This is part 11 of a multi-part series on the book of Mark.

Today, we’re in Mark 11:20-26.

As the disciples and Jesus passed by the fig tree again, Peter noticed that it had withered (11:20-21) after Jesus cursed it (11:14). Just as God had found no fruit on the “Israel fig tree” (Jeremiah 8:13) and put his people into resulting exile, Jesus found no faith in the temple and thus was using the fig tree as a fulfillment of Jeremiah 8:13 and subsequently fulfilling and dismantling the entire temple sacrificial system.

Jesus found this as an appropriate opportunity to teach his disciples on prayer. “Whoever would say to this mountain [i.e. the Temple Mount where they were standing, not just any mountain], ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him’” (11:23). This is a bizarre statement to the disciples that didn’t compute until after the Resurrection.

Jesus Answers Prayers

Jesus was offering to answer prayers to fulfill the entire Old Testament in one sweeping action by fulfilling the sacrificial system and doing away with the blanket of corruption and manipulation that his “shepherds” had presided over – profiting heavily from temple currency exchange and from the animal trade for sacrifices.

“Whatever you ask in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours” (11:24). This is one of the most difficult concepts to swallow in all of the Scriptures. I’ve never met anyone who would say all of their prayers have been answered. So what does Jesus mean?

In Jesus’ Name

“In my name” appears most places where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray (ex: John 14:14), and we know that phrase meant to reflect authority in those days. We are supposed to pray with the authority of Jesus. Praying in his authority meant that he was transferring the rule and reign we had lost from the Genesis 3 curse back to us as he won authority back for us from the evil one on the Cross.

Using the authority of a Good King also means that our prayers aren’t exclusively for Ferraris or private jets, or things that benefit us only. Remember that our purpose is to rule and reign (Genesis 1:26), but we do so in like manner to our Good Father who reigns above us.

According to His Will

Our prayers, then, must be oriented toward expanding his Kingdom’s rule over the world as he intended, for the benefit of others (although we can and should ask for things we need and want as well in the process). The boundary, soft though it may be, is praying for what expands our little kingdoms at the expense of his.

If I write down my prayers for a month and look back at them later and all I see is: bigger house, better job, neighbor that I don’t like to move, my team to win, my kids to behave, and bonus to buy that thing I’ve wanted for a while, it’s not difficult to see that my prayers have nothing to do with THE Kingdom, only my own pathetic little kingdom. Jesus even commands us to forgive others when we pray so that our Heavenly Father will hear our prayers and forgive us (11:25). I’m afraid we have misunderstood the nature of “ask anything and it will be done for you.”

A Prayer for Us

LORD, I pray that you would heal us from self-centered prayers that seek to enrich only ourselves when we have been tasked with working in Your Kingdom. Instead, fill us with bigger dreams that need you to bring about your incredible Kingdom’s reign over all the earth, and a lot of little things that I may be able to participate in to co-labor with you in bringing it about!

Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.

To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.

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