Pam at Gray Like Snuffie is hosting a blog-a-thon: The A B C's of the Word. Bloggers post a Bible verse beginning with the next letter of the alphabet each Thursday. Today's letter is "J".
This is a verse that I have always found to be a little confusing and sometimes even frustrating. I believe in the power of prayer with all of my heart, yet sometimes we desperately pray for something that is not answered the way we have asked God to. An example of this is when I have prayed with deep belief and faith that someone might be healed of an illness or a medical diagnosis not be as serious as it seems likely to be. In a couple of very specific occasions, my prayer was not answered the way I prayed it would be. Does that mean that this verse in Matthew is not true?
Jesus was speaking to the disciples, teaching them that we can pray about anything and that we can have faith that God can work any miracle. Obviously, Jesus was not saying that we will be empowered to move literal mountains magically if we believe we can. I think His reference to mountains is referring to personal mountains in our lives. Sometimes problems seem as enormous and immovable as a mountain. Jesus was telling His disciples and us that we can pray about even the most significant problems with faith that He hears and has the power to solve those problems. But does Matthew 21:21 mean that our faithful prayers will be answered the way we ask?
This is what I believe. Our time on earth is minuscule considering the vastness of eternity. Even though God wants us to experience happiness on earth and He wants us to have a faithful, trusting relationship with Him, God's foremost concern is for our eternal life, not our earthly life. Only God knows what the result of answered prayer will mean to eternity. We see life in such a limited capacity that what we ask for with our human hearts and minds, may not be most effective in God's will for the big, eternal plan. Here's an example from my own prayer life. A very dear friend who happens to be a strong Believer, was in the process of receiving a medical diagnosis which very possible would be serious. I prayed with sincere faith that my friend would not have cancer, believing it within God's power to prevent this. In the end my friend was indeed diagnosed with advanced cancer. Now, I would be lying if I said this did not create disappointment and some questions in my talks with God. However, after a significant amount of time has gone by, some possible reasons God might have had for allowing this diagnosis have come to light. Remember, as Believers our purpose is to serve God in whatever way He directs so that others might see God's love through us and a desire to have a relationship with Him. During the long months of surgery, chemotherapy, and recovery, my friend came into contact with many people she would not have met had she not been diagnosed with cancer. She has been able to demonstrate her faith and comfort to others through God's grace to these folks ONLY because she has cancer. God absolutely was capable of answering my prayer so my friend would not have cancer. But He knew her ability and willingness to serve Him and He knew how that ministry would effect eternity. So in spite of the many prayers for a different diagnosis God chose instead to allow difficult circumstances in my friend's life in order to benefit the big picture, the eternal.
The mountain had been moved, but for His eternal purpose rather than for mere earthly moments.