By Jo Witt
Copyright 2016

How many people praying are necessary in order for God to answer affirmatively? If there are a hundred people half-heartedly praying for someone whom which they don’t even know, who is perhaps on their church prayer list, will God answer affirmatively because there are a hundred people praying? Is not surely that an ample number of prayers? But what if, what if….only ONE person prayed about something very, very dear to their heart and they prayed with great conviction and in faith that God had the power to answer….would God’s heart be moved by that ONE person praying enough to answer affirmatively? Does it indicate inadequate faith that God loves us, God hears us, and God has the power to answer our prayers, for us to ask others to pray for us?

In Matthew 17 we read about Jesus becoming frustrated with his disciples’ inadequate faith to heal a demon-possessed boy. Later the disciples asked Jesus why they hadn’t been able to cast the demon from the boy. Jesus replied, “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” In Luke Chapter 17, the disciples asked Jesus to show them how to increase their faith, to which Jesus responded, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!” So, if prayers are not answered affirmatively by God, could it be because they were not offered with ample faith, rather than there being an inadequate number of people praying?

In Matthew Chapter 9 we read about the leader of a synagogue approaching Jesus, asking in faith believing that Jesus was able to raise his daughter from death back into life. One man asking in faith, while the dead girl was surrounded by a noisy crowd whom laughed at Jesus when he told them she wasn’t dead, but only sleeping. So he asked them to leave. And he answered affirmatively the request of the ONE man who had come to him with great faith, by raising back to life his daughter.

Matthew Chapter 9 also gives account of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, who in faith touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, believing in doing so that she would me made well. And Jesus healed her, saying, “Your faith has made you well.” No one else was standing there also imploring help on her behalf. It took ONE woman approaching the Lord in faith for him to have mercy and to answer affirmatively by healing her.

And so faith that God is able to answer prayers is essential, but how should we pray? Jesus had the following to say about praying. In Matthew 6 Jesus said to go off by yourself and pray (further affirmation that only ONE person praying is adequate). Jesus himself often retreated privately to pray. Similarities can be noted between the ways in which David and in which Jesus prayed. David’s prayers recorded in the Psalms and Jesus’ prayers recorded in the gospels have in common that both prayed conversationally with God, not with pious words and a lot of pomp and circumstance – they were heartfelt. David poured his heart out to God, deeply expressing his sorrows, energetically celebrating his joys with songs to God. None of his prayers were trite ambiguous prayers recited by others – they were from his heart. Jesus’ prayers were likewise. David, despite his sin with Bathsheba, had a very close relationship with God and was favored by God. And of course Jesus was God’s Son. Thus, could not we learn much from how each of them prayed to God? I invite you to read the Psalms and David’s numerous heartfelt prayers to God and to study Jesus’ prayers recorded in the gospels. Also in Matthew 6, Jesus said it is not necessary to repeat prayers over and over again in order for them to be answered; yet, in Luke 11 Jesus indicated that persistence in praying may move God to answer. In Matthew 7 Jesus said to keep asking and you will receive.

And yet how do we reconcile the concepts of ONE prayer praying fervently with faith believing God can answer his/her prayers who has prayed conversationally and heartfelt prayers, with times when God does not answer affirmatively regardless? While there is much about God that can be difficult to understand, the answer to the question is still FAITH. Romans 8:28 assures us that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. On the night that Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed so fervently that there were tears of blood—he prayed that if it be God’s will, for this cup to pass from him (for him not to have to endure the crucifixion). Did God answer that prayer affirmatively? No! Because God had a bigger plan. His plan was a long-term plan, not a short-term plan. In the short run there would be suffering, but the “bigger” plan, the greater plan, was that Jesus would pay the ultimate (the perfect) sacrifice so that God’s wrath against our sins would be satisfied at last so that when we go to God earnestly repentant for our sins, that He will forgive us. Romans 8:28 could be more effectively worded to state that all things work together toward our ultimate good—that the short-range plan may involve suffering, but all things will work together toward ultimate good in the long-range plan. And that takes faith, to trust and believe that if a heartfelt prayer offered with faith is not answered, that God has a bigger, better plan toward our ultimate good.

Life will not always be good. Prayers will not always be answered “yes.” Unfortunately we are not promised an easy life just because we are Christians. In Luke 14 Jesus said those who follow him must be willing to take up their own cross to follow him. Does not a “cross” represent suffering? In Mark Chapter 10 Jesus said that those who had sacrificed in order to follow him, would receive it all back a hundred times—along with persecutions. Did Jesus literally mean they would receive back the “houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property?” Perhaps on some level, in that some to some extent presumably returned to their former lives after Jesus’ death/ascension, and early Christians were persecuted for being followers of Jesus (Acts chapters 8 and 11). Regardless, why should we expect everything to always go well in our lives when even Jesus suffered and was killed on the cross? Ecclesiastes 3 states that for everything there is a season—for each event in his sequential elaboration of this concept he gives a positive in life with its converse negative. Why do we think our lives should be any different? It takes faith to see past the suffering, to believe that God STILL has a plan for our good. When a woman goes through the suffering of labor and delivery, there is suffering; but in normal circumstances the suffering gives way to joy and the gift and goodness of the baby who is brought forth after. So it is in our lives with other instances of suffering. As David stated in Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may go on all night, but in the morning there is joy.”

So, what about intercessory prayer, then? Should we pray for others? Yes, we should pray to God about anyone and anything that genuinely concerns us. Should we ask others to pray for us? No. To do so shows a lack of faith that our own prayers are adequate to reach the ears of God and for Him to answer. It is fine to share our burdens with others, and if they choose to pray genuine, heart-felt prayers for us, great. If not, it truly is not necessary to have others praying for us in order for God to answer.

The heartfelt prayers of ONE person praying in faith believing God can answer is adequate for God to answer affirmatively. It does NOT take hundreds of people, or even two people rather than just one, praying in order for God to answer.

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