants us to be, that we will truly experience the truth of his promise: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
There's a chapter in The Irresistible Revolution called "Jesus made me do it." Shane Claiborne talks about facing the "dangers" of living in God's will. He starts with a story of a lady that basically told him Jesus would be ashamed of his recklessness in going to Iraq in the middle of war. Then he says this: "I listened, silently, wondering what Jesus she was talking about. The Jesus who died on a Roman cross and invited his disciples to do the same? The Jesus who taught his disciples that if they wanted to find their lives, they should lose them? (And most of them did, perhaps leaving behind some angry parents.) For centuries, Christians have been jailed, beaten, and executed for preaching Jesus. How was I to tell this lovely lady that Jesus was actually the one responsible for my traveling to Iraq in the heat of bombing, not a decision I would rationally make, even on my worst days?"
In the same chapter he quotes a college professor of his who said, "All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive and death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe." And later on he quotes a passage from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy is about to meet Aslan for the first time and she asks if he's safe: "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
He isn't safe. But he's good.
That's what I'm learning. That living in God's will is hard, and it's scary, and it never takes you anywhere you would have chosen to go on your own. But he invites us to have a faith that will allow us to experience all the miracles he has in store. I'm learning to pray differently because of that. I'm learning not to tiptoe.