Mark 11:24 - For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it and you will be given whatever you ask for.
Recently, I attended a worship service prior to presenting a workshop during the Sunday school hour. The scripture for the message was Mark11:24. Jesus' words about prayer are in response to Peter's observation of a dead fig tree that Jesus cursed the day before returning from Bethany.
The pastor illustrated the scripture by telling the story of a young couple he was counseling prior to marriage. He asked the couple how they met. The future wife said that she dated many men through the years, but none were what she desired in a husband. She was discouraged to think she might never get married. One day, however, she purchased a man's suit and hung it in her closet as if she had a husband who could wear the suit to work.
Time passed and the woman met a man while on a business trip. The two dated and became engaged. Interestingly, her future husband was the same size as the suit she purchased months earlier. Her belief and hope in securing a husband were expressed tangibly by a suit in her closet.
Listening carefully to the story, I recalled how I prayed each day. My prayers were usually phrased, "God, I ask healing for ___," or "God, help Sarah travel safely to work."
My workshop went well, but driving home later that morning, Jesus' words kept returning: "When you pray, and ask for something, believe that you have received it and you will be given whatever you ask for."
I remembered my dear friend, Rachel, who was diagnosed a few months ago with a life-threatening illness. She received medical care, but was not responding. Praying for Rachel each day, I asked, "God, bring healing to Rachel." As time passed, I felt myself becoming frustrated praying for Rachel, as there was no apparent improvement.
That evening I decided to pray for Rachel using Jesus' example. My prayer changed to "God, I thank you for healing Rachel." At first, these words seemed unnatural. How could I pray for something that had not happened, much less thank God for healing? I decided, however, to persevere with this prayer form.
Rachel's health did not improve, but interestingly, I developed peace in my heart that replaced frustration. Having peace, even in unchanging circumstances was freeing and brought an energy shift. With a new perspective, I found myself able to care for and respond to Rachel with a fresh spirit and renewed encouragement. I was able to offer continued support to her weary family in tangible and spiritual ways. Rachel's condition didn't change, but the way I came to God in prayer did.
Praying for change when circumstances do not, can be frustrating and make us doubt that God hears our prayers. However, I learned that praying with gratitude means I have hope, faith and trust in God. God can bring a shift in my heart so that I can be present to those whose circumstances cannot change or in myself with whatever I am dealing.
Many times we pray about things that never change. Those we love get sick and cannot recover or recover in ways that limit quality of life. People about whom we care switch jobs or break relationships or make unhealthy decisions. These circumstances may not change. What I do believe this scripture is teaching is that when we pray with gratitude, thanking God for what has not yet happened, God equips us with strength to persevere with constant assurance of companionship. Then we can say because of our faith, trust and hope in God, we can pray with gratitude receiving peace for the way.
Praying with assurance that God is in every circumstance deepens my dependency on God and binds me closer to God, whom I love dearly with increasing trust, hope, belief and gratitude.
Prayer: God, we know you hear all of our prayers. Prayer doesn't always bring the change we desire. However, when we come to you praying with trust, hope, belief and gratitude the change that occurs in our hearts can bring the peace we desire. Amen.