Pray Believing

“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be [granted] him.  ‘Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be [granted] you'” Mark 11:23-24 [NASB]

I routinely stumble across articles and memes that challenge believers with the idea that if we ask God for anything and believe without doubting that He will grant it, He will.  Name it, claim it, believe it, and you are guaranteed it.  I generally dismiss that notion without any struggle, confident that is not the message of the totality of scripture.

This week, however, I was exposed to it in a different way that made it more difficult to slough off.  As a result I found myself wrestling at length with the unwelcome idea that Sarah’s life was not physically saved because as I had petitioned God for her safety I had not done so fully believing she would be kept physically safe.  In other words, my failure to fully believe my requests for her physical safety would be granted resulted in her not being kept safe.

My brain knew this belief was not theologically correct, but my shattered mother’s heart was vulnerable to it, and it struck with the searing pain of a sharpened dagger.  As a result I’ve spent the better part of the week wrestling through scripture to regain confidence in what is Biblical truth and what is not. 

With my heart disturbed within me, I cried out to God pleading with Him to show me His truths and grant me His peace.  He immediately brought to mind Christ in the Garden before the crucifixion.  Specifically He reminded me of Christ’s words, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The day before Sarah left I was deeply unsettled about her trip.  I spent hours that day pleading with God to protect her.  But beyond that, I spent that time entrusting her to Him and asking Him to use our family for His glory.

When I prayed the day before Sarah died I did not pray believing that God would keep her physically safe. I did not claim her physical safety in the name of Jesus Christ.  I did, however, pray confidently knowing that God is all powerful and perfectly capable of keeping her physically safe.  Far more important than that, I prayed knowing beyond any shadow of doubt that God would preserve her soul regardless of what happened to her physically.

I did not pray believing in a specific temporal outcome, but I prayed wholly believing and trusting in the One who determines the outcome. I pled my will, but then I surrendered mine to His.

Those who advocate for boldly claiming specific things in the name of Jesus view the idea of praying and presenting requests with “if it be Your will” as a cop out.  They deem it a safety net for those who don’t really believe that God will answer or grant our requests.  But if that is the case, Jesus Christ himself is lumped with us in the cop out camp.   “…Remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 [NASB]

There are requests we can confidently make and claim as guaranteed in prayer.  Those are the requests that are found in the revealed promises of His Word. Temporal requests such as those for physical needs, physical healing, and physical safety are not promised to be granted.  But the weightier more valuable requests, the ones focused on our spiritual security and eternal Hope, are guaranteed.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 [NASB] 

MacLaren clarified this when he wrote, “Wherever a distinct and unmistakable promise of God’s goes, it is safe for faith to follow; but to outrun His word is not faith, but self-will…” Wiersbe similarly wrote, “Nor should we interpret Mark 11:24 to mean, ‘If you pray hard enough and really believe, God is obligated to answer your prayer no matter what you ask.’ That kind of faith is not faith in God; rather it is nothing but faith in faith, or faith in feelings.”

I have compassion for those who believe the “name it and claim it” false teaching.  I can see why they have fallen victim to it.  Multiple references used out of context can easily be used to support it, including Mark 11:23-24, above.  Context is vital to the formation of our beliefs, as well as interpreting scripture with scripture.  We must be diligent to consider important factors such as who each passage was spoken to and if it is addressing spiritual matters or temporal desires. Our beliefs must be shaped by the totality of Scripture and not by individual passages plucked and elevated above others.

May we all with confidence continue to present our requests before Him, not believing in a specific temporal outcome, but wholly believing and trusting in Him, the One who determines the outcome.  Knowing His peace that passes understanding will prevail regardless of the outcome or circumstances because “as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 [NASB]

He who promises to never leave and never forsake, to strengthen, sustain, empower, and uphold, and to grant peace and courage, is faithful and true and cannot lie.  And praise be to Him, He is coming again “in just a little while” and “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Heb 10:37; Rev 21:4).

Come, Lord Jesus.

“Pray, then, in this way: 
Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 [NASB]


Artwork: Sarah Harmening

10 thoughts on “Pray Believing

  1. How very thankful I am for you! Through your pain you are enabled by the Holy Spirit to share strong truths to encourage all who are seeking comfort…even your Mom!! Thank you for sharing Biblical truths and your heart. Yes…Lord Jesus come soon!

  2. Thank you, from those of us who have prayed for a loved one or an outcome, and did not see that desire and request come to pass, and yet have faith to continue in our walk. Yes always “God’s will be done”. God bless you and yours.

  3. Reblogged this on You Can Trust Him. and commented:
    The number one question I see among loss parents is “Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” This must-read post by Karen Harmening addresses this very important topic. Thank you, Karen for your gracious and careful look at this sensitive issue.

  4. Dr. Jackson(I believe that was his name) told everyone who had not lost a child or a grandchild should refrain from giving unsolicited advice at Sarah’s celebration. Best advice ever! God bless you, Karen. I know even I have said too much on occasion. God put His arms around you and give you peace!❤️❤️❤️

  5. How beautiful are your words and your faith. They are blessings and encouragement to me, and for many, I’m sure. Prayers, always…

  6. Yes, Karen, May God give you, your family, and other grieving parents peace and continued healing. I know you shared with us at the Adorned gathering – I believe less than a year after Sarah’s death that your prayer was for God’s will to be done in her life, specifically on her trip to Africa.
    The god of this world is not happy with your strong faith and testimony giving God the glory in the midst of your pain. You pointing your community and many others to the One True God and His Only Begotten Son who is our Forerunner to Eternal life. And the One who prayed Thy Will be Done as our example.
    I so enjoy Sarah’s artwork And I look forward to meeting her one day.

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