What is the prayer of faith? |

A few years ago, a member of a publishing company asked me to write a book on prayer. To be honest, as it is such a vitally important topic, and as I was invited by a well-known publisher, I was flattered. But in a moment of heaven-sent honesty, I told him that the author of that book would have to be someone older and more experienced (not to say, sadly, more praying) than me. I mentioned a couple of names. My reaction seemed to encourage him to be honest as well. He smiled. He had already asked those Christian leaders that he had just mentioned! They too had declined for similar reasons. Wise, I thought. Who could easily write or speak about the mystery of prayer?

However, in the past century and a half a great deal has been written and said, particularly about “the prayer of faith.” The focus has been on mountain-moving prayer, through which we simply “claim” things from God with the confidence that we will receive them, because we believe He will give them to us.

But what exactly is the prayer of faith?

Association with the dramatic

Curiously, it is in the letter of Santiago (which says a lot about the works) in which the term appears. It is the climax of the marvelous teaching on prayer that punctuates the entire letter (see 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:13-18).

What is even more surprising is that the meaning of the phrase seems to be illustrated by the experience of one individual, the prophet Elijah. In his case, the prayer of faith was decisive in closing the heavens. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the phrase has been associated largely, if not exclusively, with dramatic and miraculous events; with the extraordinary rather than the ordinary.

But this makes us miss the key idea of ​​James’ teaching. The reason Elijah is used as an example is not because he was an extraordinary man; Santiago emphasizes that he was “a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17), being his very normality what is obvious.

Elijah’s prayer is used as an example, not because it produces miraculous effects, but because it gives us one of the clearest illustrations of what it means to pray in faith: believing God’s revealed Word, holding on to his covenant commitment, and asking keep it

The prayer of a righteous person

Closing the heavens was not, finally, a new idea that originated in the creative mind of Elijah. In fact, it was the fulfillment of the curse promised by the Lord of the covenant: “But it will come to pass that if you do not obey the Lord your God… all these curses will come upon you… the Lord will smite you… with great ardor, with drought… heaven that is above your head shall be of bronze, and the earth that is under you, of iron. The Lord will make the rain of your land dust and ashes” (Deut. 28:15, 22-24).

Like every “just man” (James 5:16), Elijah sought to align his life with the promises and threats of God’s covenant (which is essentially what “righteousness” means in the Old Testament: to be in line with the Lord’s covenant). . He lived his life in light of the covenant God had made, so he clung to his threats of judgment in prayer, as well as his promises of blessing.

This, then, is the prayer of faith: asking God to fulfill what he already promised in his Word. That promise is the only basis of our confidence in asking. Such trust is not “generated” from within our emotional life; rather, it is given to us and sustained by what God has already said in Scripture.

Truly “just” men and women of faith know the value of their heavenly Father’s promises. They draw near to Him, like a child to his loving human father, knowing that if they can say to their earthly father, “But, Daddy, you promised…”, they can also insist on asking and trust that he will keep his word. How much more our heavenly Father, who has given his Son for our salvation! We have the best reason to trust that He hears our prayers. We don’t need any other.

legitimate sentence

Such an appeal to God’s promises constitutes what John Calvin, as well as Tertullian before him, called a “legitimate prayer.”

Some Christians find this disappointing. It seems to remove the mystical from the prayer of faith. Are we not imprisoning our faith by asking only for what God has already promised? But such deception reveals a spiritual evil: would we rather contrive our own spirituality (which prefers the spectacular) than God’s (often modest)?

The struggles we sometimes experience in prayer are therefore often part of the process by which God gradually leads us to ask only for what He has already promised to give us. The struggle is not our attempt to get him to give us what we want, but our struggle with his Word, until we are enlightened and subdued by it, and say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” So, as Calvin says again, we learn “not to ask for more than God allows.”

This is why genuine prayer can never be separated from true holiness. The prayer of faith can only be made by the “just” man, whose life is increasingly aligned with the grace and purposes of God. In the realm of prayer (since it is a microcosm of the entire Christian life), faith (prayer to the Lord of the covenant) without works (obedience to the Lord of the covenant) is dead.

Originally posted on . Translated by Carolina López Ortiz. Image: .

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