Today I was reading in Genesis 22 and Matthew 21. There were a few more places that I was reading, but in these two chapters I found some similar lessons.
In Genesis 22 Abraham is tested (in his faith), and passes, as he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son who he loved (sound familiar?). According to Hebrews 11:17-19, Abraham trusted that God had other ways to fulfill the promises of blessings (even raising Isaac from the dead if need be). Abraham already knew God, and knew that his power is without limits.
However, God provided in a different way (sparing both Isaac and Abraham actually). God provided a sacrificial ram in place of Isaac. Interesting that Abraham does not even ask God for another way. He just states that “God will provide.” He was submitted to God’s will, God’s way, God’s timing, and God’s outcome, because He knew God’s character was true and right and always had his best interest (his good) in mind.
“God will provide”, or Yahweh-Yireh (typically we say “Jehovah-Jireh”). Abraham announces the place would, from then on, be called Yahweh-Yireh because of God’s gracious provision of a substitute for Isaac. The Hebrew meaning that lies behind “Yireh” that we typically say means “provides” actually has another layer of meaning that broadens and deepens this name given to Yahweh.
Yahweh-Yireh can also be translated, “The Lord will see.” In other words, the Lord, God, he will see to it. Which brings us back to, “he will provide.” It may not so much mean past tense events, but probably has more bearing on the present and what is ahead. God will provide, he will see to it, he will take care of this matter. He will bring to fulfillment all that he has promised. That is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. That is the character of God to this day. Yahweh will see to it. See to what? Bringing about his perfect will to make much of his name.
Lord, you continue to reveal yourself to me in passages that are so familiar. Thank you for your truth that corrects my faulty thinking. Thank you that I don’t have to question you when things do not go as planned, because you will never give up on completing your will. You will see to it. You will perform it. You will bring it to pass. That means evil that seems to be winning the day, in the end will be put into place. That means that wrongs against your name and your people, will be made right. That means that what ever this sin-tainted world throws at me, will be redeemed in the end. Help me Lord, because saying it and really believing it are two different things. Help me to firmly know (and walk in that knowledge) that you will see to it, you will provide. I need your strength!
On to Matthew 21. Here it seems that Jesus is saying that you can pray for anything, if you have faith, and you will receive it. God, you know that I have been struggling with this passage. I have prayed and have been praying, but, as we like to say, “nothing is happening.” Oh, I know it’s not true. Things are happening, but so much doubt (mostly about myself) comes when we pray for big things from a big God and everything around us comes crashing down. The “mountains” are not moving, yet that is what we pray for. The false doctrines that are built on the misinterpretation of this passage seep into all of us. We think our faith is amiss, besides, I am not asking for a shiny new car, I am asking for the light of the gospel to advance.
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:21-22
Is this lesson on faith talking about the power of prayer (and the one who prays) or the power of God?
Is there power in prayer, or power in the God whom we come to in prayer?
The idea that power is inherent in prayer is a very popular one. But I don’t see that in Scripture. The power of prayer is, quite simply, the power of God, who hears and answers prayer (but not always the way we thought he would or the way that we asked him to).
Moving a mountain was a common metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (cf. Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; Matt. 21:21–22). The point here is not the disciples’ amount of faith to do great things but rather their trust in accomplishing God’s will in God’s power. To pray effectively, you need faith in the Lord, not faith in yourself or faith in your own faith or faith in the object of your request.
It doesn’t matter what we ask for, if it’s not God’s will, then you will not get the answer that you are asking for.
The power of prayer does not flow from us. The power of prayer comes from the omnipotent One who hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer places us in contact with Almighty God, and we should expect almighty results, whether or not He chooses to grant our petitions or deny our requests. Whatever the answer to our prayers, the God to whom we pray is the source of the power of prayer, and He can and will answer us, according to His perfect will and timing.
God will see to it.
He will accomplish his will, his way, for his glory. My prayers don’t always line up with his will or his way, and no doubt they even are amiss when it comes to praying for his glory (or at least my plan of how his name would receive glory).
Just like in Exodus 16:1-12, God doesn’t hear because of us and the quality of our prayers. He hears us because he is the God who hears.
Help me Lord, align my heart with yours, but when that is unattainable (because I am not you), then help me to realize that as I come to you, fellowshipping with God Almighty, I come to my Savior who loves me to express my worship, to fellowship with you, commune with you: to be with you. When the mountains don’t move, you are still almighty, still reigning!