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 

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

Defeating the Enemy Called ‘Doubt’

Daily Devotional: Day 234

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like the 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 1:6-7, NKJV).

Today’s passage from James originally talks about asking for wisdom, but the underlying teaching is applicable to all prayer requests. Praying for something is more than just asking. Anyone can ask for something, but not everyone asks in faith. What does it mean to ask in faith? According to James, it means asking with no doubt in your heart (cf. Mark 11:20-24).

James likens people who doubt to the wave of the sea which is driven and tossed by the wind. Such people lack stability and direction. People like that, James adds, should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Faith alone pleases God (cf. Hebrews 11:6). If you want God to honor your prayer, honor Him by eliminating doubt (completely) from your mind.

Faith is a stabilizer. It keeps you steady – steady in your thoughts, your convictions and your actions. Faith is what propels prayer to reach its intended target. Without faith, prayer is a meaningless exercise.

Doubt is faith turned upside downIf you want your prayer to be effective, don’t mix it with doubt.

If you want God to honor your request, your doubt level must be equal to zero (0). Even a 0.0000001% doubt is enough to neutralize your prayer. Doubt has robbed many a Christian of their blessings (ask me how I know that). Doubt slows progress. Doubt sinks success. Doubt stifles dreams and kills vision. Treat doubt as you would an enemy, for it is an enemy. Neutralize it before it neutralizes you.

The good news is, you can defeat doubt for goodin Jesus Name. Identify any sources of doubt and deploy the Holy Spirit power in you to get rid of them. Let’s start with you; yes, you. If a thought of doubt pops up in your mind, immediately address it with faith-filled words (You can say something like, “In the Name of Jesus, I reject all thoughts and imaginations of doubt. Thank you, Jesus, for filling my mind with thoughts of love, faith, hope, peace and goodness.”). If doubt returns a thousand times, reject it a thousand times. That’s how you stay a winner. The real battle of life is within. 

Furthermore, saturate your mind and heart with God’s word by reading (if possible, memorizing) and meditating the Scriptures. Finally, watch the company you keep. People, images and voices (or sounds) around you can help your faith or hurt it. Share your important life dreams, if possible, only with people you know are well grounded in faith and are not prone to panic or doubt. If you are not sure, keep your plans between you and God.

May the Lord elevate your faith and cause His blessings to be upon you! Amen.

For further studyMatthew 14:22-33

PRAY THE PRAYER OF FAITH

Daily Devotional: Day 5

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV).

God doesn’t honor prayer (Don’t be shocked! Read on); he honors faith. Prayer by itself doesn’t change your life. To benefit from prayer, your prayer must be a prayer of faith. This means, if you petition God for anything, believe without doubt in your heart that God has heard you and answered your prayer. Remember, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The parable Jesus told in Luke 18:1-8 was about the need to pray the prayer of faith. Some erroneously interpret this Scripture to mean that Jesus wants us to pray and pray and pray. They think that Jesus is telling us to pray more. Praying “more” doesn’t hurt. But that is not what Jesus is teaching here. The point Jesus wants to drive home is that, due to a lack of faith, many people give up on their own prayer. When they don’t see immediate results, their faith wavers; then they quit believing that what they asked for will come to pass. It’s this attitude of unbelief that Jesus wants to correct. Jesus is saying that when you pray for something, don’t lose heart if you don’t see instant change.

Don’t quit believing, because your faith is the currency of your prayer. Without faith, prayer is meaningless. God is moved, not by your prayer per se, but by your attitude of faith in his promises. Remember that anyone can pray, but not everyone prays the prayer of faith. At the end of the parable, notice what Jesus says, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). If you think that praying more is the key to being heard, you need to change your thinking. The truth is, the effectiveness of your prayer has nothing to do with the duration or frequency of your prayer. The key is faith. As you exercise faith, you’ll realize that you don’t need a lot of words or a lot of time to get prayer results.

Confession:

God is for me; he’s not against me. By his grace, I’m a new creation through faith in Jesus. I know that the righteous shall live by faith. Through the blood of Jesus, I am righteous. Therefore, I walk by faith, not by prevailing circumstances. I pray the prayer of faith, for I know that my God is faithful, and he shall perform what he promises. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 For further study: James 1: 5-8; 5:14-18

Have a faith-filled day!

Pastor Steve

Charis Temple (non-denominational church)

Email: charristemple@gmail.com