I have a confession. I grew up in a church surrounded by men and women who were bold in their faith and bold in their prayers. Over the years I have seen many prayers answered that other people have prayed. My confession is this, I never thought that my prayers could be answered in the same way. I thought for a long time that I was not “holy” enough, “good” enough, “smart” enough, and so on for God to not only hear my prayers but answer them. I didn’t believe I had that special connection. It was for others, but not for me.
Over the years I have come to love prayer. And in more recent years prayer has become a more central part of my life. It’s just how I live. I can’t imagine a life without leaning on God in prayer. I pray big prayers and small prayers just the same. But it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized since my brother passed I have been afraid to pray in the same way. I have been afraid to pray fervently. I have been afraid because I saw God answer my prayers.
God answered my prayers, and so I have become the church lady who’s prayers have been heard by God. But what about the mountains? What about the prayers that are so big they seem impossible? What about those prayers that are so big and have many layers that need fixing? Can God hear and answer those? Will he?
While Jesus was on earth nothing he did was by accident. Everything had a purpose to guide, teach and instruct his disciples at the time and now for us. A few times in the gospels when Jesus uses the image of a mountain in relationship to praying with faith.
Mark 11:23 says, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”
I have perceived this verse with this cartoon image of a brownish-tanish mountain sprouting arms and grabbing the base of the mountain by its edges and lifting up to expose the feet underneath. And of course the mountain just scurries and jumps in the ocean looking water. When I read that that mountain will throw itself into the sea because I prayed that it would be so, this is what I picture – a cartoon, not my reality, of course.
Bus as I look back over my life, these mountains look nothing like a cartoon with arms and legs scurrying to take a dive in the water. The mountains I have faced, and I am sure you can relate to this, are steep with treacherous terrain, rocks and pebbles, boulders and and landslides and avalanches. Sometimes the mountains are so big the top is lost in the clouds. My mountains have been big.
I have felt disconnected from this verse because for the longest time I thought my faith was not big enough. My faith – was not as big as a mustard seed! Really?? A mustard seed? What kind of Christian am I to have such a small faith??
In light of the last several months and how our world has turned upside down in some ways, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what has happened over the last several years, and I believe God has taught me something that he wants you to know too.
Let’s do an exercise together. Think back over your life, maybe focus on the last five years. What are a few of the “mountains” you prayed for?
I prayed that my brother would give his life back to Jesus. That was a mountain because of wounds from his past from the church, because of the bondage he was trapped in, and because from the outside he seemed uninterested. I prayed this prayer from August of 2009 until October 29th, 2019. This was the day Zach told me he surrendered to God.
My mountain, my prayer that my brother would return to faith, took over 10 years to move. But the mountain moved. My mountain moved a pebble at a time. It didn’t move with a giant leap and a big splash.
With your list of mountains in front of you, how has God moved the mountains in your life? Have they moved with one big move and splash into the sea? Or have they moved more like my mountain a pebble at a time?
I think God wants us all to hear today that we need to stop starting at the mountain. We can become so mesmerized by the size of the mountain that we miss the fact that God has been moving the mountain one pebble at a time all along.
I would venture to say that most of us want to see a big splash and to see our mountain crumble right before our eyes, with the sound of one word. But sometimes the mountain being moved one pebble at a time grows our faith more than if it jumped into the sea all at once.
We so want the quick fix, the comfort, the pain to just go away. I know for a fact I would not have the same relationship with Jesus if my mountain had been moved the first time I prayed that prayer. I know I would not be writing and sharing my testimony like I am today. God allowed me the opportunity to co-labor with Him, to stretch, strengthen and grow my faith muscles for ten years as we lifted each pebble of the mountain together.
1 Corinthians 13:2 says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”
That’s right. You read it. Love. Without love I am nothing. I can have all of the faith in the world and be moving mountains left and right, creating tsunamis with the splash, but without love it is just meaningless. And so, the mountain moving, one pebble at a time, provides depth of character required to love others well. With God, the mountains are never just about the mountain. The mountains placed in our lives serve a greater purpose. The mountains provide the chiseling we need, the strengthening of our faith muscles, the expanding of our hearts capacity to love and to give God’s love to others.
What mountain are you facing today? Can you see that God is moving pebbles? Will you step into a place of deeper faith with him as you pray, and believe he will answer. Will you let your faith muscles be strengthened whether your mountain gets tossed into the sea in one piece or piece by piece?
This book: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer was one of the resources that has been instrumental in my own growth and understanding the power of prayer! I encourage you to grab a copy!