Mark 11:24

I. DESTRUCTION MAY SERVE THE PURPOSES OF LIFE. Here the fig tree is destroyed for the sake of a lesson to the spirit. Much lower life is destroyed from day to day that the higher may be preserved.

II. THE INCIDENT ILLUSTRATES THE RESERVE OF CHRIST'S MIRACULOUS POWER. He could destroy; that was evident. But he came not to destroy, but to save. And while he lavished his power upon the sick and suffering, to heal, cheer, and deliver, he economized the dread power of destruction. Compare what is said on this subject in 'Ecce Homo!'

III. FAITH THE ONE SECRET OF POWER. Our Lord here employs, as often, a bold figure of speech. To the undivided thought and will nothing is ideally impossible. Actually our power is limited, as is our thought. But we are born for the ideal, and to overcome our limitations. Prayer is essentially part of faith; it is the exercise of the will, the entire going-forth of the man in that direction in which he is called endlessly to exert himself.

IV. LOVE IS AN ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF TRUE FAITH. Faith works by love. How mistaken is it to limit faith to intellectual assent! Devils believe, but love not, and are weak. Faith and love are other words for the might of God in the soul. "Oh, my brothers, God exists! Believing love will relieve us of a load of care!" - will lift mountains' weight from the spirit, and make our ideals a present reality. But the unloving, unforgiving soul remains fettered in itself, unreleased, unfree, and weak. - J.







What things soever ye desire when ye pray.
The apostles, when the Lord was taken away from them, would have to commend His doctrine to the world by miracles. To this end it was needful that their faith in God, as the Bestower of all power to do such things, should be raised. For the real doer of every miracle or sign was God, and God only. When the apostles healed suddenly any sick person, or cast out any evil spirit, it was by the combined exercise of prayer and faith. They secretly or openly called upon God, and they implicitly believed that He would accompany their word with His power. Now, being men totally ignorant of science, and so unable to form a conception of the kind or amount of power put forth in the performance of any miracle, they would naturally look upon it as a matter of size, or weight, or extension. They would, as a matter of course, look upon the removal of the Mount of Olives as a far greater thing, demanding far greater power, than the sudden drying up of the life juices of a single fig tree; but it may not really be greater by any means. On the contrary, the sudden touching and arresting the springs of life in the living thing may require far more knowledge of the greatest secret of all — the secret of life, and far more real power in applying that knowledge, than the removal of the most stupendous mass of dead matter. Now the apostles, though they could not understand this, must yet act as if it were so. They must not judge by the sight of their eyes of the difficulty or easiness of anything which they felt moved by the Spirit to perform. They must think of nothing but the almighty power of God, and His pledge to accompany their prayers or words with that power.

(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

True prayer is sure power.

I. LOOK AT THE TEXT TO SEE THE ESSENTIAL QUALITIES NECESSARY TO ANY GREAT SUCCESS IN PRAYER. There must be —

1. Definite things prayed for. No rambling, or drawing the bow at a venture. Use no mock modesty with God. Be simple and direct in your pleadings. Speak plainly, and make a straight aim at the object of your supplications.

2. Earnest desire. Plead as for your life. There was a beautiful illustration of true prayer addressed to man in the conduct of two noble ladies, whose husbands were condemned to die and were about to be executed, when they came before George I and supplicated for their pardon. The king rudely and cruelly repulsed them. But they pleaded again and again; and could not be got to rise from their knees; and they had actually to be dragged out of court, for they refused to leave till their petition was granted. That is the way we must pray to God. We must have such a desire for the thing we want that we will not rise until we have it, — but in submission to His Divine will, nevertheless.

3. Faith. No questioning whether God can or will grant the prayer. The prayers of God's people are but God's promises breathed out of living hearts; and those promises are the decrees only put into another form and fashion. When you can plead His promise, then your will is His will.

4. A realizing expectation. We should be able to count over the mercies before we have got them, believing that they are on the road.

II. LOOK ABOUT YOU AND JUDGE BY THE TENOR OF THE TEXT.

1. Public meetings for prayer. How often, at these meetings, does this advice of an old preacher need to be remembered: "The Lord will not hear thee because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; He does not count their numbers: nor because of their rhetoric; He does not care for the eloquent language in which they are couched: nor for their geometry; He does not compute them by their length or their breadth: nor yet will He regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; He cares not for sweet voices and harmonious periods. Neither will He look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers — because they are well arranged and excellently comparted. But He will hear thee, and He will measure the amount of the blessing He will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings thou askest will surely come to thee."

2. Your private intercessions. There is no place that some of us need to he so ashamed to look at as our closet door. Shame on our hurried devotions, our lip services, our distrust. See to it that an amendment be made, and God make you more mighty and more successful in your prayers than heretofore.

