Mark 11: 20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
It was a Cinderella wedding, fitting of Hollywood superstars. People were dressed in their red carpet finest. Lots of little black dresses. There was energy and excitement when I stood in front of the group gathered in a little white church near the ocean to pray over the couple.
I played my part: Do you believe in the power of prayer? I asked the gathered group.
“Yes” they shouted back.
I prayed and I prayed with all my heart and soul…. It felt good. It felt like I was doing something.
A few years passed and I learned the couple was divorced.
So much for the power of prayer, right?
That day, we weren’t able to pray to move the real mountain that led to the divorce. The woman had kept a secret from me.
Alcohol made the man into an impotent fig tree incapable of making her happy.
There’s no power in prayers used to cover up the real issue, no power in prayers that allow the barren fig tree to continue to live in you.
I know we always want to get to the mountain rather than killing off the unfruitful parts of our lives. You see how wise is our Jesus? He puts the fig tree before the mountain. Only if, dear disciples, only if you have faith to kill off the unfruitful tree, then, will you have the kind of faith that will move the mountain!
We need to stop trying to get sustenance from a tree that no longer bears fruit! Curse it…allow the Holy Spirit to uproot it…allow it to die.
Prayer with your pastor is one way to find out what is the dead wood. There others…scripture, worship, calling a mentor or friend. Whatever you can do to allow Jesus to cut it out of your life, do it. It is only when you have been honest that you can look Jesus in the eye and hear him say…”Okay, now let’s move that mountain!.”
Oh, but there’s one more step before the mountain. Before he speaks of the making possible the impossible, he says Have Faith in God!”
Let’s talk a moment about faith.
To live together, in a city, we have to have faith in all kinds of things. For example, when I drive, I have faith that the other drivers will stop when the light is red. I don’t need to see the driver to act on the belief that they will stop. When I buy groceries, I have faith that the food is safe. I don’t need to see the inspector, I simply believe. When I’m in an ambulance, I have faith in those who are tending to my needs. There’s not time for me to interview, I have to trust those I have not seen have chosen the right people to help.
Faith, then, is trusting people will act according to a set of rules or in accordance with their profession. It is trusting that the job has been done to keep you safe, to allow you to live. Faith is woven into the basic fabric of our every day living.
Now, scripture tells us that it is God’s profession to create and to save. We know that all things created by God are good! And, we know the lengths to which he will go, in Jesus, to save us from being enslaved to the enemies of life.
This is a good moment to bring up the little fact that this scripture is in the midst of the narrative of Jesus in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where Jesus goes to die. When Jesus talks about faith, he’s living it. He’s trusting God will do what God always does…create and save.
In the midst of his own trial, Jesus says Have Faith in God. Have faith in the one whose job it is to save and to create. Trust God is really good and doing the things of God!
Now, the mountain…
23 Truly I tell you, says Jesus, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.
Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on prayer called True Prayer, True Power, out of which some of what I’m teaching you came…wrote… We must have such a desire for the thing we want, that we will not rise until we have it—but in submission to his divine will, nevertheless. Feeling that the thing we ask for cannot be wrong, and that he himself hath promised it, we have resolved it must be given, and if not given, we will plead the promise, again, and again, till heaven’s gates shall shake before our pleas shall cease. …Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon the lips—those frozen supplications; they do not move men’s hearts, how should they move God’s heart?
Don’t pray half way prayers…oh, God, if it be your will. That is a lazy prayer that has no heart.
Instead, take time, do steps one and two, cut the dead wood, make sure your requested is rooted in God’s power to save and God’s power to create, and form your request.
When you enter into prayer, be passionate about your requests, and pray, believing it will be done.
Be careful about making the dead trees into the mountain. Sometimes our prayers lack passion because they focus on the wrong things.
An example…I know I worry way too much what people think when they first lay eyes on me–a white woman pastor serving in a neighborhood of color. That, my friends, is one dead fig tree. I’m asking God to uproot it in my life because God doesn’t want to change how we look. God thinks we are beautiful!
The mountain I am passionate about…the mountain I am pleading for…the mountain that meets me in the morning and is the last thing I pray about at night is Revival. I desperately want God to revive this church, revive you and me, revive the faith of our neighbors who are often walking about like zombies unbelieving in the goodness of God.
Dear God create life here, revive us, that we may be part of your saving work!
The final lesson from this very short scripture…
Jesus says, believe what you pray will come to pass; believe you have received it and it will be yours.
When I look for how God is answering my prayer, what do you know, I see it.
This past week, a woman named Debra came to me asking how she could serve…not only that but she had IDEAS! Come on now! Revival!
Believe it, it can happen, it is happening…
What about in your life? What is it that is the mountain you know God wants to move?!
I want to say that again because how I phrased it is most important…
What is the mountain, in your life, you know God wants to move?!
Come on now…
Do the work.
Get rid of the dead wood.
Come to know God, come to believe in God’s power to create and to save.
Before you pray, spend time thinking about what it is you most need or desire, the thing that you’d go onto your knees for day and night…
Then, and only then, when your passion is stirred and your spirit ready to break out, bring it to God! Surely, God has given you the prayer that, our Father is glad to answer!
Not …if it be thy will?…no…Thy will be done! Thy will be done!