Lack of faith is caused by falsehood. Confidence, naturally enables, as long as possessing full knowledge and necessary skill. A person who is trained in a particular field carries out functions of that profession confidently. This is different from the one pretending to know when the opposite would be true.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26 NIV).
The above Scripture regards humanity’s lack of faith, due to invalidation of oneself. As long as regarding oneself incapable, a human being cannot do anything. However, having been created in God’s image, humans are capable of doing whatever God is capable of doing.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).
The disciples could not understand the reason for their failure to do what Jesus was capable of doing. There is a cause for every effect. The disciples wanted to know the cause for their failure to perform such a feat. Jesus’s rejoinder, to that question, was the inadequate faith.
The datum conveyed is that humans are not, necessarily different from Jesus. The apparent difference between humans and Jesus is lack of faith. But how can one acquire faith and from where could faith be obtained? Faith implies certainty, without any room for doubt, in what one does.
When not sufficiently trained, the person fails to produce the required results. The person would not be having faith in the practicality of that function. Nothing else causes faithlessness, except a lack of knowledge. While Jesus was equipped with the knowledge, His disciples lacked proficiency in casting out demons.
All problems of humanity lie in-between knowledge and ignorance. One has got to have confidence in doing what one knows best. When lacking confidence, one becomes a cropper. When adequately trained, a person is capable and also able to provide knowledge to those without such capabilities.
Even in this world, it is unnecessary to strain oneself over what one is not predisposed to perform. Why should I force myself to be an engineer, when not gifted in engineering? One needs to consult those predisposed with necessary skills in such areas. The ability to communicate is necessary to achieve good results.
Ignorant people can consult experts, for whatever area of expertise, as considered necessary. These are basic principles of living. It is unnecessary for anyone to pretend to know what one doesn’t know.
Human failures, generally, emanate from an inability to communicate. Otherwise, with proper communication, all things are possible. This can, therefore, be stretched to the inability to pray, when appreciating that prayer implies communication with God.
Very few people appreciate that prayer is communication. Advising the disciples who had questioned their inability to cast out a demon, Jesus said: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21): In prayer and fasting, one would be communicating with God.
When learning the principles of effective communication one includes prayer. With effective communication, one transfers the exact particle of information to the recipient. Having received it in the exact format, the recipient is then persuaded to execute what is requested.
Problems arise when lacking skills in communication, but assuming knowledge of what is unknown. The disciples failed to drive out a demon, due to lacking faith. Their limitation could have been handled through proper communication with God, using prayer and fasting.
Knowledge grants confidence, when performing the required functions. For instance, driving is considered simple, by those having developed skills in driving. However, left in the hands of an inexperienced driver, any vehicle can be wrecked, through an accident. The same applies to other functions.
To His disciples, Jesus commented: “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
This statement insinuates that what is possible with God, is also possible with Men. This is because humans were created in God’s image. There is nothing humans can fail to perform, which God can perform. Jesus taught skills in communication with God.
He often stated that He could do nothing without His Father’s approval. Jesus was the conduit through which God could do anything. Having acquired the skill, the disciples could similarly be used as conduits, by God. Unfortunately, the disciples, at that time, did not even know how to pray.
Aware of what characterized human failures, Jesus taught better methods of prayer and fasting. Sadly, while Jesus’s instructions were meant to help believers, the prayer model is often sidelined. It is described as “Lord’s Prayer,” when, in actual fact, Jesus referred to it for purposes of believers’ adoption.
“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For yours is your Kingdom, forever and ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:7-13 NIV).
Any technology is effective, in the hands of a skilled artisan. The above is a guideline. Therefore, when not producing results, one would be failing to apply the contents, as recommended. The actual guideline was given after Jesus had shown the wrongness in commonly applied prayer methods.
Jesus specifically stated that the petitioner should avoid showing off when praying. It is also unnecessary to keep repeating words as if God does not understand one’s situation. God knows everything, probably, even better, on matters that concern one’s situation.