III. LOOK ABOVE AND YOU WILL SEE ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU —

1. Weep. God has given us a mighty weapon, and we have let it rust. If the universe were as still as we are where should we be? God gives light to the sun, and he shines with it. To the winds He gives force, and they blow. To the air He gives life, and it moves, and men breathe thereof. But to His people He has given a gift that is better far than force, or life, or light, and yet they neglect and despise it! Constantine, when he saw that on the coins of the other emperors their images were in an erect position, triumphing, ordered that his image should be struck kneeling, for, said he, "This is the way in which I have triumphed." The reason why we have been so often defeated, and why our banners trail in the dust, is because we have not prayed.

2. Rejoice. For, though you have sinned against God, He loves you still. You may not as yet have gone to the fountain, but it still flows as freely as ever.

3. Amend your prayers from this time forth. Look on prayer no longer as a romantic fiction or an arduous duty, but as a true power and a real pleasure. When philosophers discover some latent power they delight to put it in action. Test the bounty of the Eternal. Take to Him all your petitions and wants, and see if He does not honour you. Try whether, if you believe Him, He will not fulfil His promise, and richly bless you with the anointing oil of His Spirit, by which you will be strong in prayer.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. God hears prayers of any magnitude; much wrong might have been prevented or cured, much good done, if only we had prayed.

II. Success for prayer depends on goodness; without the soul health of trust and love we cannot pray.

III. Let our unanswered prayers be a mirror in which we see our faults.

(R. Glover.)If our doubts do not prevail so far as to make us leave off praying, our prayers will prevail so far as to make us leave off doubting.

(H. Hickman.)

Prayer is a key which, being turned by the hand of faith, unlocks God's treasures.

(Anon.)

The exercise of prayer can only be a blessing to our souls when our own will is entirely merged in the will of our heavenly Father. If we only knew the truth, we should find that prayer is more connected with the discipline of the will than we generally imagine. Our will is not naturally in harmony with God's. The carrying out of our own will, when bent on some desired object, is what invariably characterises us. It becomes habitual to us. We carry it, more or less, as a habit into the presence of God. It must not be, however. Wilfulness is not a characteristic of one of God's children. He is but a child, and he must know it. The Father's will is best; the child must know no will but His. It must be crossed, however painful it may be. To subdue that will, to blend it with His, and to make us perfectly happy under the conviction that our own is not to be carried out, is the only true explanation of many an unanswered prayer, many a bitter cup still unremoved, and many a thorn still left rankling in the flesh. But when the heart has been brought into that state when it can, with happy, confiding trust, look up and say, "Father, not my will, but Thine, be done!" then will relief come. The thorn, indeed, may not be extracted, the cup may not be removed, but there will appear the strengthening angel from heaven enabling us to bear it.

(F. Whitfield.)

In other places the promise is considerably qualified, We shall receive, not whatever we ask, but the Holy Spirit, i.e., we are to spread out our case, our needs, our desires, before God, for that is the way to come into close relations with Him; He will do the rest. The answer shall be the gift we ask for, and our demand shall be the needful link in the chain of causes which brings us and our heart's desire together; in other words, the answer shall be the "Holy Spirit," who shall mould our wills into accord and illuminated acquiescence with His good will. In any case, prayer is seen to be the ways and means of bringing us into communication with One who is above all, and over all, and through all. Direct demands are the most obvious, simple, childlike forms of prayer; but the spiritual value of prayer is, after all, not this — to get exactly what we want, when we want it, like the magic ring in the fairy tale; but this — to bring the human into close relation with the Divine.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

I remember asking an old friend of mine, who is now between seventy and eighty years of age, and who, I think, as far as I have been permitted to know Christian men, is mightier with God than almost any man I have met, "Do tell me the secret of your success in prayer." He said, "I will tell you what it is. I say to myself, Is that which I am asking for promised? Is it according to the mind of God? If it is, I plant my foot upon it as upon a firm rock, and I never allow myself to doubt that my Father will give me according to my petition."

(Bp. Bickersteth.)

Give me these links;

(1)sense of need;

(2)desire to get;

(3)belief that, though He withhold for a while, He loves to be asked;

(4)belief that asking will obtain — give me these links, and the chain will reach from earth to heaven, bringing all heaven down to me, or bearing me up into heaven.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Faith is to prayer as the feather is to the arrow; faith feathers the arrow of prayer, and makes it fly swifter and pierce the throne of grace. Prayer that is faithless is fruitless.

(T. Watson.)

The arrow that is shot from a loose cord drops powerless to the ground, but from the tightly-drawn bowstring it springs forward, soars upward, and reaches the object to which it is directed. So it is not the loose utterance of attempted prayer that is effectual, but the strong earnestness of the heart sending its pointed petition to heaven, that reaches the Divine ear and obtains the desired blessing.

