Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
This verse is similar to other passages in the Bible that speak about prayer and receiving by believing. In a sense that you can ask anything of the Lord and He will give it to you no matter what it is just as long as you keep asking or by increasing in faith. Similar passages can be found in Matthew 7:7, 21:22, John 14:13-14, John 16:24.
Let us examine scriptures to identify the correct way to interpret Mark 11:24 (and the other similar scriptures). The passage in which Jesus declares this is when we read about the lesson from the withered fig tree in Mark 11:12-14. In cursing the fig tree, Jesus was showing that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before the Lord. They were religious on the outside, but in reality, there was no real fruit being produced. Their hearts were far from God. After doing so, Jesus teaches His disciples a lesson about prayer and faith in Mark 11:20-25.
Some can jump to the conclusion that this is a blanket promise, and if you just have the right amount of faith and you pray enough, then anything you ask will be granted to you. To avoid this mistake, whenever we interpret scripture, we need to do so in line with other scriptures. We should never take any verse in isolation; instead, we are to read it in its context and in light of what the rest of the Bible has to say as well.
For example, when Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you;” When you read this passage in isolation, it looks like there is no condition, but all we need to do is to read a few verses later. Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” If you ask Him something that is not good for you and God knows that, then He is not going to do that for you. You might think it is “good” for you, but God sees all things, and he knows the outcome of every decision. Amen!
When Jesus makes this statement after cursing the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14), He begins by saying “therefore”, meaning we need to pay attention to what just happened before these verses to understand what He is just about to say. Jesus is the master teacher, and this was a parable in action to illustrate and teach a spiritual truth. This is similar to Old Testament prophets who would sometimes perform enacted parables in which their actions conveyed a truth from God. An example of this can be found in Jeremiah 32, where the prophet Jeremiah purchases a field in Judah during the siege of Babylon to show that the inhabitants would return one day, after the captivity.
Likewise, by cursing the fig tree, Jesus was teaching a lesson about “fruitlessness” and outward appearance. After Jesus entered Jerusalem with much fanfare and celebration for the Passover, the next day He travels to Bethany, and along the way, He sees a fig tree. Seeing leaves on the fig tree, he was expecting to see fruit on it. When Jesus came to the tree, there was a full covering of leaf; however, there was no sign of any fruit.
This fig tree is a picture of Israel. On the outside, they were full of leaves and in the appearance of a fruit-bearing people. But in reality, it was an outward appearance but without any evidence of fruit. Similarly, we must examine our Christian living, and check if we too are exploding with leaves having an impression of holiness and salvation, but in reality, not producing any fruit? We are required to have the fruit of righteousness and have a genuine relationship with Christ displayed both in word and deed. Likewise, our churches can have an appearance of fruit-bearing with many programs, large attendance, feel-good messages, and great music. But upon closer examination, will God find the fruit in amongst the leaves?
When Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”, in context of what He just said, He was also implying the power of prayer and faith. Jesus was showing through this parable in action, that all things are possible through prayer in belief. The disciples are just about to enter into ministry, and when they come to fruitless lives, through prayer and faith that nothing is impossible. They can move the mountains of unbelief and unfruitfulness in people through faith in God’s sovereign power through prayer. Amen!
If we believe in Him, He will supply our needs according to the riches of His glory. Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
At the same time, it is essential to note that this promise is not a blanket statement or a licence for us to ask whatever we want. It is as though God is a genie, and as long as we pray and have enough faith, we will receive whatever we wish. Instead, let us look at some passages to get a wholesome understanding of what Jesus means.
James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” This passage says that sometimes we can pray and have faith and ask for what “we” want, yet we do not receive it. At this point, some may teach that you need to keep praying more, or you need to have more faith than you already have, but this misses the point entirely. The reality is the condition of the heart and selfishness at the root of what we are asking. Are we asking in a manner to glorify and honour God through it? Or do we want only to fulfil our desires, that does not glorify and honour Christ?
Again, 1 John 5:14 says “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” You see, when you submit your will to His will, then your prayer to God will be in alignment with His will. Just like Jesus also proclaimed when He walked this earth, saying in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
It is also necessary to remember that it is up to God how He answers us. It may not be to our schedule, but it will be according to His plans and purposes. You see, God wants us to come to Him in prayer and faith. To put our trust in Him, knowing that He knows what is best for us. Sometimes God will say “no” because He has a higher and greater purpose to achieve something through whatever situation you may be in. You simply need to trust God.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 begged God to take away the “thorn in the flesh”, but God said “no”. God allowed Satan to torment Paul through this “thorn in the flesh” (whatever it may be), ultimately for God’s own good and greater purpose. God was concerned with building Paul’s character and preventing pride in his life. Through it, Paul learned that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Amen!
Likewise, friends, bring all your needs before the Lord, in prayer and faith. Prayer is God’s will for you to bring your needs to Him so that He can work through your prayers. Have faith in Him and trust Him and to truly understand that He knows best. As you build your relationship with Christ, may your “will” align with His. In whatever manner the Lord answers, give glory and honour and praise to Him, trusting that He is a good Father and He knows what is best for His children. Praise God!