Today (at the time of this writing) I went to YouTube just to listen to any teachings or the like concerning Mark 11:22-24. I have been meditating on that passage of scripture lately. What it reveals is really quite amazing. Let me quote it here for your convenience.
Mark 11:22–24 (ESV) — 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
I was quite amazed by the different teachings on this passage on YouTube. Several people spoke on Mark 11:24 and only one of the people I listened to brought up Mark 11:22-23. What I noticed is that people had a tendency to include presuppositions and other beliefs into the interpretation of that passage of scripture. In speaking on Mark 11:24, some even neglected the lesson in Mark 11:22-23. I was amazed. What Jesus said is so simple and yet people stumbled all over it. The reason I believe they stumble over this passage is that it is really hard to believe. However, there is a component in prayer that was overlooked by everyone I listened to regarding this passage of Scripture, which I will discuss shortly.
Let’s break this passage apart and get the context.
- Jesus previously saw a fig tree and went to it to get something to eat because he was hungry. When he got to the fig tree he saw that it had no figs, just leaves. A fig tree with leaves should have the fruit also, so something else was going on with this tree.
- Jesus cursed the tree
- When they passed the tree again, the disciples noticed how it had withered
- Jesus taught them a lesson
- If you say something and believe AND don’t doubt in your heart then it will be done for you
- Therefore, when you pray, believe that you have received what you have prayed for and you will have it
Now some go into Mark 11:25-26, but that is not the context here at all, but an additional sidenote about unforgiveness.
The message that Jesus is presenting is quite simple. When you pray, believe and don’t doubt. If we can do that then we will have what we pray for. More precisely, believe what you say and don’t doubt and it will happen. The people that I listened to about this passage of scripture neglected to speak about the doubt part. One person read that part of the passage but did not elaborate on it.
If what you say or pray for has not happened then what should you do? One of the first things we tend to do is to go on a witch hunt. We tend to look for things that we have done wrong such that God will not answer our prayers. However, the answer is rather simple. We don’t receive because we either do not believe or we doubt. Doubt counters the belief that we have, which means that it is possible to have a belief (faith) and doubt at the same time. Consider the incident when Peter walked on the water and then began to sink (See Matthew 14:22-31). Peter became afraid because of what he saw while walking on top of the water. Jesus later asked why Peter doubted.
Matthew 14:31 (NASB95) —  Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
This means that fear brought on doubt, which countered the faith that he had for walking on the water. If faith and doubt could not occur at the same time, then Peter would have immediately dropped under the water once he doubted. Instead, be began to sink, which means he did have some faith but was doubting because of what he was seeing around him. He allowed his circumstance to dictate his belief, which in this case was to believe that humans don’t walk on water. So, Peter switched realities in a sense. At one point his reality was based on what Jesus was doing and what Jesus said to him. His circumstances convinced him of something else, namely natural physics. We do this often. We believe God about what He says in His word and then circumstances come along and convince us of something else (See Matthew 13: 3-9, 18-23).
Another thing to notice about Jesus’ teaching her is that it wasn’t exclusively about prayer. Jesus didn’t pray for the fig tree to wither. He merely spoke to it and what he spoke manifested itself into the fig tree such that what he said came to pass. Jesus didn’t say to the fig tree, “Wither and die.” He said, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” One way that could happen is that the tree dies, which it did. It could also happen by the tree remaining in the state that it was in, namely producing no fruit. So what Jesus spoke could have happened if the tree was alive or not. Perhaps Jesus meant for the tree to die and that is what happened. Jesus on another occasion taught that the words we speak originate from the heart. Therefore, Jesus probably meant for the tree to die and the power of his words, though not specifically stating that, brought that heart picture to fruition. In any case, he didn’t pray but rather spoke the word believing that what he said would happen and of course, he had no doubts. He then applied that principle to prayer, since we are typically speaking when we pray.
This means that we should take heed what we say when we believe and that we should guard our hearts against unbelief or doubt. Now there are other passages of scripture that shed more light on prayer such as praying according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15). However, in this case, the message is simply to believe God, speak, receive and don’t doubt. Allow the power of your faith-filled words to accomplish what God intended for them to accomplish (See Isaiah 55:11).
We must also consider that this was not a theological encounter that Jesus had with his disciples. He was hungry and cursed a tree because it had no fruit. Too many people that speak on Jesus’ encounter with the fig tree, take a religious stance instead of just sticking with what Jesus said. Believe, speak, receive, and don’t doubt.
