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[Home]>[How to Measure Your Beliefs]>[6. Questions]
This is the 6. Chapter of
"How to Measure Your Beliefs
by Frank L. Preuss
6.1 Is it Right to Imitate God?
6.2 Is it Right to Pray for More Faith?
6.3 Can Prayer Success Lead to Pride?
6.4 Must We Always Pray Audibly?
If we have never been concerned with our authority as believers, it might appear strange that we should imitate God. Should we also call things that are not as though they were? Should we speak to things? Should we give orders to demons? Should we tell a sick person to get up? Should we talk to the devil?
In the beginning, we have already seen that God made man in his image, (Genesis 1:26-27). Let us look at this again: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over..... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.
And this is not the only place in the Bible where it is stated that we were created in God's image, so let us look at others.
In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him (Genesis 5:1). For in the image of God made he man (Genesis 9:6). For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:7). But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made in similitude of God (James 3:9).
So the above mentioned verses show us that we were created in God's image. But we not only are like him we also have to act like him: imitate him, as the following verses indicate. Our aim is to become more and more like our Father in heaven, and to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning and craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15).
Be ye therefore imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:6). He that saith he abideth in Jesus ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked (1 John 2:6).
Our main aim in life is to imitate Jesus more and more, and to become like him and to live like him.
Once more we want to turn to the story of the father of the son with the dumb spirit. In Matthew 17 we saw this meeting with Jesus, and now we want to have a look at this report as it is recorded in Mark 9:24.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!
Before this, he had asked Jesus: But if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. And Jesus had said, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
When the father heard these words of Jesus, he realised that his faith was not sufficient. He needed more faith and forthwith he prayed for more faith; he said: Help me overcome my unbelief!
This father was on a level of faith which we have described as "Little Faith". He only believed when he saw something that had become reality for him in the physical world. He was unqualified to act as a prayer partner; one had to pray for him. But he had enough faith to believe Jesus being capable of delivering his son. So his statement was right, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief. He believed in the capability of Jesus, but he did not have the faith to pray himself and to confess the success of the prayer. We saw this when we discussed Matthew 17.
This father needed more of God's miracles in his life. It was necessary to hear more of God's word and to see what follows: signs and miracles. In Romans 10:17 Paul says: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
The father needed to hear Jesus' message and to observe the consequences that followed these words. Jesus knew this, and he had heard the father's prayer: Help me overcome my unbelief. How did Jesus answer this prayer? He cast out the evil spirit and the son was delivered. Jesus said (Mark 9:25): "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him."
The father heard these words - the word of Christ, the message, the word of God (Romans 10:17) - and afterwards he witnessed a dramatic deliverance (Mark 9:26-27):
And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
This must have been quite an experience for the father: the shrieking, the violent convulsion, the apparent death of his son, the bad confessions of "he's dead" of many, and having to cope with these bad reports, seeing how Jesus lifts him up and receiving a great gift from Jesus: a son that lived and was healed. This experience was a tremendous uplift for the faith of this man. And let us think of all the years that followed on this encounter with Jesus; how he praises God and thanked him for a son delivered. Whenever he saw his son, he had a miracle in front of his eyes. Jesus answered his prayer in a sheer miraculous way.
It is therefore not wrong to pray for more faith, especially if it is done by a person who has little knowledge of the word. The answer that Jesus gave was a miracle. We therefore come back to our observation that miracles strengthen our faith (John 2:23): Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
One thing is quite interesting in this story. Many said that the boy is dead, when he looked like a corpse. These people expressed with their words where their faith level was. They did not believe the words of Jesus; they had little faith. And many of these "many" may have been following Jesus for some time already. We get the impression that many of Jesus' followers had little faith. And this might apply still to his followers today, and this leads us to the understanding that we have to have patience with our brothers and sisters. When people of Jesus' time, who saw so many signs and miracles, had little faith, how much more possible is it that we have a similar situation today, where Jesus is not physically among us. Paul says in Romans 14:1: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
When we have grown in faith, we can't expect all people around us to have the same level of faith as ourselves. We even have to care for them; we have to love them (1 Corinthians 13:2): And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And in 2 Thessalonians 3:2 Paul says: For all men have not faith.
