Praying, Believing and Receiving - BibelCenter Studies
Praying, Believing and Receiving
by Wolfgang Schneider

A very remarkable and yet simple principle for a life with God is connected with the three terms "praying", "believing" and "receiving". These three things work together and go alongside each other. A passage from the gospel of Mark 11 does illustrate this where we are told how Jesus once instructed his disciples regarding this point.

Mark 11:12-14:
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

After this, the record mentions other events of that particular day, and in verse 20 we read once again about this fig tree.

Mark 11:20-25:
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Jesus' words in verse 24 are the basis for this study: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray [praying!], believe that ye receive them [believing!], and ye shall have them [receiving!]." The illustration in this lesson was a fig tree which had dried up over night from the roots upward.

In Matthew we can find similar record. In Mark we read about a fig tree which had withered over night. What Jesus had spoken happened. On that very morning, the lesson was repeated in a similar fashion .

Matthew 21:18 and 19:
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

This was obviously a different fig tree because this one withered away immediately, "presently"! Jesus spoke the words and immediately the tree withered away.

Matthew 21:20:
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

The disciples had just seen one fig tree which had withered over night. Now they were greatly astonished and marvelled about this fig tree and how quickly it had withered away!

Matthew 21:21 and 22:
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Also here, we recognize those three points: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer [praying!], believing [believing!], ye shall receive [receiving!]." Jesus instructed his disciples about praying, believing and receiving, and that twice on that day.

We must look carefully at the words of Jesus in order to then correctly and successfully apply them in our lives. Also, we must of course note the context so that we do not get a wrong idea when we read "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer …" Maybe we have thought that we could just ask anything that we can think of in our prayer and then it would have to happen – and yet, nothing happened! Was Jesus wrong in what he said? Or is there perhaps another reason as to why not everything that we can think of and ask happens and comes to pass when we ask God in prayer?

The great key to a correct understanding is given in the record in Mark 11.

Mark 11:22:
And Jesus answering saith unto them
[the first thing he says after Peter has pointed out to him the withered fig tree], Have faith in God [literally: Believe God! Trust God!].

Jesus' words make clear that what happened here was in accordance with God's will. Jesus Christ trusted God, he believed God. When he spoke to the fig tree on the previous day and declared, "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.", he was declaring God's will. This was not just his own idea, it was not just what he desired because he was so upset about the tree. One could perhaps conclude something like that be reading just on the surface, but it isn't true. What Jesus proclaimed was God's will, and he believed God, trusted God.

Jesus did not just trust in himself. He did not think something up and then believe God that it come to pass. No, no! God had made known His will to him, and Jesus believed his Father, believed God, and what God had told him came to pass. One thing matters: Trusting God, believing Him — regarding as true and reliable what God makes known.

Mark 11:23:
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

When moving a mountain is in accordance with God's will, when God has made this known by means of His Word, then the mountain will be moved when we trust God and when we don't doubt the promise given by Him.

We cannot just command that something happens, just because we perhaps have been too lazy to do what was necessary. When we want to build a highway and don't want to use heavy equipment we cannot just command mountains to move. We cannot just command because we feel like it that walls come down as it happened once upon a time at Jericho because God had made known His will then and Israel acted in faith on God's promise.

First, God makes a promise. Then, we believe Him, we have trust in Him, that He will bring to pass what He has promised. Our basis and foundation of every prayer, of any believing and receiving is the Word of God – either what is given as a promise in the written Word of God or that which He may give by revelation in a certain situation.

This example of the fig tree Jesus used as an illustration for a teaching about prayer.

Mark 11:24:
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

We have seen, that "what things soever" are all those things which God has promised. Then, what is added from our side is believing – God's Word demands that we believe God in order to receive in our lives what God has promised.

"Believe that ye receive them" is in the text literally, "Believe that ye have received them."(1) We can believe God and trust Him, that we already have received what we ask Him for according to His promise because God has already promised it! We can perhaps compare this to a bank account when someone tells us that he transferred a certain amount of money into the account. We have someone's word, now we can utilize it if we trust that person. Such a comparison doesn't quite hold up all the way because man's words are not always reliable, but God's promises are absolutely sure. God's Word is reliable, with Him nothing goes wrong, nothing screws things up in the last minute. We will receive all things in our lives which we ask according to His Word if we but trust God and believe Him. We not only can believe Him, we should believe Him!

When Jesus Christ told this tree that no man would eat of it from here on after, the matter was accomplished. God's Word regarding the tree had been received and Jesus believed God. On the next day, the matter became clear to all the others as well when they saw the tree withered from the roots. At first, the tree seemed to be still fine because one could still see the green leaves, etc. But the true reality was a different one – the tree had already started to wither from the roots up.

What believing really is, we are told in Hebrews 11:1. God's Word gives a simple definition for believing, faith.

Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith (believing) is described in a twofold manner: (1) it is the substance of things hoped for, and (2) the evidence of things not seen. We can be fully persuaded because with faith we already have a substance (title deed) of the thing we hope for. And it is evidence of what has not yet come into manifestation. The confidence we may have indicates a no doubting. We are then "fully persuaded", are "fully convinced". What are we looking for with such confidence? What are we fully persuaded of? What convinces us?

We believe God, we trust Him. We are convinced by what God has declared, by what He has spoken. The Word of God is fully sufficient, and it must be sufficient for us as the foundation for our believing!

Let's consider this situation on that day for a moment when Jesus was standing in front of that tree. Did he see the tree wither immediately? No! The tree at first still had the same green leaves as in the moment before. On what did Jesus have his eyes fixed? On that which God had made known to him and which he had spoken to the tree, "No one shall eat of the fruit ..." Had this already happened? No, this tree didn't fully wither until the next day, after having started to wither from the roots up. Can we see the roots? No. The place where that tree had begun to wither was invisible indeed. Jesus Christ trusted what God had told him and not what he could see at the moment with his own senses. With the second tree the situation was just slightly different, because it withered away immediately.

In this we see a great lesson about the relation between what God says and what we ask. Sometimes we receive immediately what we ask, at another time it takes a while. But, that it takes a while and that the matter doesn't come to pass until later, doesn't change or invalidate God's promise at all.

Whether our senses tell us something different for some time is really irrelevant. God's Word has the preeminence and is what counts! How long did it take until the walls of Jericho came tumbling down? Well, the children of Israel had been told to walk around the city for several days. The walls really "had come down" at the very moment that God gave His promise of their victory. Those with believing had heard and had received — then they went and did what was necessary, and accordingly it came to pass.

The underlying principle is always, "Believe that ye have received!" We pray with believing, and we pray when we have God's promise and then appropriate it to ourselves. God's will must be clear. As soon as that is the case, we can go straight forward and receive with thanksgiving what God has promised. We then have a firm confidence and trust on that which we hope for. We hope it because it hasn't happened in the senses world as of yet. We do not hold it in our hands, we therefore do not see it as of yet, but we have heard! God's Word has declared it! His promise is a much greater reality than that which we at the moment perhaps see with our eyes.

Unfortunately, we still at times allow ourselves to be influenced quite a bit by our senses or our current mood, and we believe and trust those more than we trust what God's Word declares. This is the point where we need to start and get working on if we want to walk more successfully with God. If we think logically about this, we will quickly realize that we really have all the reason in the world to believe and trust God and God's Word. They are a far greater reality than that which our senses or our feelings, which are determined by our senses, can tell us. The senses register only those things which already do exist.

For example, Can we smell a perfume which doesn't exist or which nobody has put on? No, first the perfume must be there, and then we can smell it. By the way, would we doubt that a lady is wearing the perfume just because we can't see it? No! We have smelled it, and that is sufficient to be convinced that she has put it on. Just because our other four senses do not tell us any further confirming information, we still don't doubt that she has put the perfume on. One of our senses was already enough to sense it. The senses do register information of things which are already existent, and not all of the senses are even necessary to convince us of the reality – just one of the senses is already enough.

With believing it is no different. Believing also registers something which is already in existence. However, the something is not accessible to our other senses as of yet. But, just as we wouldn't doubt that a lady has put on perfume because we can't see or hear it and only smell it, so we don't have reason to doubt what God has said only because we can't see, hear or smell it as of yet! Why should our five senses get us to doubt when in faith we already have heard what God has declared? We have all the reason in the world to remain convinced with absolute confidence about that which God's Word has promised us. We do well to be persuaded by what God's Word says even though at the moment we may not see anything with our five senses. So we pray. So we believe. So we shall receive!

A more literal translation of Hebrews 11:1 from the Greek reads:

„Faith (believing) is the reality of things hoped for, a being persuaded of the reality of things which are not yet seen."(2)

This is reality! What God's Word says is real, is reality, and by faith (by believing) we recognize it as such and are persuaded by it.

Hebrews 11:2 and 3:
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

What a great truth! It's not by hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting or touching that we understand how the worlds were framed. All philosophers, psychologists and all other type of scientists will not get any further, because they can only search by means of information gathered by the five senses for information about how the worlds came about. But, how the worlds were framed is not understandable by the senses, it can only be understood by believing, through faith, and that actually is far more sure and reliable than what our senses can tell us. Our senses can be fooled – what appears to be made of wood could be made of plastic. How often have we been fooled by our senses? To believe and trust God's Word on the other hand is an absolutely sure matter. We must be persuaded in our hearts by the reality of the Word of God even before it actually comes into manifestation in our lives!

