“…What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24 KJV).
There is a great secret in this passage from Mark. Notice first what it doesn’t say: that we will always receive what we pray for. We know from personal experience that sometimes the answer to our prayer is “no.” And we often rue these times. But I believe that God protects us from our own insufficiencies. He knows best. He knows when what we are asking for is not in our best interests. Yet we are encouraged in this passage to ask for the things that we desire. And so we ought to do so. It would be good to ask first if the thing we want is a good thing, to seek from God some inner reassurance that we are on the right track. And we are encouraged to pray for those things that we desire. If the prayer is amiss, God will find a way to get through to us. The crucial part that I want to consider is the title of this column: “Believe that ye receive them.” If we cannot, in our heart of hearts, believe that we receive what we are seeking in prayer, then this is our clue that we ask amiss. And when we turn inward, we will know if God affirms our desire. Of course, we can fool ourselves, but not for long. My own indication, if I am asking amiss, is a great deal of turmoil. I simply cannot be at peace. Years ago, I believed that God was asking something specific for me to do. He was asking me to make a move to another city. I, like Jonah, did not want to go, though I had earlier told God that I would go. I sought to change my mind. Then I had a minor health problem, and I had minor surgery, before which I was given potent pills. I had a bad reaction a day or two later on. I lay down on my couch, and felt myself engulfed in misery and anxieties. I felt very vulnerable to my feelings. I prayed. I felt that God was trying to tell me something, that I was missing something. So I prayed, “Dear God, what in my life do You want changed?” Immediately, I “heard,” completely internally, without any kind of “voice,” “You promised me to move to another city.” I recognized truth. I responded, right away, to God, “I will go.” At this internal exchange, my fears left me right away. Suddenly and inexplicably. I was at peace in moments. And I did move to that other city. I carried out the “mission” that I thought had been asked of me. And the journey ended some five years later on. I had stayed true to what I believed God had asked of me. So, I believed, in prayer. And what I had sought became the first step on the outpouring of love from God that has given me a very, very good life. All of this happened more than 35 years ago. But I cannot imagine what misery I might have brought upon myself if I had deflected from the course that God, I believe, had set forth for me. I think that I helped others by my move to that city. And then, once my “mission” was completed, I was free to move back to places more desirable to myself. The world is too much with us. We can’t hear the still, small voice that is God speaking to us. But listen today.