Faith and Prayer

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Michael W. Foss believes in the necessity of prayer and stresses on it. According to him, Jesus knew that prayer is the touchstone between faith and unbelief.i This is a very serious statement. Self-humiliation is among the most significant attitudes one should maintain while praying. Thus, avoiding pride is a necessity in respect to praying to God. Hence, McNabb associates a lack of pride with prayer. One of his references is Luke 18:9. McNabb states: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:”ii In this statement, McNabb seemingly discusses the issue of pride with regard to prayer. According to McNabb, pride is the most formal way of turning away from God. Therefore, for him, the proud man thinks he can stand alone. Consequently, he cannot pray as he does not feel the need for external help.iii

One can infer from the stress on praying, that praying is closely related to faith. Although prayer could be called ‘work,’ it can also be seen as more than just ‘work.’ In the Islamic tradition, faith and prayer are viewed as ‘twin’ brothers, but faith is seen as being born earlier. Hence, in Islam, prayer is still a ‘work’, but it is the most important work. Similarly, Jesus also seems to view the two (faith and prayer) as twins. He stated: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” (Matt 21:22)

Faith and Prayer as Means for Doing Mighty Works

Generally, Jesus’s miracles can be called ‘works.’ Indeed, they are mighty works. They can also be called good works since these works were done solely for the benefit of the people. Jesus engaged in these works not only in order to influence people and then convince them to believe in him, but he also did these works in order to rescue others from their difficult circumstances. The proof of this is Jesus’s mercy towards those needy folks. The central point in this regard as we know is healing. Jesus did good works through curing diseases; and his good works were very meaningful and effective in the public eye.

Prayer and Fasting

He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’ ‘But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting.’ (Matt 17:19-21(KJV)) (See also Mark 9:29)

Albert C. Wieand points out the contrast between ‘mustard seed’ and the ‘mountain’. Wieand also points out the role of ‘fasting’ saying, “In what way would ‘fasting’ be a help to his kind of prayer which could produce such faith.” According to Wieand, Mark speaks of the method obtaining the faith, “by prayer (and fasting).”iv

In this passage, one can see that mighty works can only be done by a strong faith. For Jesus, such a faith comes out of two significant works: prayer and fasting. It should be noted that the last phrase is not located in the New Revised Standard Version Bible. According to this phrase, prayer and fasting are not types of worship tools apart from an authentic inner intention. Therefore, the last phrase links good works to strong faith. In this passage, Jesus seems to accuse his disciples of having little faith. Since they were believers of Christ, their faith should be considered genuine. However, it can be drawn from the text that their faith was weak and it needed to be strengthened through exercise. Also, it cannot be inferred from the text that if a Christian cannot work miracles of healing, he or she does not have a genuine faith. According to Douglas, Matthew believes in miracles, but he also knows that many people who seem to be producing supernatural cures in Jesus’ name are nonetheless unfaithful Christians.v (See Matt 7:21-23)

M. Ali Mertcan

i Michael W. Foss. The Real Faith for Real Life (Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2004), 212

ii Vincent McNabb. Faith and Prayer (Maryland: The Newman Press, 1953), 212

iii Ibd.

iv Albert C. Wieand. The Prayer Life and teachings of Jesus (Fleeming H. Revell Company, 1932), 59

v Douglas R. A. Hare. Matthew: Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993), 203

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