We therefore never have to forget that love is more important than faith.
Now we want to come to our second prayer for more faith. Here we probably have the best known group of Christians that ever existed, and they prayed for more faith. If we therefore pray for more faith we are in good company. The disciples, who had been trained by Jesus for three years, prayed. The Bible calls them apostles at this occasion already. Their prayer and Jesus' reply is recorded in Luke 17:5-6:
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
We might think that Jesus actually did not answer the disciples' question. The apostles asked him to increase their faith and Jesus, instead of strengthening their faith, talked of a mustard seed, of a mulberry tree and of the sea. Jesus used an example out of nature in order to explain a faith principle. Jesus pointed out a principle that the disciples still had to learn. It is a matter of studying; of learning to understand God's word. It is a matter of renewing one's mind; the straightening out of one's thinking. In Romans 12:2 Paul says: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
When we want to imitate God, we have to curb our worldly thinking permanently, and think more and more like God. And this we achieve by reading the Bible and meditating on what we are reading; studying its principles and thinking about them. And when we come to a critical situation, we don't think as the world does but as God does. And it will result in us also acting like God. In Ephesians 4:21-24 Paul says: If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your minds; And you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Here we find repeated that in Jesus is the truth, and we are created to be like God, and that we have to renew our minds.
People on this level of faith, on which we find the apostles at this time, have to work at their faith; they have to dig out the secrets of God, they have to search for the pearl of great value. They have to find the hidden treasure. And many of these valuables are not plainly stated in the Bible; they are concealed: here in a hint, there an indication, somewhere else an example and at another place a principle. But only a good general knowledge of the Bible and a fundamental faith, that the Bible has the answers, will bring us revelations. Then the Holy Spirit will show us treasures.
In Matthew 17 we already discussed this principle which Jesus brings in the form of a parable. It is in verse 20. In verse 20, Jesus does not speak of a mulberry tree but of a mountain, which can be moved. The principle is that it is not so much faith that matters, but what we say; our words.
So we have arrived at the point where the great secret of faith is revealed. Faith is not something that is mysterious and unfathomable, something that nobody really can describe and that is some feeling like having guts or being audacious. No, it is something we really can very well control and learn and have control over. We have to speak properly - our speaking is the secret. We have to renew our mind. Our intentions, our desires, our emotions, our thinking and our speaking have to get straighten out. It is something we have to decide to do and then do it. Our will is here involved. And action has to follow. It is a decision we have to make. It is a way of life.
As a reaction to the apostles' question, Jesus did not perform a mighty miracle in the sky. The apostles had witnessed many signs and wonders during the years with Jesus, and they had learned much about the word of God. And Jesus taught them that they then had to start speaking to things, using their authority, praying the prayer of intercession and becoming active themselves. This is necessary because it is the next level of faith, but also because this speaking to things allowed them to listen to their own words. And this experience again increased their faith, because speaking is followed by results. They will make it a habit of speaking the word because it works; it does not return empty, it accomplishes what it says (Isaiah 55:11): "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. And in Jeremiah 1:12 God says: Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
So we have two examples in the Bible where people pray for more faith. It is therefore right to pray for more faith. But we must not overlook that Jesus answered these two prayers. We therefore have the answers to these prayers and don't actually have to pray, we have to study the answer. For us, who know the meaning of the answer, praying is unnecessary, but for those who do not know it, this avenue is left open.
And we can pray for other people's faith to increases. The first step would be to measure their faith, and to determine their level of faith. When we have established their faith level, we can pray for them to move up to the next level. If a person is an unbeliever, we pray for him to enter the kingdom of God. If a person has little faith, we pray that God will perform signs and miracles in front of his eyes. If someone is on the level of doubt, we pray that this person recognises his situation and does something about it; that he becomes absorbed in the word of God and learns from it. If a person has faith, we thank God for it and pray that it will grow, that this person will become bold and start praying for himself and confessing the word.