What about forgiveness. Verses 25 and 26 are not conditions for what Jesus had already said, else Jesus would have made that point. Jesus said basically, “in addition to that, forgive.” The point is that when we pray we should forgive so that we would be forgiven. Jesus does not say that not forgiving will hinder what you say from happening, though it can. How can it, if I said that forgiveness is not a condition for receiving what we say or pray for? Because unforgiveness can cause us to doubt. If we speak or pray for something and we consider our heart with regards to unforgiveness for someone, then we are likely to believe that God may not answer our prayer because of unforgiveness. However, this can apply to anything. We may believe that not reading the Bible a certain amount of time each day can hinder our prayers, thus producing doubt. So again, we simply need to believe, speak, receive and don’t doubt. Doubting will hinder our receiving and doubting can be produced by many other things (fear, guilt, feeling of unworthiness, etc.).
How To Believe and Not Doubt
Of course, there is more to prayer, but this passage is more than about prayer. It is about believing purely or wholly (no pun intended). There are two questions that arise at this point (at least for me).
- How do I believe?
- How do I not doubt?
.We want to ensure that we believe, and that can be done by feeding upon and knowing the word of God. The word of God spawns faith (Romans 10:17). If we don’t know the word of God then we can’t stand on it in confidence. Attempting to put our belief to action will easily result in doubts because our foundation has not been established in the word (See Matthew 13/Mark 4 on the parable of the sower and seed). We want to be sure that we know how doubt can arise and to squash it when it presents itself. Doubt isn’t thinking, “What if this doesn’t work.” Doubt is when you try to answer that question. There will always be a temptation to doubt, but we don’t have to accept it, but instead squash those doubts with the word of God that we have come to know and depend on.
Control What We Hear
We have to take control of not only what we hear, but what we allow our minds to contemplate.
2 Corinthians 10:4–6 (NKJV) —  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,  and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
There are two critical things that we must do in order to consistently believe the word of God. First, we must read and meditate on the scriptures. We must understand them and contemplate them over and over. We do this naturally but in a negative manner. Consider when you worry about something. You roll that thing over and over in your mind. Your words will begin to speak the vision that your worrying produces. I’m suggesting that we take a different path based on the promises of God revealed to us in His word. Instead of worrying, which the Bible admonishes us not to do anyway (Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6-7). Second, we must be consistent in feeding upon God’s word and to do what it says.
Do The Word
It is not enough to merely read the Bible and fill ourselves with Bible knowledge. Meditation gets that word into our hearts and speaking it out loud to ourselves and doing what it says anchors it there. Why? Because as we say, receive, don’t doubt, and do it, we will experience God’s faithfulness. We will gain more confidence in the word of God and more readily believe the next time. See Jesus’ teaching on hearing and doing at Matthew 7:24-27, James 1:22-25).
How do we believe and not doubt? Always meditate on the word of God so that it resides in our heart (the same way worrying sets visions of ruin in our hearts). Speak it out loud to ourselves over and over. Think about and contemplate the word of God that pertains to an issue over and over throughout the day. Pray to God for help in believing and even to help with your unbelief (See Mark 9:24). Begin to do whatever you can to practice what God has promised you. Instead of believing that you will die because of a sickness, believe that you will not die and live and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17). Instead of visualizing your ruin due to a financial situation, start visualizing success and meditate on God’s word that promises you success (e.g., See Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17, Joshua 1:8, etc.). Counter every thought that comes up that is contrary to God’s promises and your faith in them, Those thoughts are not doubts, but merely a temptation to doubt. Always speak the word over your situations, good and bad.
Believing is a Choice
One thing that I have learned over the years is that believing God is a choice. Believing anything is a choice. If it were not a choice, then God could not tell us to have faith in Him or to believe Him. We have to choose to believe God and then do what we can to build our confidence so that we will more readily believe in the future. David was confident about Goliath because he defeated the lion and the bear in the past. He experienced God delivering his enemies to him. We need to do the same thing. Remember what God has done for us, but that is only possible if we allow the word of God to manifest in our lives by standing on it in faith.
Be Prepared to Be Alone Locally
It may surprise you that walking by faith in God’s promises is something that many professed Christians do not do. To make matters worse, when you attempt to live by faith, they will probably be the first to oppose your new journey. Their doubt and unbelief can become contagious and can wear you down as you keep fighting against it.. so keep in mind that those around you and probably the closest people to you (spouse, siblings, church members, etc.) may not be on a path of faith as you are. You will have to control what they put into your mind and heart as well because if we are not careful, we can become like Peter and allow their doubt and unbelief to cause us to take our focus off of the Word of God and instead, focus our attention on the problem.
God bless you always! Remember to eat, drink, and digest the word of God and know God for yourself. Believe, speak, receive, and don’t doubt!
Related article: Believe You Receive.