Ian Goligher
Hymn: 685  O Breath of Life  603 Roll the Sea Away
 
Bible Reading Mark 11: 22- 26
  • The Lord's entry into Jerusalem was dangerous. The city was infested with religious traitors artful in treachery.  
  • The Lord's entry into Jerusalem while receiving the hosannas of the people was a glimpse of the eternal reign Christ will one day enjoy, however, the foretaste didn't last long.
  • Cursing the fig tree was a solemn warning from the Lord who came to judge the world - to sift men's hearts and deal with hypocrisy. See the reference to "nothing but leaves" (v13).
On the eternal day, too many people will be like this false fig tree with leaves only bearing no fruit. Normally, the leaves advertised that there was fruit underneath, but the Lord found none.
It was this exposure of men's coverup of corruption that brought out their wrath against the Lord - they sought how they might destroy Him, for they feared Him.
The cleansing of the temple is repeated here at the end of the Lord's ministry. Corruption and worldliness crept back into the temple court again. Greed will always find a way to re-establish itself.

Cursing the fig tree led to a message on prayer (v21). The disciples noted that the fig tree had withered away. The fig tree had dried up from its roots, and the sight of it shocked the disciples.  
That signalled the total emptiness of Judaism and it highlighted the Lord's intolerance of empty religion.
Out of that comes a number of lessons on the link between faith and effective prayer.
 
  1. We need to pray with faith in God, Himself (v22).
We can deduce that the advice given here was linked to the hypocrisy of the Jewish religion. It meant they lacked faith in God. God's true character and nature were so far removed from their minds. Their empty religion only blinded them from seeing the truth that was in Christ. This must be the starting point in true prayer.
There are always reports of people praying - they pray to spirits, trees and all manner of idols of their imagination.
The call to prayer is a call to know God and learn about Him. To meditate and study the attributes of God must be the Christian's constant theme in his devotions. God is powerful to move mountains (v23). The thing that is impossible with men is possible with God.
When referring to moving mountains the Lord was speaking of anything that seems impossible.    This highlights God's power and our need to pray believingly, even in the power of God to do the impossible (Heb 11:6).  All things hinge on the proportion of our faith.  It is to rest our cause on a covenant God. 
  1. We need to pray with faith in our asking.
  • To pray aright is to have the spirit of asking.   Prayer is to ask.  The best synonym for ask is "beg".  We come to prayer meeting as beggars. That means that we are desperate and we are shameless.  Beggars cannot afford to be bound by convention. Beggars are bold to the point of being annoying. They are willing to beg or else they starve. So ask for the spirit of asking.
  • To pray aright you must pray with your strong faith from your heart  ("not doubt in his heart").  So the Lord sees and reads the heart.
That is where the Judaisers fell flat. That was their sham and the Lord hated it.  He cursed the fig tree for its hypocrisy. The only antidote to pretence is to open your heart.  Prayer is to open your heart to God. Come openly. Come transparently. Hold nothing back and present your cause to the Lord.
  • Pray above doubts (v23b).  Doubts are prayer killers. Doubts are the enemies of power with God in prayer. Doubts are question marks which undermine the foundation of your faith.
  • Pray with great expectation (v24). 
    • We are people of little faith. "O ye of little faith" (Matt. 6:30). This admonishment related to God clothing and feeding His children. "Wherefore did'st thou doubt" related to Peter walking on water (Matt. 14:31).   "I believe, Help my unbelief" Related to the disciples who could not cast the demon out of the child (Mark 9:24).
How much faith do you exercise in your asking?  Do you meet the faith demanded in verse 24?.  Ask the Lord to help you to believe so that you are not guilty of doubting God.
 
  1. We need to pray with faith in the forgiveness of God.
The root word for "forgive" is "to go" or "to lay aside." (v25).
Prayer is not to be used as a weapon of revenge. It is to seek the good things that God has in store for His people. Prayer must reflect God's heart of grace and mercy toward sinners who show repentant faith. How great is God's forgiveness! How quick He is to forgive us!
Do we have a forgiving spirit? Each of us stands in need of forgiveness. It ought to be our primary request in every prayer that God deals with us in mercy. We must exercise forgiveness to pray aright and to enjoy God's forgiveness. Then we get onto praying ground with God.