Removing Prayer Barriers: Doubt

Daily Devotion | Day 295

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7, NKJV).

Yesterday, we started looking at barriers to prayer. We identified unforgiveness as a barrier based on Jesus’ teaching on the subject. Today, we will examine a second barrier to prayer, namely doubt. We will look at how doubt blocks prayer from being answered, and what we can do to keep doubt at bay. Before we proceed, let us note that we can put doubt and fear in the same category. Although they are distinct, they are two sides of the same coin. They have the same root, which is unbelief. And, they produce the same result by preventing prayer from being answered. This means we can use doubt and fear interchangeably. However, for the sake of consistency, let’s stick to doubt.

When you look at today’s Scripture passage, it’s self-explanatory. James couldn’t have been any clearer. He says, if you need wisdom, ask God and He will grant your request. James used wisdom as an example. You can replace wisdom with anything else you need and the rule still applies. James tells us why God will answer your prayer. He says, it is the Father’s nature to give plentifully and without reproach. Our Father is neither cheap nor stingy. He is all about abundance, excellence and munificence.

Next, James tells us how to ask and how not to ask. This is where Christians need to pay attention. Getting prayer results is not about merely asking; it’s about how you ask. We should ask in faith, because only faith will produce the desired result. God gives to those who ask in faith. He honors faith and despises doubt.

When you ask God for something and you have doubts about it, this is what you’re (unconsciously) saying: “God is not who He says He is. He is not faithful. You can’t depend on Him. Maybe He doesn’t love me. Sometimes He is good; other times, who knows?” James adds that the one who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. This last point sums up everything we need to know about the effect doubt has on our prayer requests. 

Doubt is a form of faith. But it is faith that moves in the opposite direction. In other words, doubt is negative faith. If faith is “F,” doubt is “-F.” When you doubt, it means you have faith that what you’re asking will not happen exactly as you asked. Let’s consider an example of how we can express doubt without realizing.

Let’s assume that I, Stephen, am in college. I’m fascinated with astrophysics. I’m applying for a graduate program in Astrophysics, and I’ve heard that ‘Heaven University’ has the best program available. I’m excited, because this is exactly the program I want. Before submitting my application, I went on my knees and prayed to the Father to open a door for me to be admitted. I concluded my prayer with “Amen,” which means “So be it” or “Let it be so.”

Two days later, I met some friends who told me how extremely competitive the program was. I learned that each year the program receives close to 30, 000 applicants, of which only the top 50 candidates are selected. When I heard that it suddenly dawned on me how slim my chances were. When I got home, I Googled the program to verify what my friends said. They were right. Then I said to myself, “Wow!”

Consequently, I started looking at other programs I didn’t want but which offered a more ‘realistic’ chance of admission. At this point, my initial faith had turned to doubt. My attitude showed I had lost faith in my prayer. I failed to respect my own “Amen.” I chose to believe statistics over my Father in heaven’s ability to give me what I ask.

In spiritual terms my actions translate into something like this: “God, sorry for putting you in an awkward position. The first time I asked, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the challenge. Let’s forget about my earlier request and move on to something You can deliver.” Of course, Christians will not open their mouth to say these exact words, but often their actions do the talking. Actions speak louder than words.

You can think of other examples, but I hope you get the point. Don’t say, think or do things that will negate your prayer. Be consistent in what you believe. Faith is powerful. But so is doubt. With doubt, you can move your life in the wrong direction.

If you doubt, don’t ask. And if you ask, don’t doubt.

BlessingMay God bless you and energize your faith, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyMatthew 14:22-33 

Done: From Asking to Receiving

Daily Devotion | Day 293

“Therefore, I [Jesus] say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24, NKJV).

The goal of asking is to receive. Unfortunately, many people are stuck with the reality of asking. They can’t seem to move beyond asking and receive what they desire. They ask a lot, but they receive little, if at all. Why? The Bible gives us the answers, but we won’t attempt to tackle all the possible reasons here. From my experience, people focus too much on asking but they neglect everything else Jesus said about the subject of prayer. Yes, Jesus told us to ask (Matthew 7:7). But that’s just part of what He said.

