When was the last time you prayed that prayer?
I think there is, for many Christians, sometimes, a sense of aversion to praying like that given the great abuse of the subject of faith in ‘television evangelicalism’. People hear well-polished, self-help gurus posing as evangelical preachers saying things like, “Believe that God has abundance coming your way”, “believe God is going to get you that bigger house and that nicer car”, “believe that you will get that promotion”, and they think, “These ‘faith-guys’ are saying ‘believe this and that’ as a guise for inciting materialistic cravings in their hearers! They don’t preach through the books of Scripture. They don’t focus in on the glories and excellencies of the Savior. Rather, every week it’s the same thing: “God wants you to have more”, “Give Him permission to bless you by believing Him”, “Don’t settle for just enough when you can have an abundance”. Thus, the rampant abuse of the subject of faith has inadvertently lead many to forget how important of a subject it is beyond its quintessential role in salvation.
Make no mistake; the glorious doctrine of justification by faith alone is the foundation for this exhortation. One has to start there. The writer of Hebrews says that it is a foundational principle to repent from dead works and to put our faith in God (Heb 6:1). Through faith in the person and work of Christ one has peace with God (Rom 5:1) and everlasting life (Jn 6:47). But all too often we are tempted to forget that we have exceedingly great and precious promises that we are called to believe more and more deeply throughout our Christian lives.
We are to believe that Christ is near and will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5).
We are to believe that to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).
We are to believe that God is working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
We are to believe that He will finish the good work He began in us (Phil 1:6).
We are to believe that no sin will have dominion over us (Rom 6:14).
We are to know and believe the love that God has for us (1 Jn 4:16).
We are to believe that He will give us wisdom when we ask (Jas 1:5).
We are to believe that He is causing everything to work together for our good and His glory (Rom 8:28).
We are to believe that He will provide us with what we need (Phil 4:19).
We are to believe that when we ask we will receive (Mt 7:7) if we ask according to His will (1 Jn 5:14-15), knowing that He will not withhold from us anything that He knows is best for us (Ps 34:10; 84:11; Mt 7:11).
And to be sure, we are not the ‘end’ of our prayers; meaning, we are not to pray for increased faith to believe precious promises, like those above, simply for our good. We ought to desire increased faith knowing that God is pleased and glorified by such faith (Heb 11:1-40); but make no mistake, God is desirous that our faith in Him would lead to our good and our being helped by Him. Such is why the apostle Paul would call faith a breastplate (1 Thes 5:8) and a shield by which the fiery arrows of the wicked one are quenched (Eph 6:16).
Referring to the way in which God uses increased faith to comfort and strengthen us, J.C. Ryle writes:
Faith will not sink under the weight of evil tidings (Psalm. 112:7). Faith can sit still and wait for better times. Faith can see light even in the darkest hour, and a needs-be for the heaviest trial. Faith can find room to build Ebenezers under any circumstances, and can sing songs in the night in any condition. “He that believes shall not make haste.” “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on you.” (Isa. 28:16; 26:3.) Once more let the lesson be engraved on our minds. If we would travel comfortably through this world, we must “believe.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts of the Gospel of Luke)
Seeing, then, the continuing necessity of believing God more and more deeply, don’t look to yourself to increase your faith; rather, may you be exhorted today to pray: ‘Lord, increase my faith”.