“Sometimes I feel like things will never change!” Lesley lamented. “I’ve been praying for Gavin for three years and he’s still drinking. And we fight as much as ever. Does God answer prayer or doesn’t He?”
I knew this was a sensitive area and I hoped I wouldn’t alienate this new member of our congregation.
Taking a deep breath, I settled back on my sofa and said a silent prayer. “Let’s take things one at a time, Lesley. Do you remember the story from Mark chapter nine where a father brought his mute son to Jesus’ disciples and they could not heal the boy?” Lesley nodded, and I continued. “Think about the way Jesus spoke to the father of the child. He said, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.’ And the father cried out, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.’ Did Jesus rebuke the father, or even correct him for his doubt?”
Lesley leaned forward. “No, I think He went on to heal the boy, didn’t He?” I nodded and while Lesley pondered this I asked God for wisdom. “But,” she asked, “didn’t Jesus say that whatever you ask in My name, that I will do?”
“Yes, but it’s not always genuine faith to pray for something and demand that God answer immediately,” I said slowly. “The leper in Matthew chapter eight came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ That sounds to me like a declaration of faith in Jesus’ ability but fairly strong doubt about Jesus’ willingness. Yet Jesus healed the man.
Lesley’s expression softened and her shoulders seemed to relax.
Hesitantly I continued. “If I deny the facts of a situation in trying to make a statement of faith I may in fact be deceiving myself. My faith may not be anywhere near the level of the statement I’m making.
“Consider my fractured tail bone as an example. It is mending. Not as fast as I’d like, yet healing is taking place. But for me to deny that the bones are tender and vulnerable would be a lie.
“Because of the pain I’ve had, it would have been a lie for me to go to the skating party last night and say, ‘Well, God has healed my tail bone and I’m going to be fine on roller skates.’ If I had fallen and landed on my tail bone, which is likely since I skate so seldom, I could have set the healing process back by months.”
Lesley nodded understandingly, and I went on. “The truth is, I’m believing God to bring healing, not an instantaneous miracle–but healing, in the course of time. And I’m wary of additional injury to the bones. To deny that by claiming something different would be lying. God would know it and so would I. Saying my tail bone is healed would not make it healed.”
“Then how do we pray in faith?” Lesley questioned. “I don’t want to be like the man whose faith changes like the waves of the sea.”
“I heard a very helpful concept in a sermon when I was a young Christian,” I answered. “I’m so grateful God brought it across my path. It’s called Faith-Size Prayers.
“Here’s the concept. What I’m praying for is waiting at the top of a flight of stairs. If I had perfect faith, I could leap from the bottom to the top in one bound, and I would have my request. There are times when God gifts us with that kind of faith. But without such special intervention on God’s part, I’m not sure I can make such a leap. I might say I can, or that God can help me to, but I have some hesitation.
“I might be able to take the stairs two at a time, or even three at a time, if I’m in good physical condition. But the reality is that I may never be able to make it in one leap. So I set out to ascend the steps as I can, each step as I am able.
“It’s the same with our prayers. You can want to believe that Gavin is going to be set free from alcohol dependence. But you may actually have a hard time imagining what it would be like to have him stay sober.”
“That’s the truth,” Lesley interjected. “Sometimes I wonder how I would adjust to the changes it would bring.”
“What do you really have faith for?” I asked. “Is it that Gavin will be saved tomorrow and give up his drinking? Or perhaps that he’ll admit he’s an alcoholic and sign himself into a clinic for help? What is your true faith level?”
Some moments passed before Lesley answered. I wondered if maybe I’d said more than I should. Finally she spoke slowly. “I think I really can believe the Lord will begin to show Gavin why he drinks; why he hides behind all those six-packs of beer.”
I was delighted with Lesley’s insight. “That’s good! It’s reality to acknowledge that Gavin is an alcoholic, and that his drinking is the result of other needs in his life. When you pray for something you can really expect, through faith, then the doubting ceases and the wavering stops. It also can help rid you of unfounded guilt on your part for his continued drinking.”
Lesley sat contemplating for some time while I prayed quietly. “I feel so much better,” Lesley said at last. “I think my prayers will be more exciting now because I can believe…, really expect God to answer them. They won’t be too big for me to grasp at once. And once God begins to show Gavin why he drinks, maybe by then I’ll have the faith to believe God will heal those hurt areas of his life.” She sat quietly for a few moments. “This is a freeing, lightening concept,” she said at last. “It makes me look forward to praying.”
I could see Lesley’s enthusiasm on her countenance and felt certain she would be seeing God answer her prayers more frequently now.
Before Lesley left that day, I pointed out, “All prayers need not be one-step-at-a-time-prayers. When faith strikes hold of your heart–go for it! That’s when you can leap upward toward that answer in a bound. And remember that you are to have faith in God, not faith in faith,” I added.
“An important element in Faith-Size Prayers, Lesley, is praying for things as God leads us to pray. In the book of James it says, ‘You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask He doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit–you only want to satisfy your own desires.’ God’s desire is a life of spiritual victory for your husband, not just freedom from alcohol.
“And look at Mark 11:24. It says that whatever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. Is it saying that if we can muster up enough faith for every little whim, we’ll have it? Or is it saying that whatever God gives us a desire for during our prayer time, those things He’ll give us?”
Her head slowly nodded as Lesley grasped what I was saying.
“If you wait before God during your prayer time, He will impress upon you the very things to pray for,” I went on. “The Apostle Paul taught the Christians in Rome that we don’t know how we should pray, but the Spirit of God will enable us to pray according to the will of God. So God will impress on your heart during your prayer-time things He wants to do that you don’t even understand. When God has put the prayer in your heart, there will be no doubt about it being His will to answer it. It’s when we pray for our own desires that we often struggle trying to work up faith for God to answer.
“The most beautiful thing to me about this, Lesley, is that each time God answers one of your Faith-Size Prayers, your faith will grow and He will give you another area to pray about. The answer to that prayer will again cause your faith to grow. It’s like spiritual muscles. Eventually you may be able to take the stairway two steps at a time because your faith will be strong enough.”
Before Lesley left that morning we prayed together, asking God to show her how to pray for Gavin’s needs and for other areas in their family.
A few weeks later Lesley excitedly reported that God was already answering her prayers. “Prayer has become an exciting adventure!” she exclaimed.
For now, Lesley is climbing the steps one at a time. One day, perhaps, she’ll be skipping up the stairway three, or even four, steps at a time.
© Beverly Caruso