In Romans 10:17, Paul formulates the principle of gaining more faith: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
When we read this verse, we think of the proclamation of the gospel and how people come to Jesus by listening to this message. This principle can be applied in general. But it does not only apply when people come to the Christian faith, it also applies when people come to faith in God for healing and prosperity or any other area in their life.
This verse applies when a Christian speaks and an observer hears it and witnesses the result as well: because of this, faith will come to this observer. This verse applies when I speak God's word with authority, then I hear it also - my own words - and after that I experience the manifestation, and my faith grows. The cause of faith is always the hearing of words. Even when someone prays for more faith for another, more faith comes because words are spoken and heard.
We can answer this question with a yes, and we want to have a look at such a case. Hezekiah was a descendant of David and an ancestor of Jesus; he was also a successor of David on the throne of the kingdom of Judah. In 2 Kings 18:3-7, the Bible speaks very positively of him. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves ... Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth.
Hezekiah was an extraordinary man. The Bible compares him to David. He was a reformer. We are told how he became more successful in prayer. The Assyrians threatened him, Jerusalem and Judah. They besieged Jerusalem and started a propaganda campaign, or, in other words, the devil bombarded Hezekiah's thinking. But Hezekiah did the right thing - he turned to God, he asked the prophet Isaiah's advice. God answered: he let the Assyrians hear a rumour and they withdrew. After that, however, the war of nerves started again: the Assyrians sent a threatening letter. Hezekiah again did the right thing - he laid it before the Lord. The reply came from the prophet Isaiah: God will save the city. And God saved the city; the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185 000 men in the Assyrian camp (2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chronicles 32:21 and Isaiah 37:36).
In 2 Kings 20:1, immediately after this gigantic prayer success, we find the following report: In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. Hezekiah became ill but nothing more is reported in 2 Kings about the background to this change in the life of Hezekiah.
In 2 Chronicles chapters 29 to 32 we hear more about king Hezekiah. A real revival takes place after he comes to power. He stands the test as a successful prayer warrior. In everything that he undertook, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly and he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:21). Here, in 2 Chronicles 32:20, we are told that king Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah cried out in prayer to heaven about the siege of Jerusalem. They were successful; the Lord delivered Jerusalem through his angel and the country was at peace. Then it says in 2 Chronicles 32:23, and many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of by all the nations from henceforth.
Hezekiah had become a highly respected, internationally known statesman and everybody knew that his success was based on his prayer life. In 2 Chronicle 32:24-26 we learn what led to Hezekiah's pride: In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the Lord: and he spoke unto him and he gave him a sign. But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
After Hezekiah became sick, Isaiah came and told him that he would have to die. Hezekiah, however, prayed and was successful, Isaiah came back and informed him that God will heal him and will add 15 years to his life. Hezekiah asked Isaiah for a sign that God will heal him and God gave him such a sign; the shadow went back ten steps. This is the miraculous sign mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:24; it is probably the greatest physical wonder described in the Bible. The reversal of the sundial's shadow by ten steps was caused by God bringing the rotation of the earth to a standstill and letting it run backwards. In Joshua 10:12 it is recorded that Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still and they did; the rotation of the earth around its own axis came to a halt, but in Hezekiah's time, God even turned it back. What a sign!
So if you have got a problem and you are not sure that God can handle it then go back to Hezekiah and study that man of God and his faith. Hezekiah, in co-operation with God, caused the rotation of the earth to slow down, then to stop rotating completely and then to even start rotating backwards and then to stop rotating backwards. And after a while the whole thing reversed until the earth rotated again normally. Start to consider life to be unlimited. The limits are the limits you set yourself. Put all the limits you have set yourself - and were unconsciously adopted from the environment - up for reconsideration. Start ruling like a king - like Hezekiah the king did - just cut out pride.
