QUESTION: The Bible teaches that we are "saved by grace through faith, and that (faith) not of ourselves: it is a gift of God...lest any man should boast." Yet, many groups (Pentecostals, Charismatics et al) make the strength of one's faith the determining factor in whether or not a prayer is answered. This "strength of one's faith" seems to me to be a very human factor which quite easily could be translated as "works". Just as some humans often succeed at something because they "try harder", this same thinking seems to be implicit in the answering of prayer going to believers who "believe harder". Is this not a false foundation based on "works"?
ANSWER: Hi Greg,
Thanks for this very interesting question. I think that it is important to understand the difference between saving faith and faith for healing or deliverance.
It is clear that salvation cannot come through works at all.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” (Romans 3:19–21, AV)
So what righteousness is imputed then upon our belief? Look and see that not only are we given the righteousness of God when we believe, we are given the faith of Jesus.
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:22, AV)
So when I have faith the size of a mustard seed and trust in what Jesus did on the cross to save me from my sin, I access the grace of God and He then replaces my faith with the faith of Jesus.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1–2, AV)
So Once I trust in Jesus to save me, I do not stand in the intensity of my faith, but the righteousness of God and the faith of Jesus.
Having said that, getting answers to prayer is different than getting salvation. We are promised wisdom from God... but if we ask for wisdom while wavering (the hesitation of doubt) then we should not expect to get any answer from the Lord... not that we loose salvation, but certainly we would lose potential blessing.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:5–7, AV)
I hope that this helps you.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you, very much, Pastor Don. That is an excellent distinction and it clarifies my thinking greatly.
My follow-up question concerns the divergence between faithful, confident prayers and God's perfect will. Surely, God is not required to answer all of our prayers simply because "we believe without wavering". How do we reconcile prayers that are made in unwavering faith that still go unanswered?
Thank you, again, for your excellent service on this blog.
Thank you for your follow up question. Just because God does not answer yes to your prayer, does not mean that God did not answer at all. Observe the interaction in the following verses:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, AV)
So the Apostle Paul prayed with faith for deliverance, yet God decided not to provide deliverance, but instead Grace to endure the affliction.
So if we pray for a certain thing, and that thing does not happen, God has answered by telling us no... there is a different plan.
I hope that this helps you.