This truth becomes clear when we read the record about the raising of Lazarus.

John 11:38 and 39:
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

Martha's concern was surely stipulated by what she knew from past experiences "If one has been dead, then it is my brother. This is really a sure case, if we roll away the stone, he will stink by this time.

John 11:40:
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

In other words, God's power and might will be seen in a glorious way, "IF thou wouldest believe".

John 11:41:
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

"… that thou hast heard me" — had Lazarus already been raised from the dead? No! He was still in the grave and as dead as he had been the moment before. And yet, Jesus is already thanking his Father that He had heard his prayer. When Jesus prayed to His Father and heard that Lazarus was going to wake up from the dead, it already was reality to Jesus at that very moment. Lazarus was still dead as before, but that he was laying in the grave was sort of irrelevant. That was going to change, indeed it had to change and must change because God had promised that it would change!

John 11:42:
And I knew that thou hearest me always: …

What an absolute assurance Jesus had! When we ask something which is according to God's Word and in harmony with God's will, we can be just as assured as Jesus was that God does hear our prayer. And when He has heard our petition, we have all reason to believe and trust Him. The matter is accomplished. It will then come to pass when we act according to what God has promised.

John 11:42-44:
And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

What Jesus had asked for, he was granted. Jesus had believed God, he trusted God, who had promised, and it came to pass!

It is not a matter of what we all think up or how we imagine something to be. No, we simply make our requests known before God with supplication and prayer with thanksgiving. what we pray for and ask must be in harmony with God's Word. Then we cling to the promise of God – whether it is already written in the Scriptures, or whether it be a promise God makes by revelation in a certain situation – and we trust Him, we are persuaded by what He promised, and we shall receive it.

Another great example of faith (believing) is Abraham.

Romans 4:18 and 19:
Who against hope believed in hope
[this matter wasn't visible as of yet, it had not come to pass yet], that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken [the first thing: God had spoken to him], So shall thy seed be.
And being not weak in faith, he considered not
[actually "not" is omitted in most texts; the phrase does read: "being not weak in faith, he did consider …"] his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:

Abraham had his senses, and he did not just close his eyes nor did he just declare God's promise to be impossible because what he saw would have indicated that to him. No, Abraham did not do that, and that was not what the matter was all about. He did consider the matter from both his own physical situation as well as that of his wife Sarah, but he did not stop there! He also considered what was far weightier than what he saw, and that was God's promise and he was persuaded by God's promise and by what God had said rather than by what he saw when considering himself and his wife. God's promise was a greater reality to him than what he saw with his eyes.

Romans 4:20 and 21:
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

In such a way we too must be "fully persuaded"! What God promises He is able to perform! What our senses tell us agrees with what they register, and it may be true on that level. However, there may be a far greater and completely different truth which has not come to pass as of yet. God's promise to Abraham about being "the father of many nations" was also truth and a reality. This was not just an illusion, not just a nice thought or wishful thinking on Abraham's part. It was reality, and God had spoken it!

Abraham then staggered not through unbelief – by things which seeing, hearing, touching etc. told him – at the promise of God but remained absolutely steadfast on what God had declared. He surely was close to his lovely wife a few times, felt her next to him, looked at her and looked at himself once in a while, but all of that and the fact that both of them were actually a little old for a pregnancy, did not gain preeminence in his heart and thinking. Abraham was persuaded by the greater reality which God had told him: "You shall be the father of many nations". Now, until Isaac was finally born, a few years passed. Abraham did not doubt God's promise through unbelief but instead became strong in faith.

When something takes a bit longer, it does happen sometimes that we get weaker in our believing and even get to the point where we want to cast away our little bit of confidence we have left and want to give up. That is not how it has to be! The Word of God counts, and we must adjust according to its dictates so that we too may become strong in faith!

We begin to recognize how important it is for us to have a knowledge of God's Word. In it we are told the will of God. If it is clear to us what God's will is, then we can come before our heavenly Father with boldness and ask of Him to do that in our lives which He has promised. We then do not ask something foolish in our prayers, but we first turn to the Scriptures to find out what God has made available, and after knowing this we can claim for us that which we need.

This we can already do with thanksgiving, just as we read in Philippians 4, and we can do so in an absolute confidence that God is able and willing to bring to pass what He has promised. We believe that we have received as soon as the promise of God is known, and we will receive it eventually as we trust God and act according to God's directive.

(1) This wording is translated from a German translation given in Das Neue Testament, Interlinear Übersetzung Griechisch-Deutsch, Hänssler Verlag: Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1986.

(2) This wording has been translated from a German translation given in Das Neue Testament, Interlinear Übersetzung Griechisch-Deutsch, Hänssler Verlag: Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1986.


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Copyright © 2009 by Wolfgang Schneider
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Last changed: 10.02.2009