When I taught on prayer awhile back and stated that there are models taught in the Bible on how to pray, one of those present challenged me, demanding:
You mean to say we have to pray a certain way or we won’t get our prayers answered!?
To which I replied:
No, because that would be a legalistic recipe of dead religious works — the very essence of man’s religion — and our God doesn’t operate that way. That being said, however, there are principles and precepts found in God’s Word — some of them taught by Jesus Himself — which can greatly enhance our prayer life and ignoring them serves us poorly.
So what I’m about to share is straight from the mouth of our Savior, so any quibble you may have with what I am about to teach is with Him, not me! 🙂
Jesus vs. the Fig Tree
There are only two occasions in the Gospels where Jesus offers an in-depth discourse on prayer. The first is the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 and the second instance is the one we are about to discuss. Considering that this second occasion is literally half of what Jesus directly taught on prayer during His earthly ministry, this passage receives remarkably little airplay within the Church — I firmly believe that Satan would love to keep it that way!
The passage to which I am referring is found in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark. To set the stage, a few verses earlier, Jesus had attempted to pick some figs from a fig tree and found it barren. His response was to curse the tree, after which He entered the city and cleansed the temple.
We’ll take up the narrative at the verse where they had exited Jerusalem and later found that same tree withered from the roots overnight:
Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.’
So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ Mark 11:20-26
#1 — Having Faith
So the first thing Jesus commands is for us to have faith in God. We’ve just spent 3 articles (#1, #2, #3) discussing that topic in great depth, and another article on how to develop your faith in God’s Word, so let’s move on.
But before we do so, I want to reinforce the idea that Jesus put faith at the top of the list that followed and none of the rest of this list works apart from faith in God’s Word.
#2 — Commanding the Mountain
Then Jesus talks about speaking to mountains. This, on its surface, sounds almost silly and is something of a mind-bender. I mean, how many of us have walked over to the nearest hill and started talking to it? But if God-in-Sandals says we should speak to mountains, who are we to argue?
One time my pastor in Wichita, KS was preaching on this passage and said that we could develop enough faith to “move all the mountains in Kansas.” I went up to him after the service and said, “Pastor Rob, if we moved all the mountains in Kansas, all the freeway overpasses would collapse!” If you’ve never been to Kansas, you won’t get that joke. 🙂
All kidding aside, though, Jesus was speaking of figurative mountains here, though I expect He personally could have pulled off moving a real mountain because, unlike us, He had perfect trust in our Heavenly Father and he had no sin to hinder either his faith or his authority — His speaking to the fig tree certainly proved effective!
But we all have mountains in our lives. So what are our mountains?
We face mountains of sickness, mountains of financial lack, mountains of relational problems within our families, mountains of employment difficulties, mountains of addiction, mountains of depression/despair/despondency, and the list goes on and on and on.
And what we are supposed to be doing with those mountains? Speaking to them — more specifically commanding them — to be removed from our lives.
This kind of mountain moving is well within our wheelhouse as believers. Our trouble is getting over that initial feeling of silliness Satan uses to discourage us from removing those mountains he so evilly and intentionally put in our lives to discourage and/or destroy us. Once past that initial hurdle, speaking to our mountains becomes second-nature the more we practice it.
Commanding mountains is how we express our God-given authority over this earth. I’ve already explored in depth the topic of how Adam lost and Jesus restored this authority in a previous article, so if you need to brush up on the topic, you can read about it there.
So when we have a financial lack, we take authority over that “mountain” and speak to it, saying something like, “I command financial lack to loose us and depart in the name of Jesus. Thank you, Lord, that all our bills are paid current and we have more than enough to be generous.”
Or when faced with symptoms of illness, we can say something along the lines of, “I curse these symptoms along with whatever germs are causing them and I command them to wither and die and to loose my body and depart in Jesus’ name!”
Or when coming out under the bondage of an addiction, “Heavenly Father, I thank you that the blood of Jesus and the finished work of the cross have completely delivered me from all addictions and compulsive behaviors. I curse this addiction and command it to wither and die. I declare myself free in Jesus’ name!”
Or when plagued by depression, “I command the spirits of depression, despair, and despondency to loose me and depart in Jesus’ name! The joy of the Lord is my strength and I will rejoice in Him, His blood, and His finished work of the cross which have set me free!”