(Bowden.)

I saw the other day a man attempting to split a rock with a sledge hammer. Down came the sledge upon the stone as if it would crush it, but it merely rebounded, leaving the rock as sound as before. Again the ponderous hammer was swung, and again it came down, but with the same result. Nothing was accomplished. The rock was still without a crack. I might have asked (as so many are disposed to ask concerning prayer) what good could result from such a waste of time and strength. But that man had faith. He believed in the power of that sledge. He believed that repeated blows had a tendency to split that rock. And so he kept at it. Blow after blow came down; all apparently in vain. But still he kept on without a thought of discouragement. He believed that a vigorously swung sledge "has great power." And at last came one more blow and the work was done. That is the way in which we ought to use prayer. God has told us that "the earnest prayer of the righteous man has great power." We ought to believe it, just as that man believed that his sledge had power. And believing it, we ought to use prayer for the attainment of spiritual results with just such confidence of success as that man used his sledge. We may not secure our answer at once. That rock was not split at the first blow, or the second. But that man believed that if he continued his blows, he was more likely to succeed every blow he struck. So we are to believe that there is a spiritual power in prayer, just as there was a physical power in that sledge; and that, the more perseveringly and earnestly we use it, the more certain are we to accomplish something by it.

Is the direct Divine answer to prayer a reality? Call the witnesses and let them testify. Let the martyrs of the early church answer, from their exile, from the prisons where they were chained, from the amphitheatre whose sands were crimsoned with their blood, from the chariots of flame in which they swept up to glory. Let the Covenanters, kneeling on the heather, or hiding in the grey fastnesses of the crags; let the Pilgrims, with their faces vet with the cold, salt spray, and the gloom of the wilderness overshadowing them; let Christian heroes everywhere — missionaries passing through belts of pestilence, women in army hospitals, philanthropists in jails and lazar houses — let all these testify whether prayer has anything more than a "reflex influence." Let thousands of death beds answer. Let the myriad homes of sorrow, wrapped in darkness that may be felt, answer. Let every man or woman who has ever really prayed, answer. From each and all comes one and the same testimony: "The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him, unto all that call upon Him in truth."

(Ed. S. Attwood.)

A few years ago there was a time of much dryness in a certain part of England. No rain had fallen for several weeks, and it seemed as if the crops would all perish for want of moisture. A few pious farmers who believed in the power of prayer asked their minister to make a special supplication on a particular Sunday for the needed blessing of rain. The day came, and was as bright and cloudless as those which had preceded it. Among the congregation the minister noticed a little Sunday scholar, who carried a large old-fashioned umbrella. "Why, Mary," he exclaimed, "what could have induced you to bring an umbrella on such a lovely morning as this?" "I thought, sir," answered Mary, "that as we were going to pray for rain I should be sure to want the umbrella." The minister patted her cheek good naturedly and the service began. Presently the wind rose, the clouds gathered, and at length the long-desired rain fell in torrents. Mary and the minister went home together under the umbrella, while the rest of the congregation reached their dwellings well drenched. Let us follow Mary's example, and always pray, not only hoping that God may hear, but believing that He does hear, and will send us what we ask if it is good for us.

Thou hast power in prayer, and thou standest today amongst the most potent ministers in the universe that God has made. Thou hast power over angels, they will fly at thy will. Thou hast power over fire and water, and the elements of earth. Thou hast power to make thy voice heard beyond the stars; where the thunders die out in silence thy voice shall make the echoes of eternity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Oh, God, thou hast given us a mighty weapon, and we have permitted it to rust. Would it not be a vile crime if a man had an eye given him which he would not open, or a hand that he would not lift up, or a foot that grew stiff because he would not use it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It was said of John Bradford that he had a peculiar art in prayer, and when asked for his secret he said: "When I know what I want I always stop on that prayer until I feel that I have pleaded it with God, and until God and I have had dealings with each other upon it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. PRAYER'S LIMIT. "All things soever ye desire, believe and ye shall have them." The boundary line of desire and of faith.

1. The boundary line of faith. Faith is vast, recognizes the covenant of the promises, and whatever comes outside the promises for which she can find anywhere a direct engagement of Almighty God to do. Faith is the turning of an infinite future, into a present real receiving; it can go confidently when it treads on Scripture ground. So the Bible becomes, in a measure, prayer; .you must try to bring prayer up to the mind of God in it.

2. Desire has a gracious limit. A man well acquainted with God's Word lives under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and his mind is conformed to the mind of God, and his desires gradually blend with the wishes of the Almighty.

II. PRAYER'S REACH.

III. PRAYER'S WARRANT. The blood of Christ and the worth of this warrant.

1. It is personal.

2. It is present.

3. It is absolute.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

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