During some television commercials, you will see text scroll across the bottom of the screen in very tiny letters. If you read the text, which is often nearly impossible, you will find that it contains a legal disclaimer. Usually, it is a warning that the promised result may not happen for everyone.
Sometimes our teaching about the promise Jesus makes regarding prayer sounds similar. Because we don’t want people to take it the wrong way, we include so many cautions and disclaimers that we blunt the basic and most important point. God answers prayer.
Consider the context of this promise. Jesus made it after the disciples marveled at the miraculous withering of a fig tree by the road (v. 19). Performing this type of miracle seems out of character for Jesus. However, rather than being an act of spite, this was a symbolic act much like those of the Old Testament prophets. “Jesus, fresh from his confrontation with the chief priests and scribes, curses the fig tree, declaring that no fruit would ever come from it again,” theologian Stanley Hauerwas explains. “The tree withered, just as the scribes and chief priests had withered the temple.”
Jesus’ disciples were so astonished by the nature of the miracle that they missed the symbolism. Jesus was making a point about faith (v. 20). Jesus assured them that the same power was available to them if they believed (v. 22). God’s answers to our prayer are subject to His will and good purpose for us (1 John 5:14). If God refused Jesus’ request in the Garden of Gethsemane, we should not be surprised to find that He sometimes says no to us (Luke 22:42).
>> Prayer is not a blank check, and God is not a vending machine. God is not at our beck and call. Yet prayer is far more powerful than we think. It is the power of God that is the true measure of prayer’s full potential.
God, what You destroy cannot be restored; what You establish cannot be erased. You restrain the forces of nature or make them do Your bidding. The hearts of earthly authorities are Yours to direct. All power belongs to You.