August 20, 2020 – Thursday
Matthew 21:22 NIV
22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
Matthew 21:22 ESV
22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.
Let us begin with some context beginning in verse 18. It is there we find Jesus and His disciples were on their way into the city and they were hungry. Because of His hunger Jesus went up to a fig tree, but found no figs, only leaves. That was when He said, May you never bear fruit again! And Immediately the tree withered.
Of course, when the disciples saw this happen, they were amazed and wanted to know how the fig tree could wither so rapidly. That was when Jesus replied, Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
Many take this to mean, ask for anything in prayer and it will be given to you if you believe. But that ignores what Jesus said prior to that. He began with if you have faith and do not doubt. Recall once again the word for faith, pistis, is the root word for believe, pisteuo. Ellicott’s Commentary captures this when he writes, Here again there is the implied condition that what is asked is in harmony with the laws and will of God. If it were not so it would not be asked in faith, and every true prayer involves the submission of what it asks to the divine judgment. We can pray in faith, but if the faith is not in harmony with the laws and will of God the prayer will be for naught.
While these instructions were communicated to the disciples with Him, they are also intended for the multitudes. Some commentators believe otherwise, thinking they are only for the disciples. But they are for anyone who is truly following Jesus. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible takes the contrary position writing, This promise was evidently a special one, given to them in regard to working miracles. To them it was true, but it is manifest that we have no right to apply this promise to ourselves. It was desired especially for the apostles; nor have we a right to turn it from its original meaning. There are other promises in, abundance on which we “may” rely in prayer, with confident assurance that our prayers will be heard. I do not concur.
Instead I concur with Matthew Poole’s Commentary where he writes concerning our verse of the day, It is an expression which ought not to be strained further than to signify, that there is nothing conducive to the glory of God and our own good, but believers may receive at the hand of God, if they can believe without doubting that what they would have shall come to pass. And later, The general proposition is true, and shall be made good to every believer, That whatsoever good is made the matter of a promise, (such are all good things), shall be given to believing souls, praying for them. Then Nothing is too big for true faith to obtain, but that faith must have a promise to lean upon, and it must be showed by prayer.
I would like to conclude with what the Pulpit Commentary has to say on this, A man must have no latent doubt in his heart; he must not debate whether the thing desired can be done or not; he must have absolute trust in the power and good will of God; and he must believe that “what he saith cometh to pass.” In other words, a man’s faith must be absolute before he can believe sufficiently and in God’s will for Jesus’ words If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer to be true whether a disciple or not.
Bottom line: The depth or strength of our faith determines the strength or depth of our beliefs which impacts our prayers in the same way. Let us make sure our prayers are in line with and always seeking God’s will.