So, what is the reason for Prayer, if God knows everything? Prayer facilitates communication between God and the petitioner. God would like to do His work through those willing to be used by Him. The prayer guideline does not ask anything from God, except facilitating the individual’s viewpoints to align with God’s viewpoint. The prayer follows a gradient approach.
The term, “Our Father in heaven” reminds a petitioner of being God’s child. This is very important because Christians are God’s children. This prayer cannot be applied by non-Christians. Jesus’s teaching was not directed at the general public, necessarily.
The petitioner is also made aware that self-centeredness is not part of the equation when accessing God’s throne. The petitioner carries the responsibility of sins committed by others in one’s environment. One person’s righteousness does not produce safety, as long as others in one’s surroundings behave sinfully.
The petitioner approaches the throne of Grace with the conviction of being God’s child. Hence, I have always insisted that Christians are more to blame concerning what goes on in the environment. Christians cannot afford to succumb to despair.
“Hallowed be your name.” Which name does the petitioner need to honour? The term “Hallowed be your name.” reminds God’s oneness, in the name that cannot be misused, according to one of the Ten Commandments.
A petitioner cannot be deemed skilled, when unable to appreciate the significance of disrespecting God’s name. However, a highly skilled petitioner is aware, that God’s name cannot be misused. Thereby, adjusting one’s attitude in a reverend condition, as one in communion with God.
“Your Kingdom come.” Having become in communion with God, one invites God’s Kingdom, aware of its necessity, in handling sinfulness. The petitioner avails him/herself for the facilitation of God’s Kingdom. If God’s Kingdom cannot be applicable, who is to blame, except self?
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Up to this point, we have observed the submission to God, more than petitioning God to fulfil one’s desires. The petitioner conditions his/her attitude into God’s will, climaxing the petitioner into thinking like God. Remember, Jesus did nothing disapproved by His Father. The same should apply to Christians.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus proclaimed Himself as the bread of life (John 6:35). Christians cannot spiritually survive without God’s word. Therefore, in that prayer, the petitioner is helped to focus on God’s word, daily. To the tempter, Jesus said. “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV)
God’s word is daily food, for spiritual growth. This does not necessarily mean the academic study of God’s word. It is impossible to be fed by God’s word, unless facilitated by God’s Spirit, for understanding. For the first time, the petitioner requests God’s personal favours.
Everything required to fulfil God’s will is Biblically recorded. But unless God inspires and enriches one’s comprehension, understanding God’s word is impossible. This precludes theology, as understanding comes directly from God.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” At this stage, the petitioner is helped to appreciate the impossibility to be forgiven, unless willing to forgive one’s transgressors. The starting point is remembering those people that need to be forgiven before the petitioner asks God to forgive one’s own transgressions. Also of importance is being reminded of how impossible it is, to exist in this physical nature without sins of commission or omision.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” By this time the petitioner would have become aware that his enemies are not those of flesh and blood. The evil one is none other than Satan, the devil. God does not lead anyone into temptation. But through the preceding petitions, the petitioner would have been led to appreciate God’s sovereign authority, over everything.
“For yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.” The petitioner keeps in mind that the prayer is directed to the one in control of everything. The petitioner, therefore, remains reverend to God, Almighty, after engaging in such a prayer. The term “Amen” suggests the conclusion of that divine communication.
As can be envisaged, this prayer model cannot be recited in just a few seconds. It may require some days, to condition one’s mind to be attuned to God. This is where it becomes necessary to use prayer in conjunction with fasting. Jesus provided a fasting method, applicable in prayer. Again, the general practice had not been according to God’s expectation. God’s people, throughout the ages, have always been susceptible to being victims of habit and tradition.
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head, wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18 NIV).
Jesus’s teachings show that both prayer and fasting cannot be taken ritualistically. Their methodical application entails proper communication with God, who would then objectively consider the submitted requests. For one to achieve results on whatever is sought, one needs training and application of what one would have been taught. Otherwise, a person remains a cropper.
Jesus said, when possessing faith, as little as a mustard seed, nothing would be impossible, for a believer. The only reason for humans to carry such abilities is being created in God’s image. Whatever God is capable of doing, humans can also do, using those believers who are willing to communicate with God in a proper manner, as outlined above.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
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