Any Limits to Prayer?
Gracious, loving Lord, whatever this day may bring me, Your great name be praised through my life today.
Read Mark 11:20-26
 “Prayer is not simply asking God for the pleasant things we desire but an earnest yearning for the will of God, be it sweet or bitter” (Alan Cole).
“Prayer is not simply asking God for the pleasant things we desire but an earnest yearning for the will of God, be it sweet or bitter” (Alan Cole).
Prayer, often early in the morning, alone in a quiet place, was a central practice in Jesus’ life. We don’t know much about the content of his personal prayers, but from time to time he gives specific teaching, including the model prayer he taught his disciples (Matt. 6:9-13). Here, in this two-part cameo of the cursed fig tree, we learn several key principles about true prayer.
Yesterday, Jesus had visited the house of prayer and cleansed it of its abuses. Just prior to that, he had hoped to eat a fig from a tree that looked to be healthy but had not moved beyond the leaf-bearing stage to fruit-bearing. Although it was seasonally too early for figs, he strangely declared it should never bear fruit again. Today his disciples noticed that the cursed tree had withered; it would indeed bear no more fruit. What does this perplexing story mean? The fig tree was a well known metaphor for Israel (Hos. 9:10a; Jer. 8:13; 24:3-7; 29:17). This was an acted parable about the temple and its religious system which looked healthy from outside but was not producing the true fruit of faith and, so, was doomed to wither and die.
Mark doesn’t give an explanation, but builds on this event with two significant statements about prayer. First, no matter how big an obstacle might seem, whatever you ask in true faith will happen. Nothing is impossible to God. Second, as you pray, remember that forgiving others is an essential precursor to God’s forgiveness. An unforgiving spirit is not compatible with prayer. While these are not new themes in Jesus’ teaching (Mark 9:23; 10:23-27; Matt. 6:14,15), the fig tree incident highlights that without faith and forgiveness our spiritual lives will never bear the fruit of the kingdom of God.
What amazing answer to prayer can you remember receiving? How did you feel at the time? Ask God to strengthen your faith.
Father, my prayer is for faith in Your wisdom and power, and for forgiveness for an unforgiving attitude. Thank You for the teachings of Your Word.
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