A Surprising Link Between Prayer and Faith

I remember standing in the living room as a young child thinking about Jesus’ admonition to his disciples in Matthew 17:20. If the disciples had faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. I looked at the “mountain” sized couch and prayed/willed the couch to move. It didn’t, but I knew it could: anything was possible with God.

Yet as a harried and hurried mama, I don’t often feel this same childhood confidence. In fact, I found myself surprised the other day when God answered my prayer.

I had thrown the four kids into the car straight after breakfast to go to a last minute pediatrician appointment to check on my daughter’s persisting ear infection. My previous visit four days ago with just Emma had not gone well: she hugged my body, wiggled away from the stethoscope, and buried her head when the doctor attempted to look in her ears. As I sat fretting at a red light, it occurred to me to pray with her.

When I shared that we were headed to the pediatrician, she howled in protest, but I pressed on: “Emma, Jesus said we should trust in Him when we are afraid.” She did not seem to be listening, but I continued anyway. “Let’s stop and pray for Jesus to give you courage. Let’s pray He will help you not be afraid when the doctor listens to your heart and looks in your ears.” She quieted to thumb sucking as I prayed for her.

I unloaded and braced for the fight that never came.  In record speed, we were in and out of the office in twenty minutes. I shuffled the wagon and kids from reception to waiting room to exam room with no protest from Emma. My sweet little girl who’s been petrified of doctors since she was a baby, sat poised on the exam table and allowed the doctor to perform a full examination. No whimpers, no shrinking back, no fear. In a jiffy, we loaded back into the van with two new prescriptions. Wonder and gratitude washed over me.

Driving away, we celebrated. We celebrated her God-given courage and our clearly answered prayer. We prayed again thanking God for giving her bravery. Later, we told Grammy how God kindly answered our prayer. We retold the story to Daddy over dinner. We rehearsed God’s goodness over and over that day.

The experience brought important truth to light. Sometimes I don’t pray because my faith feels too small. I’m ashamed of my doubts and fears. But in reality, prayer grows faith. As I come to Christ with small faith and see my prayers heard, my faith increases—my heart magnifies the Lord. And my rejoicing heart is eager to come to my Father again.

Jesus instructed His disciples, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” Matthew 17:20.

This sounds like pretty puny faith to me. Faith no larger than a mustard seed? How can so little faith accomplish the impossible? Because the Object of our faith is infinite. And this all-powerful, all-loving God tells us to ask. So don’t be surprised when He answers. Jesus taught that our “Father who is in heaven give[s] good things to those who ask” (Matt. 7:11). He encouraged His disciples:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matt. 7:7

The more we ask and receive, the more our faith increases. The more we seek and find, the more we trust Him. The more we knock and enter at the door of His throne room, the more we grow in love for our great Father-King. All the while a beautiful transformation begins: our initial doubt and fear give way to surprise and awe. And over time, our surprise and awe give way to greater faith and confidence in our God—a burgeoning faith that we are eager to share with our children. And as we invite our children to share in our prayers, as we model our trust in our Father, as we rehearse His goodness and faithfulness, we imprint the Gospel in their hearts.

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