#3 — Praying to God, Receiving
This is another principle most Christians totally blow past: receiving! Most of us ask when we pray, but never “receive” the answer before it actually manifests. And when Jesus speaks of “receiving” here in this passage, He’s not talking about the actual answer which is coming down the road; He said, “When you pray, receive…”
So how do you receive something? Well, the best example is when someone gives us a gift for whatever reason or occasion. When they hand it to us, we accept it into our possession and it becomes our own.
That is “receiving.”
So Jesus is telling us that we are to accept into our personal ownership whatever it is we are praying for at the time we are praying for it!
The psychological implication is this: if we have received ownership of whatever we have prayed for, then it precludes in our minds any idea our prayer will not be answered affirmatively.
And who wants to take what is ours? Satan, who steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10). How does he steal it? By convincing us with his lies that God is not going to answer our prayers due to some reason or another, or to get us to back off from doing what God has commanded us to do.
In summary, he can only steal what he can talk us out of! We are fighting a defensive battle to protect what is already ours, not fighting an offensive battle to obtain it.
#4 — Forgiving
I’ve already devoted an entire article to this topic as well as giving it a significant mention in my previous article, so I’m not going to re-invent that wheel here. My fellow contributor Gail has also addressed that topic, so the 2 of us have that base pretty well covered.
What I will reiterate yet again is that forgiveness is absolutely vital to a successful prayer life and this is a really sticking point with God, so whatever you may be harboring against whoever done you dirt, give it up, give it to God, and forgive!
The Principle of Binding & Loosing
In my examples of prayers above, you read where I spoke of “loosing” ourselves from negative circumstances. This concept and practice comes from the following verse in the Gospel of Matthew where once again Jesus is speaking:
Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18
This is yet another manifestation of Jesus’ restoration of our authority over this earth.
- bind (deo)
- to bind, tie, or fasten
- loose (luo)
- to untie someone who is bound, to set free, to discharge from prison
How this works is that in prayer we loose ourselves or whoever else we are praying for, from whatever bondage or difficulty we find ourselves in or they are in. Then we bind ourselves or them to the plans, purposes, destiny of God as well as His applicable promises.
Putting It All Together
Taking all of these principles together, let’s look at a couple of sample prayers, first for financial assistance:
“Heavenly Father, thank you that you are Jehovah-Jireh, the God Who sees in advance and provides. Your Word says that all our needs are met according to your riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19) and that you have made every favor and earthly blessing come to us in abundance, so that we always and under all circumstances and whatever the need, possess enough to require no aid or support and are furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation (2 Corinthians 9:8 AMP).
We choose to believe your promises despite what we see with our eyes and what the circumstances tell us. We speak to this mountain of lack in the name of Jesus and command it to be uprooted and cast into the sea and be completely removed from our life. We command our bank account to be full and we receive your financial provision into our lives. We loose ourselves from poverty and lack and bind ourselves to your divine provision for our life in Jesus’ mighty name.
Here’s the second example, this time for physical healing:
Heavenly Father, Your Word says that Jesus bore my sicknesses and carried my pains and by His stripes I’ve been healed. You also have declared in Your Word that You are Jehovah-Rapha, the God Who heals us.
I choose to believe your Word regardless of how I feel and the diagnosis of the doctors. I speak to this mountain of ___________ (fill in the diagnosis) and command it to loose my body and depart in Jesus’ name and in that same name I bind myself to the healing power of God. I receive complete restoration of my physical health in the wonderful name of Jesus.
Now I just wrote those out of personal experience, roughly how I’ve prayed about these self-same issues in times past. These are not recipes or magic incantations, they are examples. Feel free to use them until such time as you can riff such a prayer from your own heart, but there is nothing special about those words in and of themselves.
No matter whose words you use, you must believe them! Faith is how it all works and as I’ve already covered earlier, developing your faith is a growth process. You start out small, taking baby steps, and you allow God to show Himself mighty on your behalf in minor issues and, as you grow, the challenges will grow with you.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate a comment I made when I first started this series: there is no one on the sidelines holding up score cards for technical excellence and artistic expression when you pray — other than the devil himself. And it is he who will lie his face off trying to talk you out of everything I’ve been teaching here.
Don’t let him!
Thanks for reading!