Today, we want to look at two keys Jesus gave us for receiving what we desire. They are not the only keys, but they are critical, especially the second one. They are as follows:

1. Ask. This is obvious. If you want something, ask for it. Here, it’s important to know exactly what you want and make your request accordingly. But, as already noted, many Christians are stuck at this stage. They sincerely ask, but they sincerely don’t receive. And they keep asking, hoping that one of these days they’ll prevail. What they forget is that asking goes with other things. 

2. Believe you have received: Few ever make it to this point. Yet, this is the most crucial stage of the prayer request. Jesus says, “whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them.” This is huge. Jesus will not believe for you. His job is to supply; yours is to believe that you have received. Don’t stop at asking, Jesus says. Right after you’ve asked for something, believe that you’ve received it. If you skip this step, you’re likely not to receive what you wanted.

What does it mean to believe that you’ve received? It means when you pray for something, take it for granted that it’s done. From that point, let your thoughts, your words and your actions indicate that you believe it’s done. You need to start acting as though you already had what you asked. Consider the following example.

You remember what happened at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Mary asked Jesus to ‘supply’ wine to save the wedding. At that point, Jesus wasn’t ready to perform a miracle, and He made that clear to Mary. Someone would have turned away. Mary, however, wasn’t shaken by Jesus’ response. She went ahead and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.

The point here is, Mary asked Jesus for something and she believed she had received it regardless of Jesus’ initial response. Mary had not seen wine with her naked eyes, yet she took it for granted that wine had been provided. Right after asking, she started acting as though her request had been granted. In the end, she got exactly what she believed.

This is the point Jesus is making in today’s passage. He says, if you believe you’ve received it, you will have it. Asking is good, but believing is better. Asking doesn’t produce results. Believing does.

It’s time to move past asking. Start receiving.

Blessing: May the Lord surround you with songs of deliverance. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Luke 18:35-42, John 2:1-11 and Romans 4:13-22

Enoch: The Man Who Did Not Taste Death

Daily Devotion | Day 286

“After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:22-24, NKJV).

Adam and Eve’s disobedience had a devastating effect on the world. Yet all was not lost. The light of God did not stop shining. It did not stop guiding people to the truth. Sin did not have the final say over everyone. Sometime after Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden, the Bible shows us notable examples of people who opened their hearts to the truth and were righteous before God. One such example is Enoch. The Bible doesn’t say much about Enoch. But the little we’re told is refreshing. Today, our purpose is to reflect on Enoch’s remarkable life and draw inspiration from it.

According to the genealogy of Jesus recorded by Luke, Enoch is the seventh in line from Adam (Luke 3:37-38). He was 65 years old when he had his first son, Methuselah. Immediately after stating this fact, the Bible begins to describe Enoch’s relationship with God. We’re told that Enoch walked with God for three hundred years. This piece of information tells us that Enoch was obedient to God. Without obedience it is impossible to walk with God. Furthermore, the fact that he walked with God means Enoch was a man of faith. We know this because there’s only one way to walk with God: by faith.

But the astonishing detail about Enoch’s life is that he didn’t taste death. Enoch walked with God, then suddenly he was gone. The Bible says God took him to Himself without letting Enoch taste the experience of death. That’s amazing! As far as the Bible’s testimony is concerned, Enoch was the first human being never to taste death. God so loved Enoch that He took him away alive. What an experience that would be! Enoch is one of only two people in the Bible who went to God directly without dying. The other person is Elijah.

In the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews lists several great men and women of faith. Enoch is second on the list (after Abel). Here, we’re told that before Enoch was taken, “he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Enoch didn’t let Adam’s disobedience affect him. He didn’t let Adam’s failure affect his thinking. He believed he could be different. He dedicated his life to pleasing God. And God honored him by excluding him from the experience of biological death.

 Enoch’s life has important lessons for us. Often, we focus so much on Adam and Eve’s failure that we fail to see the many remarkable stories of righteousness and obedience in the Bible. No matter the failures of those who have gone before you, you can be different. Someone’s failure doesn’t have to define you. Adam’s disobedience doesn’t have to be your disobedience. Adam doesn’t control your choices; you do. Let’s be inspired by stories of righteousness, not stories of sin. Let’s be inspired by Enoch’s example.  

BlessingThe grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

For further study2 Kings 2:1-11 and Hebrews 11:1-12

Set Your Faith Free: Eliminate ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’

Daily Devotion | Day 278

“And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes’” (Mark 9:22-23, NKJV).

