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Gospel of Mark #42 ~ (11:12-14, 20-24)

Started by Al Moak, August 02, 2004, 08:53:05 PM

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Al Moak

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24
Prayer Is A Wonderful Relationship To God


Prayer is probably the single most important activity of the Christian life. That's not because God needs our prayers in order to know what to do for us - He knew all our needs before the foundation of the world.  We can't inform Him of anything He didn't already know. But prayer is nevertheless important. It's not because He needs it – but we need it.

And we do need it. We need it, first of all, simply because God often will not act without it. If He did, then we would rarely or never petition Him. And if we never petitioned Him, we wouldn't thank Him, confess our sins to Him, praise Him, or just commune with Him either. We'd have no real relationship to Him at all. But it's that very relationship that His salvation seeks to restore, and so, by His Spirit, He moves us to talk with Him, to pour out our souls to Him, in short, to recognize Him as our Father and His Son as our Savior.

That's what the incident of the fig tree is all about. In it, our Lord is teaching His disciples - and us - to pray and to stay in constant communication with Him just as He did with His Father.

In thinking about this incident, though, there are a few things we need to be aware of. First of all, we need to be aware that our Lord was not in the habit of peevishly destroying fruit trees just because there didn't happen to be any fruit on them.

Notice what it says here: ". . . for it wasn't the season for figs." Normally, fig trees begin bearing fruit early in the spring, then the leaves gradually follow. This tree, though, was already in full leaf, so it should normally have had fruit as well. It was an exceptional tree, far ahead of other fig trees in that it was already in full foliage. But it was also a worthless tree, because there was no fruit. At the word of His Son the Father disposed of this worthless tree, a tree which, since it was by the road, was owned by no one.

The disciples heard Him speak to the tree, but they saw nothing happen. Then, the next day, they passed by again, and the tree was withered from the roots up, and Peter expressed the amazement they probably all felt. Jesus took the occasion to teach them concerning prayer. His striking words are often misunderstood.

His own summary of the teaching is in vs. 24: "So I say to you, everything you ask for when you pray, believing at the same time that you're receiving it, you shall have it." He seems to be saying that there's a simple formula for having anything you want: you just ask, then you assume you have what you ask for, and you'll have it. Needless to say, many people have gladly concluded that that's exactly what Jesus is saying. They teach, therefore, that if you have a broken leg, ask that it be instantly healed, believe that it is healed, get up and walk on it (to prove that you do believe) - then it will be entirely whole again. That's a good formula for presumption, but it isn't what Jesus was teaching.

Bible passages never stand alone. To understand what Jesus was teaching, we need to compare it to other passages concerning prayer. James 4:3, for instance, says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." James doesn't tell us whether the people he's addressing were following the formula of asking, believing, and having, but he does seem to be saying that sometimes Christians don't receive, not because they don't believe, but because they don't ask for the right things! John puts it another way in his first epistle, chapter 5, verses 14, 15, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

Reasonably, then, we need to pray, not for the sake of our own pleasures, but according to His will, and if we do that, why then we'll have what we ask. It just means that if we are attempting to do His will and asking for the wherewithal to do it, then He'll give it to us. That's exactly the disciple's case here in Mark: Jesus was simply telling them that as long as they were pursuing the mission upon which He was sending them, as long as they were asking for the wherewithal to do it, as long as they kept on believing that the Father would supply that wherewithal, then He would indeed supply it.

It's true for us, too. Has He given us tasks to accomplish for His Name in this world? Then He'll supply what we need in order to accomplish them. But as He says here, we must be believing, and we must be trusting Him. It's an attitude, an attitude that says, "I may not see the supply now, but I am entirely persuaded that my heavenly Father has already planned to send it at the right time." We also need to ask, so that we'll remain dependent upon Him, walk with Him, commune with Him, confess our shortcomings to Him, and praise Him for His faithful supply.

Please notice that there's no limit as to what He will supply. Even if it means moving mountains. What that means is that if He has called you to a task the doing of which requires the removal of mountains, then when you ask, they'll be removed! You must, however, believe in His care and loving supply, you must know He has sent you, and you must ask. Perhaps your task doesn't require the removal of any mountains, but He still wants you involved by means of prayer - no matter how large or small your task or needs.

Jesus once said (Jn. 15:7), "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." This says it all. To abide is to remain, to stay steadfast, to remain committed.  So the condition for receiving answers to prayer are two: you have to stay committed to Jesus, and you have to be doing what He calls you to do (what His Word says to do). If you're meeting those conditions, if you're doing His will out of love to Him, then whatever you need will be supplied in answer to your prayer!

There's only one other condition. It's expressed in the last two verses here in Mark: "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you aren't forgiving, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." God won't hear you if you have something against a brother or sister in Christ. He says the same thing in two other passages, Matt. 5:23-24 and Matt. 18:15-17.  Jesus says, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift . . . Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

These two passages just tell us that it doesn't matter whether you have sinned against your brother or your brother has sinned against you - in either case you are still required to go and to seek reconciliation. And your prayers won't be heard until you do!

God's provision for our needs is through prayer. That provision is completely adequate: everything we need in order to do what He wants will be thoroughly provided - but it will nevertheless be through the means He Himself has established. The conditions of that provision may seem difficult, but they're not!  They're not because of one thing - they're in our best interests! If we pray with our own pleasure uppermost, then God is gracious to deny our prayers. If we pray while we are holding grudges against others, then He must deny us, or we would be conditioned to hold grudges. Our God is a gracious Father! Let's come to Him the way He wants us to come. It can only do us good!


Jenny

Pastor this is brilliant.  I had never seen "The Fig Tree" in this sense....thank-you so much.

It is true when we pray according to His will He does answer. I had been praying for fellowship in spite of my weaknesses and now have He has provided a Fellowship in my own home.

I am going to get this one printed out for the "sisters".

God Bless, Jenny.

Al Moak

Thank You, Lord, for thus answering my prayers far beyond what I actually asked!

Chris & Margit Saunders

Thank you Al,
it truly is far more blessed to give than to receive! ;)

Jenny


gwen

What a beautiful interpretation of the fig tree story.  Thank you so much for sharing. I enjoyed it very much.

Gwen

Al Moak

#6
It's very encouraging that you're enjoying the study, Gwen.  May our Father bless us greatly as we study His blessed Word!

Summicron

Now you've got me thinking, what has the fig tree Jesus cursed, got to do with Adam and Eve trying to hide their nakedness with fig leaves? I don't know the answer to this one, not yet, but there is, there always is, and God will reveal it out of His word at some future date, then there will be one big whoop of delight.

Al Moak

Michael - of course, as we obviously are aware, the fig tree produces large leaves - which would obviously be useful to hide behind.  Other than that, I really don't see any relationship between the cursing of the fig tree and Adam & Eve's experience.  I don't honestly think it's wise to try to make more of it than is plainly revealed.

melody


Al Moak

Thank you, Melody - although if there's anything worthwhile in it, then thank God.

melody

Yes, I agree but you did expound on this scripture really well and there was a lot to gleam from it.  :thumbsup:

Al Moak

May our God powerfully bless it to you!