And the Bible says that Hezekiah became proud. He showed the Babylonians his treasures and his power (2 Kings 20:12-21 and Isaiah 39:1-8); his achievements through prayer made him proud and he spread his riches out in front of unbelievers. The Babylonians practised astronomy and astrology, and for them the reversal of the sundial's shadow was a highly interesting occurrence, as it would be today. And later they received news that it was caused by Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and by his healing. They wanted to know more about the circumstances, of course, and in 2 Chronicle 32:30-31 we hear about their visit: And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
The result of this test was that Hezekiah was found to be proud and incurred God's wrath. But even in this situation, Hezekiah did the right thing: as he heard about God's wrath, he humbled himself. He made a serious mistake, but he did not run away from God, he ran to him.
But we must not forget that God's wrath came. Even if it came later, it was a terrible thing: it is described in 2 Kings 20:16-18. When we become victorious living Christians, we must watch out for pride, our successes through prayer should not make us proud. The more God gives us, the more he expects from us.
When we have fellowship with God, and this bears fruit in us, we cannot become proud. We have to always remind ourselves that we can only do it because we are abiding in him, and we always have to walk in love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says: And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Pride and love are not consistent with each other. We can't be proud of our successes and say at the same time that we love God and it is God who does everything.
In 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 we find a similar story. King David counted the fighting men; he was proud of his success and wanted to know how great his influence was, over how many people he ruled. The word of correction came from his commander-in-chief, Joab, but the king's word overruled Joab's. David let them take a census of Israel. In 1 Chronicles 21:7, we see what God thinks about this. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
The Lord sent a plague on Israel, and 70 000 men of Israel fell dead. This plague was stopped at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, which became the place where Solomon built the temple.
We have to be on our guard against pride when we become successful in our prayer life, and we must be careful not to react on people whose faith we have measured by showing the wrong attitude when we tell them the result of our measurement - indicating their lack of knowledge, and that they simply don't know how to pray. When we act in pride; when we speak arrogantly or when we sin generally, we are on our way to shipwrecking our faith. When we fight and believe we need a good conscience. In 1 Timothy 1:18-19 Paul says: Fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
Also in Hebrews 10:22, we are told that our hearts must be clean when we apply faith: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from evil conscience.
We believe with our hearts, and the heart can't believe if it is not cleansed.
When we confess God's word it is important that we speak it out with our mouth, and we have already mentioned several Scriptures concerning this. When we speak using our authority, especially when speaking to things or to the devil, it is necessary that the words coming out of our mouths are audible. Sometimes it is good if we do it with a loud voice, if we shout. Especially when other people are around us, when we are in a meeting and we pray in public, they should hear us, because faith comes from hearing.
Also when we are on our own, in our home, and we for example ward off an attack of the devil in our thinking, we should do this audibly. If the devil wants to talk us into fear we fight him with: I submit myself to God. I resist you devil, and you flee from me (James 4:7). It is written (Luke 4:4-10): For God did not give me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
We should get into the habit of praying audibly, whenever it is possible. But sometimes it is inappropriate to let other people hear our prayer and then we speak inaudibly or we completely avoid moving our lips. What matters is that which is in our heart.
Hannah, the mother of Samuel, is an example. In 1 Samuel 1:9-17 we find details of Hannah's prayer.
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by the post of the temple of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou .......
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou have asked of him.
And God fulfilled Hannah's prayer; she had a son, Samuel. But the important thing in her prayer was not the audible words; it was that which was in her heart. Hannah said, I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.
Sometimes there are physical obstacles that prevent us from speaking, like sickness or dumbness. God can see into our hearts and that is good enough.
When we become praying Christians, we might have the same experience as Hannah had with Eli. Eli thought Hannah had too much to drink. When we walk in a street or we sit in a car and move our lips, people also might think that there is something wrong with us. And it might even happen in a gathering that a brother, like Eli, misunderstands a praying person.
This is the end of the 6. Chapter of "How to Measure Your Believes."
Next chapter: 7. The Power of the Tongue
Contents see: "How to Measure Your Beliefs"
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