Jesus speaks one language. It’s the language of faith. Consequently, He can’t deal with faith-less communication. Listen to Him voice His frustration: “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mark 9:19). Jesus was fed up; thank God He didn’t give up on us! By “faithless generation,” He meant a generation that lacked faith. Jesus’ statement tells us about the pivotal role faith plays in our life. Anyway, let’s dive into today’s opening passage.

This man had a son who was tormented by an unclean spirit. He brought him to Jesus’ disciples. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cast out the spirit. Jesus found out and asked the man for some details about his son’s situation. Today’s reading captures part of the man’s response. He is describing the harm the spirit has been inflicting on his son. After that, he tells Jesus, “But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Before we continue, let’s compare this man’s statement with that of a certain leper who approached Jesus for healing: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). Take some time to reflect on the similarities and differences of the two statements.

The man in today’s story had a problem. His faith (if he had any) was shaky. He had problems with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ His own words revealed his unbelief: “But if You can, have compassion on us and help us.”  He had doubts, and this wasn’t helping his son. As you know, doubt is an expression of unbelief. Unclean spirits don’t respond to doubtful people. In fact, they thrive in an environment of doubt. However, they can’t stand an environment of faith. With his ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ the man was making his son’s situation worse. Knowing his problem, Jesus gave him a brief lesson on faith: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

As a Christian, you’re going to fly on the wings of faith. Faith is your access key for supernatural breakthrough. To set your faith free, you need to eliminate doubt (‘ifs’ and ‘buts’) from your faith-life. If you’re going to walk with Jesus, you need to speak a language He understands, i.e. faith language. If you’re going to overcome unclean spirits, you need to switch from the frequency of doubt to the frequency of faith. Cooperate with Jesus by faith, and watch your life change.

BlessingMay the Lord command His blessing upon you and your household. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyMark 7:24-30

Spiritual Warfare: Two Things You Should Know

Daily Devotion |Day 263

“For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him [Jesus], and she came and fell at his feet . . . and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:25-26).

Spiritual warfare is an inescapable reality. You’re involved in it regardless of your beliefs. Spiritual warfare is no respecter of persons. Until you pass from this world, you are at war; so you might as well fight – to win. The alternative is to do nothing and end up defeated. Satan and his demons don’t care about your status: man, woman, child, adult, rich, poor, good or bad. They will attack at any opportunity.

If you are a Christian, the stakes are even higher. The day God translated you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13), satan was put on notice. That day, you formally enlisted in Jesus’ army, and you joined the Church in her assault on the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). This means you are soldier. You therefore need to be more vigilant. Today, we’re going to look at two things you should keep in mind about spiritual warfare.

A Gentile woman came to Jesus for help. He young daughter had an unclean spirit. When she heard about Jesus, she begged Him to cast out the spirit. Initially, Jesus reminded her that His priority was to attend to the needs of Israelites. But the woman wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. She was willing to take whatever help she could get for her daughter. No help was too small for her. Impressed by her determination and faith, Jesus told her to go because (based on her faith) the demon had left her daughter. We will pause here and highlight two points for our consideration.

1. To be effective in spiritual warfare, you need to identify your target (i.e. know what you’re dealing with). The woman in the story could not cast out the demon by herself. But she had one thing going for her. She correctly discerned that a demon was at work in her daughter’s life. As a Christian you can correctly discern spirits. In fact, the Bible takes it for granted that you can (1 John 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). Discerning correctly the spirit you’re dealing with is key to victory in spiritual warfare. Otherwise, you will be flying blind; and you don’t want that.

2. Let your faith remain steady. Demons will know if your faith is shaky. They can tell if you’re not sure of yourself or if you’ve given up. Demons submit only to steady faith. The woman demonstrated this kind of faith. She looked for Jesus. When she found Him, it seemed at first that Jesus wasn’t interested. But she didn’t get discouraged. She dug deep and found a reason to still believe. Jesus was amazed. In the end, notice that Jesus did not even pray for her or her daughter. He didn’t cast out the demon, either. The demon simply left based on the woman’s steady faith and her refusal to quit. Jesus said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter” (Mark 7:29).

Spiritual warfare takes steady faith and discernment of spirits. Train yourself to be an effective warrior for Christ.

BlessingMay the Lord command His blessing upon you and your household. Amen.

For further studyEphesians 6:10-20